Without question, winter can put your lawn through many extreme conditions. While your lawn won’t need much care from you during the winter months when it is dormant – no watering, weeding, or mowing required – there is work you can do now to help your herbage stay it’s healthy best.
It pays to have and execute a winter care plan before colder temperatures or even snow, freezing rain, or sleet set in. Combating the harsh winter elements can seem tricky, but there are some natural options that anyone can do to keep it great.
There are several key things you can add to your to-do list before you tuck your lawnmower, rake, and garden hose into storage for the winter. According to YourGreenPal, the following five strategies are known to help your lawn emerge in its best possible condition after the winter’s colder months are over. You will be a care expert in no time!
1. Clear the Lawn
The first thing to do is to make sure to get everything off your grass before winter fully sets in. Whole leaves left on the lawn over the winter months can smother your grass and stunt or curb its growth with their weight.
Also, fallen leaves and debris will limit the turf’s ability to photosynthesize. Further, lawn debris can provide shelter for insects, rodents, and fungus, so be sure to rake well, don’t let leaves pile up, and disinvite any pests from living on your property.
Rake up or lawn vacuum any leaves, sticks, acorns, or other debris. Tip: You can add dead leaves or decaying plants to your compost bin. Be sure to relocate any toys, yard furniture, or yard decorations – these things can smother the grass and prevent those areas from getting air, water, and other needed nutrients.
If your leaves aren’t too wet or thick, try using a mulching attachment on your lawnmower to shred the leaves into small fragments and recycle nutrients like nitrogen back. Mulching is especially helpful for protecting gardens in harsh winter climates. So, head out to your lawn and clear it off – don’t ignore this important winter preparation step.
2. Feed Your Turf
While the best time to apply winter fertilizer depends 100% on where you live and what type of grass you have, it’s most typically applied in the October/November timeframe. Winter fertilizer especially needs to be applied to lawns that experience frigid winters to stimulate the root growth of your grass.
Fertilization before winter is easy to do, and an easy way to ensure your lawn is green and lush in the spring. Fertilization is good preparation when the temperatures start to dip. As the days get shorter and temperatures change, grass responds by slowing down its growth and shifting food reserves from its leaves to its roots.
Adding fertilizer helps bolster food reserves in the active roots of the grass, giving them extra nutrients to store during the winter and the ability to grow rapidly in the spring when temperatures increase.
This step is especially critical if it includes bluegrass, fescue, or perennial ryegrass since these varieties hit their prime in the cool, crisp fall. However, no matter what variety of grass your features, fertilizer will help it thrive. Your lawn can benefit from a boost of essential nutrients as it prepares for the coldest months of the year.
Use a fertilizer spreader to ensure consistent applications on all areas of your grass. Since traffic will be minimal during the winter months, the fertilizer will sit on the blades and slowly seep in over the season. Be sure to follow the instructions on the specific fertilizer to get it spread when before temperatures dip too low or before heavy snowfall.
3. Aerate Your Grass
Your lawn is naturally preparing itself for winter during the fall months, but there are things you can do to help it along. Core aeration is a great preventive measure for winter since it encourages deeper root growth and healthier, stronger root for your grass. Generally, care professionals recommend aeration every two to three years.
When soil is aerated, the flow of crucial nutrients, air, and water around the grassroots greatly improve. What’s more, the aerating process keeps your soil from compacting, which can make it tough for your lawn to breathe.
The core aerator process punches half-inch holes, or perforations, vertically into your grass and pulls plugs of grass and soil out of the ground. This process allows water and nutrients to reach the roots of the grass quickly, minimize thatch build-up, and improve drainage.
You can buy aerating shoes or buy/rent a commercial aerating tool to make the aeration job easier. There are many places that offer the aerator for an hourly rate, so it is especially easy for anyone to get a hold of one to help their lawn thrive. Some companies offer their services for aerating, even if you don’t use them for regular care service.
Some soil types, like clay, especially need the help of aeration to improve drainage and add extra moisture to the soil. Proper aerating can also prevent the accumulation of excess thatch, which can lead to snow mold and suffocating roots. Plus, aeration can make overseeding, the next strategy, even more successful.
Pre-winter is an excellent time to start the process of filling in the scraggly or bald patches on your lawn. Overseeding helps thicken, revive, and reinvigorate your garden – it’s an essential part of winter prep.
After your grass is clear of debris and leaves, you can fill a spreader with grass seed. Some grass seed types are combined with fertilizer for extra winter maintenance convenience. Taking some time to research the best seed options for your lawn will help it look great come spring.
Using grass seed explicitly labeled for “cool season” or “cool weather,” seed the problem areas of your grass before the soil is frozen. Remember: Try to apply the seeds evenly (using a spreader helps with that). With your hard work and a little luck, your lawn will fill in nicely.
Timing is everything when it comes to the overseeding process since it’s recommended to be done at least 45 days before the first frost. With weather patterns being somewhat unpredictable, you may just have to take your best guess as to the best time to overseed your lawn. It’s better to err on the side of too soon than too late, so keep that in mind.
To keep your grass in tip-top shape, add topsoil or compost to the surface, a process called “topdressing.” Topdressing can help level uneven lawns and fix unsightly dead spots. You want to be sure to complete the topdressing process before the grass goes dormant, however, to avoid smothering the grass.
Before topdressing, it’s essential to choose the right soil type for your lawn. Test your soil and choose topsoil that’s similar to what’s already in place. First, use a garden shovel to add the soil and a garden rake to spread the soil out evenly. Then, turn the rake upside down to comb through the soil gently. Finally, add grass seed to the new topsoil.
Topdressing before winter will correct many of your yard cosmetic problems and help your yard look lovelier in the spring. When you opt to topdress, you need to be certain the grass still needs to be mowed regularly. If you’ve missed that window waiting until next Autumn is your best bet rather than attempting a topdressing layer too late.
Help get it ready for winter by “putting it to bed” and giving it the best chance to wake up healthy in the spring. The simple steps outlined here can translate into a lusher, greener, and healthier when the weather warms up in the spring.
A well-maintained lawn can increase your home’s curb appeal. So remember: By having a properly cared in the fall, you’ll have healthier grass and a lush lawn you’re proud to show off in the spring.