With the winter months on the horizon, you're probably relieved to have a break from the heavy-duty lawn upkeep of summer. However, just because winter brings dormant grass doesn't mean your lawn should be ignored.
A lot of winter lawn preparation actually takes place before the first frost. In some climate zones, this will happen during the fall, while in warmer areas, this may occur in early winter. Either way, some quick and simple prep before the cold weather will go a long way for growing a lush lawn.
To ensure you have a healthy lawn for spring, all you need to do is adopt some simple practices. Keep reading for our full winter lawn care tips.
Before the First Frost
The few weeks before the first frost is the ideal time to get your lawn ready for winter. During this time period, we recommend that you aerate, fertilize, and mow your lawn.
After months of use throughout the summer and fall, lawn soil may get overly compacted. When soil is compacted, nutrients and water have difficulty reaching grass roots.
Poor nutrient, air, and water uptake during the winter can also be a result of an excess of "thatch," the debris between the grass and soil. Thatch can become an issue when snow melts, blocking water drainage and resulting in "snow mold."
The simple solution to these problems is aeration. Lawn aeration is a process in which small holes are made in the soil, loosening up the ground for nutrients, water, and air to travel.
How to Aerate:
- About a day or two before aerating, water your lawn to soften the soil.
- Flag areas of your lawn that you do not want to run over, like sprinkler heads or utility lines.
- Choose the type of aerator that works best for your lawn. The three most common types are core/plug, spike, and slicing aerators.
- Go over your full lawn in one direction.
- If soil is severely compacted, go back over the lawn in the direction perpendicular to the first round.
- Leave the removed plugs of soil on the lawn to decompose and release their nutrients.
Before the first frost, it is important that you fertilize your lawn. This is especially important if you have cool-season grass, common in cool and mild climates. Fertilizers add essential nutrients to the soil that will be stored throughout the winter and ensure healthy root growth and green grass into spring.
A great time to fertilize your lawn is directly following aeration. Loose soil is optimal for nutrient uptake by the roots; soil compaction will make fertilizer less effective.
A good general rule of thumb is to continue mowing your lawn until your grass slows its growth. This typically occurs when temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on where you live, this may happen anywhere between November and January.
In the winter, the height of your grass should be shorter than usual. Shorter heights prevent disease and rodent infestations, as well as reduce winter kill.
Over the course of the fall, gradually lower the height of your lawn mower blade to cut the grass shorter. Around your last couple of mowings, you should be cutting grass to a height of 2 inches.
Once the ground has frozen, there is not much you can do the grass itself. Yet, there are a couple of simple ways for you to ensure that no further damage is done to your lawn.
Minimizing Weight on Lawn
With snow and ice, the weight on top of your lawn during the winter can add up. This can cause soil compaction, which dries out soil and leads to drainage issues once the snow melts.
To prevent compaction, avoid piling up shoveled snow on top of grass. If piling up snow on your lawn is unavoidable, make sure to spread it out to distribute the weight. This will also help quicken the rate snow melts to counter snow mold growth.
In addition, refrain from parking cars or frequently walking on top of your snow-covered lawn as they can also lead to compacted soil.
Beware of Salt
During the winter, salt is often used in products to melt ice on roads, driveways, and walkways. However, deicing salts can cause damage to nearby grass. In lawns, high salt levels prevent nutrient uptake and induce water shortages that will lead to bare patches of grass.
When treating walkways and driveways surrounding your lawn, opt for a product that does not utilize salt. One such alternative is sodium chloride. Also, make sure to avoid piling snow on your lawn from road areas with salt treatments, as this may also damage your grass.
On Days Warmer Than 40 Degrees
During the colder months, many areas may experience what is called a "winter drought." A winter drought is a long period of time during the colder months where there is no precipitation. This can have severe effects on grass and plants, causing dehydration.
If you find that your area undergoing a winter drought, it is essential that you water your lawn. Choose a day in which it is warmer than 40 degrees Fahrenheit and water deeply. This will help ensure that your lawn does not dry out.
To guarantee a healthy and green lawn going into the colder months, just make sure to stick to our simple winter lawn care tips. Remember, just by dedicating time to your lawn in the winter, you're already doing more than most people. And, by the time it's spring, you'll have a yard that all of your neighbors will envy.