By Megan Hatch, Conservation Garden Park
I never understood why some animals hibernate during the winter until I tried to get out of bed one cold morning last week—then it all seemed to make sense.
“If you get out of bed, you might not make it,” my survival instincts seemed to say. “You will be much safer where you are—far away from that cold, tile bathroom floor,” they continued as I burrowed deeper into my covers and found my fingers silently google searching, “Are we sure humans don’t need to hibernate?”
It was sweet justification when I found an article in Tech Times where Brent Hasler, a sleep expert and professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburg, reported that shorter winter days with fewer daylight hours affect people’s internal rhythm and creates a desire for more sleep. Plus he said that if you feel like you need more, you should probably indulge.
That Google search led to more Google searches and by the time I finally got out of bed and rushed to work, the first thing I wanted the experts at Conservation Garden Park to explain to me was how the cooler weather was affecting my landscape.
It turns out, I am not the only one feeling sluggish this time of year. The gardeners explained that shorter days and cooler weather causes some of my plants to slow down too. With dropping temperatures, lawn isn’t growing as quickly and requires fewer mows and less water. At the beginning of September, we should have begun tapering off water use to prepare the lawn for winter. Now, we shouldn’t need to water for the rest of the season—unless there is a sudden, extended burst of warm temperatures. How do you know if your landscape needs more water? Our staff recommends the old-fashioned screwdriver test: push a screwdriver into the soil to a depth of 5 or 6 inches. If the soil is moist to that depth, you’re good.
Preparing your lawn for cooler weather also requires a few additional steps. Here are a few tips from the Conservation Garden Park Staff to keep your lawn happy and healthy all winter long:
- Mow low: While normally we advocate for mowing the lawn at the highest setting, the last mow of the season should be the opposite. Mowing on the 1” setting will help protect your lawn from snow mold and leave it ready to grow in the spring.
- Fertilize: The most important fertilization is the fall application. Make sure to use fertilizer formulated for fall application since you want to feed plant roots and eradicate perennial weeds rather than encourage growth.
- Winterize: You can wait a little longer to winterize your sprinkler system if you wish, but don’t forget that those with automatic sprinklers should make sure the systems are drained completely before the first freeze. There are many videos online that can show you how to winterize sprinkler systems. Make sure to detach and drain outdoor hoses. If you leave the hose attached to the spigot, freezing water could damage the spigot.
To learn more about landscaping for Utah’s seasons, visit Conservation Garden Park year-round (8275 South 1300 West, West Jordan, Utah 84088). Or, for those like me who have already started their winter hibernation, get your Utah landscaping questions answered by experts on the Garden’s website www.conservationgardenpark.org or on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/conservationgardenpark. See you next spring!