Just because the weather turns cold doesn’t mean that’s the end of lawn care for the year. Believe it or not, even grass that has gone dormant in the winter months can benefit from a little TLC. While warm season turf typically grows in the spring and summer and then turns straw-colored in the winter, cool season turf grows in spring and fall and still retains some of its green color through the colder months. Don’t retire your lawn mower to the garage just yet! Here are 6 winter lawn care tips to help get your yard ready for spring.
Compaction can be a big issue for your lawn. When the soil under the grass gets compacted by heavy foot traffic or the weight of heavy machinery, the dirt gets packed down tightly making it difficult to penetrate with air or water. This can cause the soil to dry out due to lack of moisture and cause the roots to not be able to take in the nutrients they need to survive. This can also cause drainage problems as the soil isn’t able to absorb as much water. Thatch (the layer of living material and debris that builds up between the soil and the grass) can also cause problems with your grass. A thatch layer up to 1 inch is considered healthy. Once it gets thicker than 1″, it can also block water and air penetration to the soil. Aeration helps alleviate some of these compaction and thatch issues by making holes through the turf and into the soil. These holes allow air and water to penetrate through, helping keep your turf healthy. Aeration can be done manually or with a power tool. It can be performed any time the ground isn’t frozen.
Fertilization usually goes hand in hand with aeration. After you’ve opened up your lawn by aerating it, fertilizing gives it the essential nutrients it needs to prepare for winter. These nutrients are absorbed and stored by the roots; the grass then taps into these stores in the spring to get a jump start on growth.
Winter is a great time to give your lawn tools a once over. While it’s not in regular use, give your mower a thorough cleaning and tightening. Repair and replace any parts that need it. Sharpen mower blades for a clean cut in the spring. Dull mower blades leave grass blades jagged which makes them susceptible to disease. They can also tear the crowns away from the roots, leaving bare patches on your lawn. Follow the maintenance instructions for your mower to winterize it for the season. Store your mower in a dry, protected place until spring.
If you didn’t get your last cut in before the cold weather set in, don’t worry! You can still give your lawn a final cut on a dry day this winter. It is important to keep your grass height shorter in the winter than in the summer. Rodents are common in the winter months and shorter grass helps inhibit these populations.
Leaves fall off the trees at different times throughout the cold season, making raking an ongoing chore. Wet leaves laying on your turf can cause water buildup which, in turn can lead to fungal growth, pests, and even bare or yellow patches.
Weeds can still grow in the winter, especially after a mild, rainy day. It is important to remove these weeds when they appear before they have a chance to take a stronghold in your yard. Winter is also a great time to apply a pre-emergent weed killer which inhibits the growth of weeds before they even start. Pre-emergent herbicides can be applied anytime as long as the ground isn’t frozen.
Although most lawn care happens in the spring and fall, winter is still a good time to get yard projects accomplished. It also helps you shorten that spring time to-do-list by checking a few items off before the weather warms up. Taking the time to invest in your lawn in the winter will help ensure a lush, green yard come spring.