As the summer days dwindle, we start to make plans for longer nights and chillier weather. We anticipate certain seasonal changes such as the need for winter tires or the switch to warmer shoes. For keen gardeners, the end of summer can feel bittersweet. It means an inevitable decline in plant health and a need for winter lawn care.
It’s the beginning of hard work for lawn owners who want to give their grass a chance at surviving until spring. It’s a common misconception that gardening is always toughest during warmer months. In truth, the most important job is preparing a lawn for seasonal changes, particularly winter frosts and disease.
This article explores the best ways to prepare your lawn for winter and ensure it’s ready to bounce back in the spring.
1. Start Preparing In Autumn
It’s important you don’t leave preparations until the weather is too cold for them to have an impact. In the northern hemisphere, the best times for winter lawn care are October and November. As Autumn slides into winter, mow your grass for the last time. Try to leave it slightly longer than usual so as to give the blades some cover against frost.
2. Clear Away Any Debris
Raking leaves is probably the job gardeners enjoy least. However, if you don’t do it, the accumulated debris may smother sections of grass and leave bare, dead patches come the spring. On dry days, rake the lawn to clear fallen leaves and other types of debris. If you’ve got overhanging trees in your yard, this task will need repeating.
Be patient. Don’t give up too quickly. Regular raking is worth the effort not just because it prevents bare patches but also because it leaves no hiding place for pests. Besides, dead leaves make excellent mulch if they’re added to a compost pile.
3. Aerate and Oxygenate
The next step is to aerate the lawn and create holes in the soil. It allows for more efficient water and oxygen penetration when the ground hardens over winter. If you have an aerating tool, it’s easy to do. Just plunge the spiked end into the soil and twist. If you do not have an aerator, you can use a regular garden fork.
Some experts advise gardeners to brush a small amount of sand into the holes afterward to help them stay open. This can work but the degree of success largely depends on soil type.
4. Tear Out Those Weeds
Whether you love or hate weeding, it’s a good idea to do it one last time before winter. Scrutinize the lawn for signs of weed activity. Armed with a bucket and a hand weeder, it shouldn’t take long.
Take extra care with moss. It’s better to apply a weed killer to moss patches as pulling or raking can spread its spores to other parts of the lawn. Apply the product. Then, wait for the moss to die. When it turns black, it’s neutralized and safe for raking.
5. Apply Autumn Feed
Now, you’re ready to apply an autumn lawn feed. These seasonal grass treatments are designed to strengthen roots, eliminate moss and give a lawn the minerals and nutrients it needs to endure dormancy in winter.
6. Don’t Walk On the Grass
Finally, try to keep children and pets from walking around on the grass during winter. At the very least, minimize contact and other forms of stress and pressure. This is particularly important in very cold weather. Frost puts a strain on the health of grass, even when it’s dormant, and walking around on a brittle lawn is a fast track to damage.
Most homeowners don’t need to water throughout winter. However, if you reside in a dry climate and the grass is looking thirsty, apply a modest amount of water. Avoid saturating the grass as you might do in summer. Any moisture that doesn’t dry quickly will just turn into more frost. This impairs the health of the lawn and makes it vulnerable to disease.
7. Take a Break Until Spring
Once you’ve finished your winter lawn care, it’s time to take a load off and wait for spring. Hopefully, all of your diligent preparations will lead to a lush and green yard you can spend quality time in come the summer.