Although the approach of cold winter means you'll be spending less time on your lawn, it doesn't mean there aren't things you need to do. Here are 5 winter lawn prep tips for people who want to have a lush, green lawn come spring.
Remove Debris & Thatch
Ensuring that your lawn is free of leaves, pine straw, thatch, and debris is the first step in preparing for the colder winter months. As trees and bushes shed their leaves through the fall, a thick covering of debris can cover your grass. Consequently, this prohibits your grass from receiving the sunlight and nutrients it needs to thrive. Additionally, in areas that receive snow, dead leaves and pine straw can become frozen together. This frozen layer that can kill your lawn.
Thatch should also be removed from your lawn before the winter season. This buildup of organic matter can stress grass even during the winter months. Thatch is removed by raking affected areas until the underlayment is removed. In more severe cases, you may need specialized de-thatching procedures to remedy the problem.
Cut Your Grass for Winter Weather
Cutting your lawn is a top priority during the heavy summer or fall growing seasons. However, it is often ignored when preparing your yard for the winter. Depending on the type of grass you have, you will need to cut your lawn down to 2.0 or 2.5 inches in height. Shortening the length of the grass blades allows for more efficient photosynthesis during the winter months. Also, a shorter lawn can require fewer nutrients to remain healthy. This will help the grass during the colder environments.
It is essential to lower the cutting deck on your lawnmower over time gradually. Never take more than an inch of grass off of your lawn at a time. Aggressive shortening of the grass blades can stunt the grass's growth over time, something that you do not want to do before winter.
Fertilize – If You Have Cool Weather Grass
The most common varieties of cool-season grasses are Ryegrass, Bluegrass, and Fescue. If you have either of these types of grasses, you may need to apply fertilizer during the winter months.
Applying a round of slow-release winter fertilizer will help cool-season grasses sustain healthy growth throughout the Winter. Cool-season grasses grow in temperatures ranging from 60-70 degrees and develop much later in the year than warm-season varieties. Applying fertilizer to cool-season grasses will supplement their growth at the end of the fall and into the winter months. Nutrients can become scarce in the soil in winter. Therefore, a slow-release fertilizer can minimize any damage.
Aerate Your Lawn
Aerating your lawn is an often-overlooked portion of winter lawn prep. Aerating involves piercing the top layers of the soil in your yard, decreasing compaction, and allowing water and other nutrients to reach your lawn's root system.
Over time, dirt can become compacted. Subsequently, your lawns ability to absorb water is affected. However, this problem is remedied through proper aeration. Also, aeration of your lawn minimizes thatch buildup in your lawn. Healthier and looser soil breaks down natural material easier and more effectively. As a result, the likelihood of thatch buildup is reduced.
Typical aeration tools will remove soil plugs that range from 2 to 3 inches deep and are .5 to .75 inches wide. Aeration tools range from motorized drum aerators to shoe attached aerators. Naturally, a powered aerator rental from a hardware store is the better choice for larger lawns.
Top Dress & Smooth
After clearing out all debris, cutting, and aerating your lawn, apply a sandy or loose soil mix to aeration holes and thin spots in the grass. Sanding the aeration holes will allow for increased air and water flow deeper into the root system, helping your lawn absorb nutrients more efficiently. Also, sanding thin or bald spots in the lawn will promote grass growth in the area.
If you have cool-season grass and would like to overseed, mix grass seed into the sand/soil mix. In effect, this mixture encourages rapid growth and further bolsters your lawn's thickness. If you would like to apply a pre or post-emergent herbicide, it may be mixed in with the sand for easier application.