Prepare Lawn for Winter, Plant Bulbs for Spring

Donald "DJ" Jordan photo

Prepare Lawn for Winter, Plant Bulbs for Spring

By Donald “D.J.” Jordan, groundskeeper with Landscape Services | October 17, 2019

Georgia Tech’s main campus, with 400 acres and more than 13,000 trees, has a team of landscape professionals maintaining its beauty year-round. Tech Lawn and Garden taps into the knowledge of the lawn and garden experts in Facilities, showing how they do what they do and sharing tips that you can use at home.

It’s mid-October, and the temperature is finally starting to feel like fall. This is the best time to begin preparing your lawn for winter.
Start by lowering the blades on your lawnmower to cut the grass shorter since the grass goes dormant at the end of the cutting season. After the grass is dormant, you still should continue to cut it. This trains the lawn for the next season, and it helps with raking in the spring, which promotes a healthier lawn.
There are a couple of options for maintaining your lawn during the winter. The first is to just let the grass go dormant and turn brown until spring. Remove all grass clippings and leaves because they smother the grass. Cleaning up the clippings also helps to reduce the growth of weeds. If your lawnmower has a bag attachment, use it. If you don’t have an attached bag, you should rake and bag the leaves.
Another option is to seed the lawn with winter rye so it stays green throughout the season. First, cut the grass very low, then rake the clippings. Next, you should aerate the lawn, which allows oxygen to penetrate the lawn. (You can rent a machine from a hardware store or hire someone to do it for you.) Then seed the lawn with winter rye and water it. Fertilizing the lawn is optional, depending on how quickly the rye grows. Winter rye typically grows faster than summer grass, so you will have to mow it more often.
The winter rye option is why Tech Lawn (at the base of the Hill on campus) is green year-round. Regardless of which option you choose, remember it is important to rake the leaves and avoid letting them sit there all winter. A clean lawn promotes a healthy lawn.

decorative line of gold tulips

Planting Bulbs for Next Spring

In Atlanta the best time for planting spring bulbs is early to mid-November, before the ground freezes and it becomes hard to dig.
You can plant the bulbs in uniform rows or plant them to look like they grew there naturally. If you want to achieve a natural look, toss a handful of bulbs in the air and let them fall to the ground. Wherever they land, dig a hole and plant them there. Use a hand trowel to plant the bulbs 4 to 6 inches deep.

Daffodil, iris, hyacinth, and crocus bulbs have the best results. Tulips are hit or miss, with about a 50-50 chance of doing well.
The soil type is not very important because the plants are hardy. But the location is key. Choose an area that has good drainage, so the bulbs are not under standing water. Also, look for an area with a good balance of sun and shade.
Pull weeds from the root and remove any leaves from the flower bed. As with lawn care, a clean flower bed promotes good plant health in any season.

In the next Tech Lawn and Garden installment, Tree Surgeon Quentin Holden will talk about mulching techniques and protecting plants for the winter months. If you have a topic you’d like to see covered or a question about landscaping  on campus or in your yard  email