Winter Lawn Care Tips for a Better Spring
The winter is when you spend the least amount of time thinking of your lawn. Unless you live in an area that is relatively warm all year long, chances are you have put the lawn mower away and are ready for a few months of relaxation before you have to start the lawn maintenance routine again.
There are a few things you can do during even the harshest winter that can ensure a beautiful, lush yard once spring rolls around again.
Fertilizing in the Winter
Late fall or early winter are the best times to fertilize cool season grasses. Since the majority of the lawns in North America are made from these grasses, like Bermuda and bluegrass, it is a good bet your yard has a typical cool season blend.
Before the first freeze, give your lawn a thorough fertilizing to replace all of the nutrients that can be lost from the soil during the hot summer months. Once the weather turns cold, the fertilizer will remain in the soil and feed your lawn’s roots all winter long.
When spring comes your lawn will be full of healthy, lush, green grass that has been feeding on good fertilizer nutrients underneath the snow.
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During the last month of the summer you should gradually lower the cutting base of your lawn mower each time you mow the lawn. Slowly cutting your grass shorter will allow it to winter well without shocking it by cutting it all off at once.
If you leave your lawn too tall during the winter months it will be prey to field mice and other burrowing animals that want a warm place to sleep. Mice can destroy large parts of your lawn by building nests. They create dead spots where they spend all of their time as well as pulling up large amounts of grass to build their structures.
Make sure your grass is as short as possible at the end of the season. Short grass also protects any new growth that may be more fragile near the end of the growing season.
Keep it Clean
It is easy for items to be left on the lawn during the long, cold winter when no one goes outside very often. Stray logs, toys, and even lawn furniture can be accidentally overlooked before the first snow comes.
Make sure that you clear the lawn of all objects after you mow it for the last time of the year. Do an occasional sweep of the lawn every couple of weeks during the winter, as well.
If an object is left on the grass during cold weather and snowfall it can create large dead spots because of the weight of the object. In the spring the grass in that area will be stunted and thinner than the rest of the yard.
Avoid Excessive Lawn Traffic
When the grass is brown and short it can be easy for people to forget that it shouldn’t be walked on. Try to prevent very much foot traffic on your winter lawn. Grass is relatively resilient, but it will have a difficult time recovering if a path becomes well worn across the lawn.
- Keep your sidewalks cleared of ice and snow so that you and your guests won’t be tempted to cut across the yard very often.
- Never allow anyone to park a truck or a car on your lawn. Even the smallest vehicle will leave impressions in the soil and kill off the grass that is underneath the tires. Using the lawn as a parking lot is the fastest way to kill the good grass and make room for crabgrass and other types of weeds.
Prepare in the Fall
There really is not much lawn care that needs to be done during the cold months of winter. If you properly prepare the lawn during the fall, it will be fine until the warm days of spring arrive once more.
- Make sure you aerate, fertilize, and mow the lawn before the first freeze of the season.
- Rake away any dead leaves that may have fallen and collected on your yard to avoid wet spots that can become mossy or moldy.
- Keep the lawn cleared of debris and help everyone in the family respect the yard while it is dormant.
Once you have taken care of everything that needs to be done during the fall you will be ready to enjoy a nice cozy winter indoors with your family before lawn care season begins again in the spring.
I wish more people understood how important it is to think about Fertilization in the winter.
I supervise 2 golf courses and 65 athletic fields in Missouri. Mostly cool season grasses.. If I can time it right, my favorite application is right before winter before the ground starts to freeze. I like using a quick released balanced product and putting it out right before a rain so that it can be melted into the soil before the freeze. Ideally the analysis should be based on a soil test. I find that this application gives me excellent green up and density in the spring without all the excessive growth that can occur from a spring application. Fertilizing with too much nitrogen in the spring will cause too much top growth and promote disease. Besides who wants to mow twice a week . By doing the late fall early winter application it helps to set my first application of the year closer to early May which would include an extremely slow release product that will release over the next hundred and eighty days.
Just had lawn mowed. Grass & soil was wet. I have noticed mole tunneling for a weeek or so. Person who did the mowing told me not to worry 0r do anything, because frost will kill the moles. Was he correct in what he told me?
By now you probably have found that the mowing person didn’t know what he was talking about. You probably have a family of the little creatures in your lawn by now. Get a trap, hire someone to take care of them but do something. All their relatives will be showing up soon.
No the molds will hibernate during the winter. And come spring they will be active again. Best way to get rid of them is to buy stuff called poison peanuts,put peanuts down in moles tunnel and cover it back up. They will eat the peanuts and die.The peanuts will not harm your lawn.
When should I repair the lawn? Seeding ?
Would it be possible to use the Winter Law Care Tips for A Better Spring in our upcoming Nov/Dec. magazine? I will gladly list the writer and your website for our readers to visit. We are a small, local magazine that covers homeowners in Washtenaw County, Michigan. Thanks for any assistance. I have a deadline of October 24.
Answer: Hi Jan. For a great magazine like yours, all we ask is if there is an online version of the article then all we ask is the source is cited.
in your first paragraph, so state that fall is the best time to fert cool seasons grasses, like BERMUDA, which is most definitely not a cool season grass. You are correct that fall fertilizer applications is the most important time to fertilize your lawn. Making sure the right ratio on the bag is also important, and is something that is looked over by many outside the turfgrass industry. Applying a decent dose of N (the first of the three numbers on the bag) too early in the fall will promote lush growth, something that you dont want in the late fall before freezing temps hit your lawn.
As far as mice damage, they are most likely voles, similar to field mice. Rake up the tunnels and the nests in the spring and hit your lawn with a decent fert in the spring. More often than not the voles will only disturb the shoots, not the crown of the grass plant, which is where it grows from. To reduce the amount of vole damage you have, do cut your lawn down in the fall to make your lawn less appealing to voles. Less grass blade means less cover from predators.
Can you damage your lawn by mowing it late in the fall, after the first freeze?
It’s always a good idea to keep your walkways shoveled during the winter to discourage people from walking across the lawn during the winter months.
you never really answered/stated what is too high or too low for grass height for the last winter cut….
of course we don’t want it too high or too low.. but what is too low? I live in chicago and have kentucky blue grass.
lower than 3″ is not good for this type of grass for photosynthesis and blocking weeds. but then cutting it lower than usual will help promote new growth…. this is what i have gathered from searching the web. I’m guessing there is no real answer other than don’t butcher it low and don’t let it get 6″ tall and unmanageable
is it ok too throw down grass seed like in febuary too get a good start on repair spots
It is early spring here in NJ and I want to take care of my lawn. We just moved in to our new home where nobody took care of the lawn for the past 2 years. What should we do? Does winter care works for mid March or should we wait longer till April and do Spring care then?
I noticed there was a lot of dead grass on the lawn, it could definitely benefit from some cleaning… please advise.
what happens if you miss the fall fertilizing… its January… what can I do to try to recover from the missed and much needed fertilizing?