Seasonal Winter Maintenance Guide: Keep your Garden and Water Systems in Top Condition!
Winter usually means that you can put the mower away and enjoy a rest from the garden, as grass growth has slowed down significantly and the lawn requires less thorough care to keep it in check. However, although the garden may not require as much ongoing maintenance as during the warmer months, there are still steps you can take to ensure it is ready to begin thriving once spring comes back around.
Depending on your lawn type, grass will respond and grow differently throughout the winter months. Cool-Season grasses (such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, tall fescue and creeping bent) come from temperate to cold areas where the highest rainfall is in winter or spring, and as a result, they handle the cold weather much better. Warm-Season grasses (including couch, kikuyu, buffalo and zoysia) hail from tropical climates which experience the most amount of rainfall in the warmer months.
While cool-season turf prefers temperatures between 10-19°C to grow, warm-season turfs slow down or enter dormancy until soil temperatures reach or exceed 23°C.
Over Winter, you don’t need to provide your lawn with as much water as during the hot, arid months of the year. This means you can switch off your timers and water on an as-needed basis for the season! Putting excess moisture into the soil can be detrimental to your lawn during this time, so it is best to avoid watering unless it is essential (such as when the lawn dries out completely and leaves begin curling.)
If encouraging strong colour by preventing frost forming is essential to you, it is best to apply water in the early hours of the morning before the sun rises.
Now is the time of the year to allow your lawn to grow out and reap the benefits of having a longer leaf, especially in shaded areas. By leaving extra leaf surface, your lawn can take greater advantage of photosynthesis, which helps to keep your lawn healthy while reducing the likelihood of winter weeds popping up.
This is also a fantastic opportunity for any homeowner or gardener to perform some basic maintenance on garden equipment – such as the mower – to ensure your tools are in top working condition for the spring.
There are benefits to fertilising your lawn during the winter months, but the process and products aren’t the same as those implemented during the summer. Once soil temperatures drop low enough, grass growth begins to slow and enter semi-dormancy: a protection method warm-season grasses use to defend themselves from winter’s harsh conditions. They are still able to absorb essential nutrients, but at a slower rate. Winter fertilisers feature iron as a key ingredient, as it assist in strengthening the leaf and improving colour.
However, to ensure your lawn stays strong and healthy through the cold winter months, it is best to fertilise your lawn regularly throughout the year (especially during autumn.)
Winter can be a difficult time for plants, especially in colder areas. It is typical for growth to slow right down during this period, so ensuring you are treating your plants correctly is vital for their survival.
Water is essential for the health of your plants, but equally so is the process of delivering that water. Garden plants require approximately 2.5-3cm of water to remain adequately hydrated through the year, and a lot of these plants are able to survive off rainfall alone during the winter months. However, due to soil retaining water (as evaporation occurs less during winter than summer) there is an increased risk of water logging.
In order to ensure you are watering your plants as frequently or rarely as required, it is important to analyse both the plants being grown and the weather patterns that occur in your area, as well as regularly testing moisture levels in the soil. One of the best options for ensuring accurate moisture readings is investing in a soil moisture meter (available as simple probe-type units or permanently installed sensors.)
This is also a great time to check your watering and irrigation systems to ensure all parts and fittings are working correctly, and are in good condition for the coming season.
Although applying fertiliser to your lawn during winter may prove redundant (due to dormancy, specifically in warm-season turfs), fertilising your winter flowering bulbs and vegetables can be vital for proper establishment.
Utilising a fertiliser high in potash or potassium is recommended, as it promotes the development of deep green leaves, improves plant strength, and encourages vigour throughout the cool season.
Depending on the size of your garden and how much of a problem weeds present, you may require weeding more frequently during these months (weekly, fortnightly, or monthly.) Regularly checking your yard for weeds also allows the chance to check for insect attack or disease.
If regularly trekking out into your yard during the colder days of winter doesn’t interest you, there is always the option of applying a quality herbicide that won’t damage your lawn or garden plants.
Winter has arrived, which means you can alter how often you irrigate your lawn and garden, or stop irrigation altogether. Depending on the area you live, your garden may be capable of surviving off rainfall alone, which offers the time to carry out basic maintenance tasks on your irrigation system, install a new system, or update your existing one.
Now is the ideal time to change the seasonal adjustments on your smart controller (if installed) and/or reduce the frequency of watering. Check your rain or moisture sensors to ensure they are in the correct position for collecting data and not blocked by eaves, overhanging trees, or any other obstacles.
If you have an old controller, now is the time to consider making the upgrade to a newer system. By introducing the new features offered by smart controllers and installing a rain sensor, you can save money and time tending to your yard! This is also a fantastic time of year to consider installing a rainwater harvesting system to supply your garden.
Assessing & Servicing:
Now that winter has arrived, your irrigation system is finally getting a rest; it is the ideal time to book an irrigation service for assessment, maintenance and upgrades on your system.
Our friendly team at Smart Water can visit you on site to ensure everything is in working order when the warm season comes around again.
Winter is the ideal time to put your rainwater harvesting system to use as rainfall increases during the cool months. By ensuring your tank is clean and up to standard in time for regular rain, you are able to collect and store valuable resources for use when the spring and summer return.
You should regularly check the quality of your water supply regardless of the season, and the beginning of winter is an ideal time as any to ensure the smell, taste, and look of your water is up to standard. The easiest way to identify whether you have a serious issue with your rainwater harvesting system or not is to test the quality of the water you have collected.
Use this time to check for signs of corrosion on or in your tank, look for evidence of animal or insect access, and ensure debris has not accumulated in your gutters or filters.
Frequent cleaning of your rainwater harvesting system’s components is recommended to ensure you are receiving the best quality water possible. Inspecting and maintaining your gutters, first flush diverters, downpipes and other fittings seasonally (or after storms) helps to prevent debris – such as leaf and plant materials – accumulating and polluting your supply. Trimming overhead branches and carrying out other garden maintenance tasks can also help to prevent the likelihood of materials building up.
Checking your tank for the accumulation of sludge is also essential for water quality. If sludge is covering the bottom, siphon it out or completely empty the tank. Professional tank cleaners operate in most areas and are able to empty your tank quickly and efficiently.
If you use your rainwater harvesting system to collect drinking water, using treatments to destroy any harmful bacteria and viruses present is essential. Animal and bird droppings, dust, dirt and decaying vegetable matter (such as leaves) can contaminate tank water and lead to the presence of dangerous bacteria, such as E Coli and streptococci.
Most water tanks experience some issues throughout their working life. Some of these problems you can resolve on your own, while other problems may require an experienced pump technician to remove the unit for repair. If your water tank pump experiences any significant issues, you will likely lose water pressure or water flow.
If you notice any of the following problems, contact Smart Water Shop for advice:
Reduced Water – If your water pump runs but doesn’t deliver water, there may be a fault within the pump. Pump impellers and seals may fail, and foreign matter or debris from the tank can clog the pump internals. Low water levels within a tank can also cause dry-run failure.
Stopped Pump – If your pump/motor system stops running, you may have an electrical fault or foreign matter seizure. These problems are often repairable.
Cycling – One of the most common problems with water pumps is shortened run cycles. If you notice your pump used to run for longer amounts of time and has recently started to run shorter or more rapid cycles, call Smart Water for service and support. Short cycles are often the result of faults within the pumps auto-pressure control or an indication of leaky pipes/taps. Over their lifetime, too many stops or starts will limit the reliability of the pressure control and pump.
Whether you have a productive ecosystem with fish and edible plants or enjoy the simple beauty of an ornamental water garden, winter is the ideal time for some pond maintenance.
It is important at the beginning of the season to inspect the overall condition of your pond or water garden. Each piece of equipment should be thoroughly checked for wear and damage (including pumps, filters, lights, all cables, tubing, and connections.) If significant damage or wear is found, repairing or replacing the damaged components prior to winter arriving is recommended.
For ponds with fish or other wildlife present, giving your filters and filtration system a thorough clean can help prevent significant issues popping up later on during the year. If string algae or green water algae’s begin to appear, check your filtration system to return your water to a healthy state.
Winter is also a fantastic time to install a pond or water feature, as it allows time for the system to be settled and running smoothly by the time the warmer months set in.
Be sure to remove all decaying leaves and flowers, accumulated sediment, soils and debris from your pond (as well as areas directly surrounding your pond) before they have the chance to decay and pollute your water.
If your pond or water garden is populated by fish, now is the time you should switch them to a lower protein diet as their metabolism slows with the approaching cold weather. They will eat less and less winter, also decreasing the amount of waste produced as a result. As your fish’s metabolism decreases, they will slow down and become easy prey for other wildlife, such as birds. Adding a pond net or guard to your ecosystem can help prevent bird predation.
Now is a good time to move your pond pump closer to the surface of the water garden, as mixing deep cold water with the warmer water at the pond’s surface can cause fish unnecessary stress.
You should conduct seasonal inspections and maintenance on your outdoor entertaining or landscape lighting fixtures to ensure a beautiful and well-lit outdoor area year around. As the summer weather calms down and colder temperatures arrive, there is no better time than now to check that your lighting system is in top condition to survive the winter months.
Inspecting your lighting fixtures can help you identify which ones are broken, failing, or aging, and allow you the time to upgrade or replace the units before winter sets in. Pay particular attention to the wiring – check for signs of wear and replace any damaged sections of wire or heat drink joints, in order to ensure your system remains waterproof in the wetter months.
If you notice that your fixture is too far gone – there’s excessive corrosion, the mechanical integrity has been compromised, or the lens has broken or is missing – then replacing the light may be more cost effective than having it repaired.
Checking if any lights have been accumulating excess dirt and dust is a quick and easy way of brightening up your yard. Lumens can be lost from dirt and bug matter building up on the globe and lens, so ensuring you keep your landscape lighting fixtures clean also ensures you’re receiving the most efficient light possible.
Replace your cheap fixtures, burned out globes, or broken lamps with long-lasting LED options – their long lifetime means they require less frequent replacement, and the ensuing labour savings and low-energy consumption justify the slightly higher input cost.
You can help prevent globes burning out from unnecessary over-use by installing timers and sensors to activate the lights automatically.