For The Answer
To Cut or Not to Cut
My radio colleague Jerry Parsons and I have a debate every year after the first freeze. The issue is when to cut back freeze damaged foliage. We both agree that many root hardy perennials are more attractive if they produce new stems and foliage every spring. The question was not whether to cut back the material; our debate was when is the best time to cut back the dead foliage. There are arguments supporting both the “wait to prune” and the “cut it now” tactics. You consider them and then decide what is best for each of your beds. The plants that are usually in consideration for pruning back are the root hardy perennials such as lantanas, plumbago, esperanza, firebush, poinciana and verbena. Warm weather vegetables and annual flowers can also be considered. My side of the debate is that it does not make sense in many situations to cut back freeze damaged stems and foliage immediately after the damage occurs. Here are several reasons you may want to wait to cut back the browned foliage:
Jerry is more inclined to quickly cut back the killed stems. Some arguments for a quick trimming of the killed stems and foliage are as follows:
We may not agree on when to trim back freeze killed stems and foliage but Jerry and I do agree that the lawn mower should not be entirely retired for the winter. Use the mower to mow leaves that accumulate on your lawn and to keep winter weeds in control.
It is good exercise to rake leaves but it does not make any sense to dispose of them in the landfill. Burn your calories by running the lawn mower over the fallen leaves on the lawn. Chopped up by the mower, they will decompose quickly to add valuable nutrients and organic material back to the lawn. It is the environmentally responsible way to deal with leaves.
If you are blessed with large trees, the shade provided is wonderful but it means your lawn is probably not thick enough to keep out the winter weeds such as rescue grass, annual blue grass or rye grass. If you mow those winter weeds they are very attractive. Mowing frequently enough to prevent the weeds from producing seed also means that they weed pressure may be less next year.