Preparing Your Lawn for Winter

Preparing Your Lawn for Winter

By Michael Jenkins

While we mostly think of lawn care as a summer affair—mowing the grass in the heat and watering when the sun is baking down—the reality is that taking care of the lawn is a year-round affair. As autumn rolls through, it’s time to prepare our lawns for the colder months to come. Preparing your lawn for winter isn’t difficult, but there are a number of steps you should take to make sure that your grass is ready for the chill to come. Let’s dig in and learn more about how to prepare our lawns for winters, and how you can ensure that your carefully manicured lawn is ready for spring.

Using Winter Fertilizer

Fertilizing for winter is a contentious subject in lawn care—everyone has different opinions and there’s not much in the way of consensus. The general agreement is that fertilizing in cooler weather or the winter months greatly depends on your climate. In warmer climates, it’s best to stop fertilizing in early fall, the reason being that fertilizing when the weather cools down may encourage your grass to put out new growth that will die when the frost comes. This in turn uses up vital energy that your grass will need in the spring, thus slowing its growth in that season.

In colder climates, however, winter fertilizer may be a good idea. It provides fuel while your grass is dormant, allowing your lawn to focus on root growth that will fuel its return to life in the spring. Compost and slow-release fertilizers are best for this application. The former should be spread lightly and evenly across the lawn in several sessions. The latter should be applied according to manufacturer’s specifications.

Mow to the Right Height for Winter

Mowing is the most frequently employed lawn care technique, and probably does more than any other single action to shape the look of your lawn. Mowing plays an important role in getting your lawn ready for winter, and shouldn’t be neglected just because your grass isn’t growing as quickly as it might in warmer weather.

The general idea of late-season mowing as you prepare for winter is to remove no more than 1/3 of the grass’s total height. This avoids stressing the grass by forcing new growth, and ensures that your grass is shading and protecting the soil. This shade limits weed growth and protects soil integrity through the winter and into spring. When preparing for winter, mow the grass to a height of about 3 inches/8cm, and err to the side of caution when mowing problematic areas like brown spots or areas prone to weed growth.


Seed Your Lawn

Seeding your lawn is best done in either spring or fall, and can be an important step in preparing for winter. Seeding in the fall months is a great way to ensure that your lawn is ready for spring. Seeing before winter comes helps create more robust grass growth, leading to a thicker lawn, fewer weeds, and a much easier start to springtime. You can seed your lawn as you fertilize, using a mechanical spreader to add both fertilizer and seeds to your lawn simultaneously.

After seeding, it’s important to keep your lawn watered for a while to allow those seeds to take hold and thrive in their new home. Seeding and the new grass it creates is yet another reason to mow your lawn to a height of three inches/8cm—this protects new grass and new growth!

Let Your Lawn Rest in Winter

As with all things, the grass in your lawn needs rest. Winter is the time for that; as so many garden plants do, grass goes dormant and recuperates for the spring. By preparing your lawn for winter now, you’ll ensure that it can get the most out of that dormancy time, and be ready for brilliant new growth when the weather warms up.

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