First Winter in Florida? We Answer Your Yard and Garden Care Questions!

If you’re a native or semi-native Floridian, jokes about the state’s weather should not be new to you. It is true what they say, though – there are four seasons in Florida, of which three are summer. This has earned Florida its well-deserved official nickname, “The Sunshine State.”

However, the charms of our lovely state have recently attracted numerous new residents. So if you’re among them, we extend our (of course) warm welcome! Florida experiences one of the mildest winters in the United States. Daytime highs range from 62 °F in Tallahassee to 77 °F in Miami, while average lows range from 41 °F degrees in Tallahassee to 65 °F in Key West. Central Florida is in the sweet spot, with average daytime highs of 72 °F and lows of around 52 °F.

If this is your first winter here, you probably have plenty of questions about caring for your yard and garden. But first, let’s deal with the common misconception that Florida doesn’t get cold enough to necessitate special preparations. Winter temperatures in Florida can get low enough to damage subtropical, tropical and even temperate plants if they are not adapted to lower temperatures. A single night of cold and freezing wind can cause damage. Even though winter lawn and garden protection in Florida need not be as rigorous as in northern climates, some reasonable precautions must be taken to ensure that your lawn, landscape plants, shrubs and young trees survive the season, and remain healthy all year long.

Do I Need to Modify My Lawn Care Routine?

As our blog post – “How to Winterize Your Central Florida Lawn” – explains, treating your lawn in the winter the same as you do in the warmer months can cause long-term problems that affect its health and appearance. Here’s what you need to know!

Adjust your mowing schedule – As Challenger Irrigation recommends, leave your grass taller than you do in the summer months. Taller grass protects the roots from cold weather.

Adjust your watering routine – Because your lawn grows slower in the winter, it doesn’t need as much water. The other extreme is under-watering, which also can make it hard for your lawn to thrive. Strive for a balance instead. At most, only irrigate your lawn one day a week in the winter. If you’re not sure your grass needs water, check to see whether or not it springs back up after stepping on it! Flat grass means it’s time to water.

Don’t fertilize after October (with one exception) – You may look at brown spots on your lawn and assume it needs an application of fertilizer to green up again. Fertilizing your lawn in the winter months will make it grow, but your lawn will also become more sensitive to cold. This means that any sudden cold snap can instantly kill your grass and ruin any lawn care progress you had been making up until that point. Wait until spring to fertilize.

If you want a green, vibrant lawn throughout winter, consider overseeding it. This process involves seeding a temporary grass – such as ryegrass – over your existing lawn. According to UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions, ryegrass should be sown once daytime highs have fallen to the low- to mid-70s. The ryegrass will die back come spring. Rake the grass to remove all debris, then mow your lawn before sowing the seed. You’ll need to water your overseeded lawn frequently until it has germinated. Once the winter lawn is established, it will require watering, mowing and fertilizing.

Does it Freeze in Florida? Do I Need to Protect My Plants?

Short answers: yes, and yes. Although we are spared the Arctic-like temperatures of northern states, nighttime temperatures can plunge enough to necessitate covering sensitive plants. Many shrubs, perennials, annuals and even some trees are susceptible to temperatures that are considered a light freeze (29° to 32° F) back home. This is especially true for such tropical plants as sago palms and hibiscus, which grow and thrive here, but are overall better suited for South Florida’s climate. Interestingly enough, sudden freezing temperatures after prolonged warm weather can do more harm to your plants than long-lasting freezing weather!

To help ensure your sensitive plants live to brighten your yard in spring, follow these steps. Our blog post – “How to Protect Your Plants From Freeze” – covers this topic in greater detail.

  • Add extra mulch around sensitive plants when a freeze is forecast. This helps trap the soil’s heat.
  • Water your sensitive plants early in the day before a forecasted freeze. This allows the soil to absorb warmth from the sun and warmer daytime air, thereby helping plants survive the cold. Also, cold winds are drying, taking a toll on plants that are already too dry.
  • Cover vulnerable plants with frost cloth. This is an insulating material of woven fabric created specifically to protect plants from freeze damage. It’s available at plant nurseries and home improvement centers, as well as major online retailers. Completely drape the plant from the top all the way to the ground. Apply the cloth right before sundown to make sure the cloth gathers the heat produced in the ground during the day. Be prepared and buy frost cloth in advance, so you’ll have it on hand when needed.
  • Try to bring potted or container plants indoors, or at least bring them closer to each other. Add mulch around the plants to trap heat at the surface if they need to stay outdoors.

I’ve Never Seen Some of These Plants Before – How Can I Tell if They’re Freeze-damaged?

If you’ve never had a yard graced by a hibiscus or bird of paradise before, you may wonder if they’ve suffered freeze damage. Our blog post – “Preparing Your Plants for Florida’s Winter Season” – provides signs to look for, including the following:

  • Tropical plants like crotons often drop a few to all of their leaves in cold weather, although they will regrow in the spring.
  • Tan, brown or black wilted leaves can be a sign of foliage burn. Leave the damaged leaves until spring, when you can cut them off.
  • Fungus, which shows up as brown spots on leaves. Use appropriate fungicides to treat the infected plants, and spray your plants at the beginning of winter to improve resistance to fungi.
  • Unsure if your plants are dead or still alive? Gently scratch the stem to see what color appears underneath. Green is good, but any other color could indicate a dead plant.

Central Florida Winter Lawn Care Made Easy with Daniel’s Lawn Service & Pressure Washing

Central Florida yards need special attention this time of year. Our experienced team at Daniel’s Lawn Service & Pressure Washing Inc. knows the ins and outs of Central Florida’s climate, so your winter yard can be as beautiful as your spring and summer yard when it’s under our care! We will work with you to achieve your goals and bring your vision to life every season of the year! Our full-service company provides landscape design, tree installation, tree trimming, yard maintenance, bush hogging, pressure washing and so much more. Contact us today so we can do the work, and you can do the enjoying!