Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online
January 2013 Contractor Success 2

Protect Your Property With Winterization

Preparing your grounds for the freeze can help get you through the winter without blowing your budget.

January 7, 2013

There are a number of cost-effective steps facilities managers and building owners can take to ensure that their properties and their grounds are sufficiently maintained through the winter and ready for springtime.

A hard freezeNotable among these steps are an important duo:

  • Winterizing your irrigation systems
  • Protecting your vegetation, particularly the perennial flowering varieties.

Ensuring that your irrigation systems are properly winterized is one of the most cost-effective ways to protect yourself from severe winter weather.

Correctly winterizing an irrigation system will help increase the life of pipes, sprinklers, valves, pumps, fittings and other parts.

Preparing your vegetation for the colder months is also an essential component of winterization.

Doing so will not only help reduce your spring cleaning stresses, but it will also deter pests from attacking garden beds in search of shelter or a snack.

Damming The Flow

Although there can be significant costs associated with properly winterizing an irrigation system, the benefits of doing so far outweigh those costs.

A simple step to take, ensuring that pipes are properly drained and/or blown out can save an irrigation system from a host of potential problems.

Irrigation pipes can crack or break easily when residual water freezes because, in doing so, it expands in volume by roughly nine percent.

Frozen pipes are likely to burst and leak or cause flooding when the ice melts — and, replacing burst pipes can be an extremely costly undertaking.

Broken irrigation systems can, in turn, cause water damage to structures and landscapes.

A majority of irrigation systems can be cleared of water by simply shutting off the water supply, opening all valves and faucets and allowing water to drain out.

Water features such as fountains, ponds or waterfalls should remain running throughout the winter.

In areas with excessively cold wintertime weather, these features should be drained to prevent ice in the motor.

Once a water feature is drained, the motor should be removed and stored in a warm area submerged in water, as this will help prevent the seals from cracking.

If you have more complex irrigation systems, it may be necessary to blow out the pipes using compressed air tanks to prevent any freeze-related damage.

This will remove the remaining pools of water from any irrigation valleys — the lower-lying areas where, without pressure, water would settle and eventually freeze.

In some cases, valve traps will hold a small amount of residual moisture even after being blown clean; you can help keep your valve traps from freezing by adding in small amount of an anti-freeze solution to your system.

Priming The Foliage

Maintaining a healthy winter landscape begins with clearing any dead leaves or plants and cleaning any debris.

A hard freezeRemoving organic matter that settles around grass blades by dethatching will deter pests and parasites that could otherwise harbor there, infecting nearby plants, flowers, trees and shrubs.

Clearing debris after a hard frost usually ensures that your perennial plants will not start growing again.

Many flowers — notably annual varieties that require replanting each year — cannot withstand a frost and will simply die due to the cold.

But, if some plants do start to grow again, cutting them back will ensure winter hibernation.

As much of a plant’s energy is put into producing leaves and flowers, those that have been cut back are then forced to focus on heating their core and keeping their roots alive despite freezing ground temperatures.

If you have bulbs that can survive colder temperatures and will be leaving them in the ground throughout the winter, be sure to cover and insulate them.

Applying a layer of clean mulch over the hard, frozen ground helps insulate garden beds and raise the internal temperature of the bulbs left buried and the root systems of other foliage in hibernation.

Adding a layer of compost every few weeks provides extra “burn heat” during the coldest months and can help your plants stay alive.

Although most plants and some bulbs can survive the cold, many bulbs are not hearty enough and should be dug out and stored in a cool, dark space.

Allowing the bulbs to dry for a period of about two weeks will help prevent rotting; evenly spacing them in a cardboard box or a clay pot will help decrease spreading, if rot should occur.

Once the bulbs have been prepared, covering the container in which you’ve placed them will deter any premature new growth.

Materials such as peat moss, pearlite, vermiculite, sawdust and sand work well because they are low cost and allow for healthy ventilation.

You’re Not Alone In The Cold

These cost-effective methods for property winterization can help get you through the winter without blowing your budget.

As easy and affordable as winterizing your irrigation systems and protecting your vegetation is, a lack of internal manpower is often a barrier to properly following through.

But, there are specialists trained in their trades who are available to assist with your winterization needs.

Working closely with lawn care, pest control and landscaping specialists can help prevent damages and expenses caused by burst pipes, diseased lawns and plants or unwanted pests.

Partnering with the proper professionals and providing your staffs with the necessary tools will help your properties survive the winter and be ready for the rebirth of spring.