Protect Your Irrigation System from Winter Damage
If freezing temps are in your forecast, the time to act is now.
Winterizing your sprinkler system – removing water from the pipes, valves and sprinkler heads – is essential before freezing occurs. It’s the best way to protect your irrigation investment from potentially serious damage this winter, especially in the harsh mid-Vancouver Island area near Nanaimo.
Winterization is far more cost effective than repairing a damage irrigation system in the spring due to either improper or no winterization. Call your irrigation professionals to winterize your system. Ridgeview Irrigation offers winter and annual maintenance packages.
Prepare your Lawn & Shrubs for the Winter Months
- Fall fertilizing
Prepare lawn for winter by applying a winterizer fertilizer high in potassium. “We apply zero phosphorus since soil already has a lot of it.. Phosphorus runoff from lawn fertilizer can pollute waterways, so should be avoided.
- Apply lime
Horticultural lime adjusts the pH of your soil to be more alkaline, which is preferable for lawns. “We lime in fall or winter, because the freeze/ thaw cycle helps the pelletized lime work into the soil
- Cut the grass short
While you should normally mow the lawn to a height of 4 inches, the last mow of the season should be a shorter cut of 2 to 3 inches tall. Morse points out that long grass can flop over and shelter fungal diseases when covered with snow through the winter.
- Rake up leaf litter
For the same reason, it’s important to rake up any debris before the first snowfall. Pests and disease can overwinter in leaf litter.
- Pick up acorns
Acorns are easy to rake up when they first fall, but after a long winter they become embedded in the soil, Not only can acorns sprout, but they also make the surface of your lawn bumpy.
Pro Tip: Don’t walk, drive, or run the mower on a frosty lawn. “When the blades of grass are frozen, it’s almost like glass and can be easily shattered,” says Morse. Of course, once you have a protective layer of snowfall over the lawn to act as insulation, you can walk across it again.
- Wrap delicate shrubs
Shrubs that have brittle wood, floppy branches, or leaves that are easily damaged by drying winds should be wrapped with a breathable fabric at the beginning of winter. Burlap is inexpensive and effective, or there are gray or black breathable fabrics with a less bulky profile.
- Wrap hedges
If you have a line of shrubs that all need protection, you can either wrap the entire hedge, or Morse suggests creating a windbreak from stakes and a length of fabric to protect the side most likely to be damaged by wind. “It’s a lot easier than wrapping 20 individual boxwoods,” says Morse.
- Create a snow fence
“On certain properties, the wind comes off the lake and blows snow up towards the landscape,” says Morse. A snow fence keeps the snow on a bank at the edge of the landscape rather than allowing the snow to come in and cover the shrubs.
- Protect plants from deer
“Deer start hammering landscapes when their forage dies down,” says Markell. Use deer netting, fencing, or spray-on deer repellents to encourage them to dine elsewhere.
- Build teepee structures
Some plants may get more than their fair share of snow load. “We build wooden structures or teepees for brittle plants under the eave lines,” says Morse. These semi-permanent structures keep the snow from breaking branches.
- Use an anti-desiccant
Products such as Wilt-Pruf or TransFilm can be sprayed on the leaf surface of rhododendrons or conifers for protection. “They coat the leaves so the wind can’t draw moisture out of the foliage,” says Morse. “It’s like a jacket for the plants.” Morse applies in November or December, then again during the January thaw.
- Use Bark Mulch of Tree Mulch for Protection
While it appears as if all activity in the garden has stopped, there’s a lot going on under the soil until it freezes. Newly transplanted trees and shrubs, divisions of perennials, and hardy bulbs are all growing roots, drawing on soil nutrients and moisture around them.
Earthworms and various microbes in the soil are still processing the organic material they’re finding. Most likely, the organic mulch you spread to protect the soil during the summer months has substantially decomposed. It’s important to spread new mulch now – a thicker winter layer – to protect plants and soil over the winter months.
The idea is not so much to keep the soil warm as it is to keep the temperature even. Once the soil is frozen, mulch keeps it frozen. So if you have shade trees, convert the fallen leaves to mulch and use it throughout your property.
Let us know if we can help you winterize your yard. Happy to help.