Winter can often be an unpredictable time of year. The harsh weather this season brings can often put your lawn through some extreme and damaging conditions. Although your winter lawn care regimen may not be as long or as involved as it is in the summer season, it is still just as important in helping to maintain a lush, healthy yard year round. What can you do during these cold months to make sure your lawn stays in tiptop shape? Check out these 7 tips for a healthy winter lawn.
- Mow In The Fall. Winter lawn care doesn’t just start when winter does. Preparing in the Fall is critical. As the weather cools, continue to mow your yard until the grass stops growing. Gradually lower the height of your mower for the last few turns of the season. Be careful not to cut the grass too short. The shorter grass allows your lawn to winter well without shocking it by cutting it all off at one time. Shorter grass also protects any fragile new growth that may occur at the end of the season. If you leave your grass too long over winter, it invites mice and other burrowing animals to nest during these colder months which can lead to dead spots in your yard come spring.
- Aerate Your Yard. Aerate your yard to prevent soil compaction. The small holes you create allow air, water, and vital nutrients to penetrate down to the roots of the grass. This allows the roots to grow deeper and become more resilient. Use a spade to take out spikes of soil across our lawn. If you yard is too large, you can rent a manual or a motorized aerator.
- Fertilize Your Yard. Many people don’t think about fertilizing in the winter but this allows your lawn to thrive year round. Apply fertilizer with a spreader and make sure to follow the instructions on the package. Apply only the recommended amount of fertilizer because applying too much can burn your lawn.
- Overseed Your Yard. In most parts of the country, lawn grass goes dormant in the winter. In many places, especially in the south, cool-weather seed is overseeded into the lawn to maintain a green lawn year-round. Make sure the seed you purchase says “cool weather” or “cool season” on the package. You can use the same spreader to apply this seed as you did to apply your fertilizer. Try to spread the seed evenly so you don’t get clumps of grass in the spring.
- Remove The Weeds. Getting rid of weeds is an important part of winter lawn care. You can spot treat weeds with an herbicide that only kills weeds and not your grass. Weeds are easier to spot in the winter because grass loses its green color this time of year but cool weather weeds do not. If you have too many weeds to spot treat, you can mow your lawn a few times during the winter. Most winter weeds can’t survive repeated mowing and will die off. Make sure to use your bag attachment to catch any seeds from the weeds to avoid recurrence. If weeds are a problem for you in the winter, set yourself a reminder to apply an herbicide in the fall to prevent their growth the following year.
- Rake The Leaves. Make sure to rake up any leaves you didn’t get to in the fall. If there is snow on the ground, wait for it to thaw before you rake. Also make sure to rake gently especially if the soil is moist as rakes can easily pull up your grass. Leaves left on the ground over winter can cause mold which can severely damage your lawn.
- Clean It Up. Try not to leave any debris, toys, leaves, or even lawn furniture on the lawn during winter. Any of these things can smother your grass and invite insects, mice, and other pests to invade. Try to stay off of frozen lawns as much as possible. Repeated walking, driving, or parking on your grass can kill the grass, leaving bare spots in the spring. Make sure to keep your sidewalks and driveways clear so people won’t be tempted to cut across your lawn.
The end of summer doesn’t necessarily mean the end of lawn care. While most people look forward to stowing their lawnmowers away for the winter, fall is actually the ideal time of year to prepare your lawn for spring. The cooler temperatures and occasional rainfall make this the best time to give your lawn the TLC it needs to be healthy and green in the spring. What can you do to make sure you have the best looking lawn on the block? Check out these 7 tips for fall lawn care:
1. Carry On As Usual
Grass will continue to grow until the first hard frost of the year. Continue to mow and water as usual. Lawns should get at least 1 inch of water per week. Use sprinklers/irrigation systems until the end of October. For the last 2 cuttings of the year, use the lowest blade settings to mow your lawn. This allows the sunlight to reach the crown of the grass and causes less brown leaves in the winter. Leaving the grass at this height also provides insulation against the harsh winter elements.
If you only fertilize your lawn once per year, the best time to do it is in the fall because this is when grass roots and rhizomes grow quickest. Fertilizing in the fall provides nutrients for the roots to grow deeper and allows them to retain these nutrients for spring. It also replaces nutrients lost during the hot months of the summer. The best time to fertilize is early September and then once more 6-8 weeks later. Be sure to keep at least a 5 foot buffer between your fertilizer and any water sources.
3. Control The Weeds
September and October are the best months to control weeds, including dandelion and clover. Weeds thrive in the fall, just like your grass does. They are also looking to absorb nutrients to store for spring. Treating with a weed killer in the fall allows the weeds to absorb the herbicide and die off and they won’t return in the spring.
4. Aerate The Soil
Aeration should be done once every few years. Aeration prevents the soil from becoming compacted and also helps remove thatch. Thatch is a thick layer of roots, stems, and debris that blocks water, oxygen and nutrients from reaching the soil.
5. Rake The Leaves
As much as we hate to do it, this is a vital part of maintaining a healthy, lush lawn. If you have a large yard, you can also use a mower with a bag/vacuum system to get rid of leaves. However you choose to do it, leaves should be removed as soon as they start falling. If you wait until they have all fallen off the trees, they will be wet from rain and dew and matted together. This can suffocate your grass and also cause fungus and mold to grow which can be detrimental for your lawn.
6. Fill In The Bald Spots
Grass grows better in the cool temperature of the fall. Planting in the fall also gives your grass all winter long to germinate and grow. This allows the root system to develop more slowly and deliberately than it does in the spring.
7. Keep It Clean
Clean your tools before you hang them up for the winter to prevent rust. Winterize your lawnmower and other lawn care tools. Store lawn furniture, toys, etc. that you don’t use often during the cold winter months. If objects are left on the grass during the cold winter weather and snowfall, it can leave large dead spots because of the weight of the objects. Put them away for now and bring them back out in the spring.
If you take the time to care for your lawn properly during early fall, your grass stands a better chance to be healthier when springtime rolls around. If this seems overwhelming to you, or you just don’t have the time to invest in prepping your lawn for winter, don’t stress! A lawn care professional can not only give you a free lawn care analysis, but also provide you with a comprehensive treatment plan to make sure your lawn remains green and healthy.
Identify Your Grass Type
What kind of grass you have determines how your lawn should be cared for. Common warm season turf – zoysia, bermuda, & centipede grass – are ideal for warmer weather since they can withstand higher heat, thriving in 75-90 degrees temperatures. Cool season turf – fescue, ryegrass, & kentucky bluegrass – are better suited for cooler weather and can be hard to keep green in the hot summer season. Cool season grass will usually go dormant in the summer, turning a yellow or brown color, and then green back up in the fall when temperatures drop.
Give Your Lawn Enough Water
Water your lawn in the early mornings and make sure it’s getting adequate coverage. Some grasses do well with infrequent, deep watering in warmer weather.
Get Rid of & Prevent Weeds
Eliminating weeds is essential to keeping your lawn healthy and green. Look for weed control products at your local hardware store or contact a lawn care company for recommendations.
Mow the Right Way
Grass should be taller in the summer to protect the soil from losing water and nutrients, keeping grass healthy and helping to prevent new weed growth. Make sure mower blades are sharp; dull blades tear grass and can cause lawn diseases.
Apply a chemical grub control product during the summer and follow directions carefully (some products require additional water).
Clean Up After Pets
Pups can damage your lawn by using the bathroom on it. Use water to flush areas of urine and pick up waste. Leaving it unattended can cause unsightly, unhealthy spots of dying grass.
Fertilize Warm Season Grasses
Now is a great time to fertilize since these types of grasses need nutrients during peak growth season. Check with your local lawn company to schedule lawn service if you’re unsure what kind of fertilizer to use, when to apply, and how frequently. They can take the guesswork out of lawn care for you!
The easiest way to keep your lawn healthy is to stay off of it. Don’t drive or park on grassy areas and avoid walking on the lawn as much as possible.