The words “Florida winter” may seem like a bit of an oxymoron. It is true that the state does not experience winter like the rest of the country. That is especially true for those of us who live in the Tampa and Sarasota area. While South Florida winters have the potential for cold days, we do not have snow, and freezing temperatures rarely last for more than a few days.
Still, we do experience a change of seasons. Temperatures are markedly cooler, overnight frosts are common, and our tropical plants can suffer real distress. Because most homeowners have lawns comprised of warm-weather grasses, even short spells of cold can shock the property. In order to ensure that your grass outlasts this short season, we offer this guide to Florida winter lawn care.
The Basics of Winter Lawn Care
In addition to lower temperatures, your grass also needs to withstand fewer hours of sunlight and less intensive light in general. These conditions will result in a slower growing lawn.
This fact might tempt you to fertilize your lawn during the winter months, but that is not advisable. The slow growth of your grass actually protects it in cooler weather; forcing it to grow at this time could make it too cold-sensitive and open to additional stress. (Lawn care experts debate the latest you should fertilize your lawn in Florida, but most agree that in this region, October is best. November is the absolute latest. If you miss this application, your grass should be able to weather the climate until the spring application.)
Overseeding Your Lawn
The best way to ensure that your lawn will look green and healthy all winter is over-seeding your warm weather grasses with rye.
Over-seeding involves planting a temporary grass to fill in any sparse or thinning areas of your lawn.
Ryegrass is a popular choice for overseeding because it is affordable and fast-growing. In this area, once daytime temperatures fall below the mid-70s, it is time for rye seeding. In order to effectively over-seed, first rake your yard to remove all loose debris, then mow your lawn.
Sow the rye grass seed, and water it frequently until it has germinated. Although this is potentially drought season in south Florida, it should still be early enough in the season to not have any water restrictions to contend with. Once the winter lawn is flourishing, you can continue to water and mow as needed. The rye grass will die off on its own as temperatures rise in the spring. By that time, however, your warm-weather grass should be rebounding nicely.
Watering a Florida Winter Lawn
During our winter months, your lawn still needs sufficient water and nutrients. Both are necessary to ensure that your lawn can endure colder conditions and return lush and green in the spring.
The need to water does not change, but how often you need to water does. During the blazing heat of summer, your lawn typically requires watering twice a week, which may be supplemented with daily rainstorms. In the winter, however, water doesn’t evaporate as quickly, so watering once a week should be sufficient. Remember that as these months are generally dry, your irrigation system will be necessary.
Your grass will inform you when it requires water. Signs of distress include changing color- usually from green to a bluish-gray color – as well as folded blades of grass
If you need rye grass, fertilizer, sod or seed – Big Earth Landscape Supply is your local South Florida expert. To keep your lawn looking green all winter long, trust the professionals.