AUSTIN (KXAN) — Its a common misconception: winter arrives and we no longer have to worry about taking care of our yards.

As temperatures drop, plants go dormant, energy production slows, leaves fall off the trees and lawns turn brown. And yet, we still have to mow our yards. Why is this?

Scott Martin, Lawn Division Manager with ABC Home & Commercial Services, told KXAN that mowing your yard is especially important during the winter. “We’re not mowing so much to cut down and keep the lawn low as much as we are about removing plant material that’s on the surface.”

Scott says that leaves from nearby trees need to be broken up. Once they are, the leaves make excellent fertilizer for your lawn.

Another reason to mow in the winter, and the reason you think your lawn is green, is winter weeds. According to Mr. Martin, we have around 50 types of winter weeds in Central Texas.

“If you look at my lawn right now,” Mr. Martin says about his Hill Country home, “a lot of the green you see is actually weeds.”

He says that cutting down the weeds is essential to protecting your lawn. The weeds are also very sensitive to being cut with a mower and have a hard time re-growing after a cut. If you live near a green belt, you’re at a high risk of having to deal with these weeds, so keep that in mind.

Should you water during the winter?

Mr. Martin says watering your yard is actually a good idea during the winter. While your lawn is dormant, the roots are actually growing. He says that the winter is the peak time for root development. “If we haven’t had rain for 7-10 days, go ahead and water your lawn.”

Do you need to worry about your lawn when it freezes?

Mr. Martin says that soil actually protects your lawn during a freeze. Even during the Texas winter freeze, when temperatures dropped close to and in some places below zero, soil temperatures stayed above freezing. Snow and ice actually insulated the lawn, keeping soil temperatures above freezing and protecting the roots.

This brings us back to watering your lawn. Mr. Martin says that you should water your lawn ahead of a hard freeze. If that water freezes, it will further help insulate your lawn.

Don’t forget to add fertilizer

The final thing you need to do to protect your lawn is to sprinkle it with a winter fertilizer.

During the winter, lawns store up energy so they can then rapidly grow during the spring. Extra nutrients at this time can help better prepare your lawn for their growing period.

A winter fertilizer is lower in nitrogen, but has extra potassium and phosphorous. Mr. Martin says these will help with cell growth and better protect your lawn for the summer heat. He says you can also sprinkle trees, ornamentals, flowers and perennials with this fertilizer.