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Janet Laminack / Horticulture

Time to prepare your yard for winter’s chill

What should you do in your garden and yard this time of year? There are several things that should be done as we go into winter and other things that can be done if you get the urge to be outside on one of our sunny, warm days.

If you have an automatic irrigation system, now is the time to adjust it for winter conditions. Consider installing a rain and freeze sensor, which 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 help conserve a valuable natural resource. Also, a sensor can prevent hazardous, icy conditions from occurring by eliminating irrigation during cold snaps. If you haven’t already covered your faucets and rolled up your hoses, it’s time to do that as well.

Another thing to do this time of year is to run your lawn mower one more time to run it out of gas. Fuel left in the mower over the winter can make for a non-responsive mower in the spring. You can also purchase and use fuel stabilizer if you do not want to empty the tank.

Mowing all the leaves in your yard into bits is a good thing to do as you are trying to run your mower out of gas. Leaves will break down and put organic matter back into your lawn. You can also use leaves as a mulch in your garden or flowerbeds, whole or shredded. I water the leaves down to help them stay in place.

Adding a layer of any kind 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. Leaves and other types of organic mulch, such as wood chips, also break down over time, acting like a slow-release fertilizer.

Perennials, shrubs, 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.

Now that we have had temperatures below freezing, warm-season annuals have died and can be removed. Warm-season perennials probably have died back to the ground by now and can be cut back, including lantana, purple heart and Turk’s cap. Ornamental grasses may be 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. Best practice is to select a shrub with a mature size that will fit within your parameters.

Contact us with your garden and landscape questions at 940-349-2892 or email us at

JANET LAMINACK is the horticulture county extension agent with Texas AgriLife Extension. She can be reached at 940-349-2883 or