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Maggie Jover: Prepare yard for colder times

What should you do in your garden and yard this time of year?

Plants, trees and lawns will occasionally need supplemental irrigation in the winter. This is especially true when plants still have their leaves, we aren’t receiving rainfall, and the weather is windy and sunny. Lawns, for example, need about an inch of water every 15 to 20 days in the winter.

If you have an automatic irrigation system, now is the time to adjust it for winter conditions. Consider installing a rain and freeze sensor that will turn the system off during rain or freezing temperatures.

This will save you money by not watering when you don’t need to, and it helps conserve a valuable natural resource. Also, a sensor can prevent hazardous, icy conditions from occurring by eliminating irrigation during cold snaps.

Now that we have had temperatures below freezing, warm-season annuals have died and can be removed. Warm-season perennials — such as lantana, purple heart and Turk’s cap — probably have died back to the ground by now and can be cut back.

Ornamental grasses may be going dormant, but I like to wait and cut them back in February. The foliage adds nice winter interest in a garden or flower bed.

Some shrubs and other woody perennials will lose leaves this time of year, but don’t need to be cut back. If you want to cut a shrub back because it’s too big or unruly, replace it. It’s not recommended or effective to prune shrubs to control their size. The best practice is to select a shrub with a mature size that will fit within your parameters.

Adding a layer of mulch is a great thing to do this time of year. Mulch provides insulation to the plants for the winter. And it makes a landscape look finished and clean.

A great, abundant, free source of mulch this time of year is leaves. You can mow the leaves first or rake them up whole and put them in your flower beds. I water leaves down when I use them as a mulch to help them stay in place. Leaves and other sources of organic mulch also break down over time, acting like a slow-release fertilizer.

Another thing to do this time of year is to run your lawn mower out of gas. Not to get too technical, but fuel left in the mower will get yucky and makes for a non-responsive mower in the spring. You can also purchase and use a fuel stabilizer if you do not want to empty the tank.

MAGGIE JOVER is the family and consumer sciences county extension agent with Texas AgriLife Extension. She can be reached at 940-349-2882.