Winter weather can be harsh, especially on lawns. Homeowners who spend oodles of time during the spring and summer primping and fussing about their lawns may fear the impact that winter will have on their once lush landscape. Autumn offers a great opportunity to fortify your lawn against any brutal conditions to come and lay the groundwork for a lush field of grass for the next spring season.
Once homeowners have gained a greater understanding of their lawn, they can begin exploring the variety of ways to prepare their lawns for whatever winter has in store. Here are a few suggestions.
First, your grass type must be taken into consideration before taking steps to prepare for winter. Some grasses are best fertilized in late summer, while others should be fertilized in autumn. The type of fertilizer must also be seriously reflected on. Organic fertilizer is actually soil food that nourishes the organisms, whereas chemical fertilizer feeds plants directly, but much of the chemical fertilizer runs off into lakes, oceans, rivers and groundwater.
The biggest issue facing the use of chemical fertilizers is groundwater contamination. Nitrogen fertilizers break down into nitrates and travel easily through the soil. Because it is water-soluble and can remain in groundwater for decades, the addition of more nitrogen over the years has an accumulative effect. Plus, they also put your children and pets at risk. Kids and pets play and goof around on the lawn, so choosing a healthier option is a priority. Most greenhouses sell organic fertilizer and offer advice on how to apply and use it safely and effectively.
Remove Fallen Leaves
As breathtaking and colorful leaves are on the trees and blanketing our landscapes, if left on the lawn throughout winter, it may lead to disease in the grass. Leaves trap moisture and block sunlight and air from reaching the grass, and that can encourage the onset of an unhealthy lawn. In addition, leaves can harbor insects that also may further disease.
While it might seem like common sense to delay leaf removal until the end of autumn when all the leaves have fallen, that too can prove harmful to lawns. Leaves left laying on the lawns for long periods of time can contribute to the same types of damage as leaves left on the lawn throughout the winter, so get out your rake regularly and clean up your yard.
During late September or even early October, 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, other burrowing animals, and insects 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, 1 to 1½ inches, 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. If the grass is left too long going into the winter, it will become matted, which encourages winter diseases such as pink and grey snow mould.
Fight Snow Mold
If you live in a region where snow falls into spring or where spring tends to be cold and damp, you may want to take steps to prevent snow mold. Gray snow mold typically looks fuzzy and dull, and lawns infested with this condition may develop unsightly discolored spots indicative of dead grass. Pink snow mold may be even worse because it attacks the roots as well as the leaves of plants. To prevent snow mold, continue mowing into the autumn, even as lawns grow dormant, clearing the lawn of grass clippings, and leaves after each mow.
Thick lawns may provide a breeding ground for snow mold, so if your lawn has a history of developing snow mold, mowing late into the fall will be advantageous.
Aeration involves perforating the soil with small holes to allow air, water, and nutrients to penetrate the grass roots. This helps the roots grow deeply and produce a stronger, more vigorous lawn. The best time for aeration is reflective on the time of grass you have. Ideally, aerate the lawn with cool season grass in the early spring or fall and those with warm season grass in the late spring.
Keep it Clean
Aside from leaves, keep your lawn clear of all objects like toys, planters, and lawn furniture. It’s so easy for items to be left on the lawn during the long, cold winter when no one goes outside very often. Objects left on the grass during winter can create large dead spots because of the weight of the object. Come spring, these areas of grass will be stunted and thinner than the rest of the yard.
Watering in the Fall
Maintaining a healthy lawn year around requires using proper watering techniques. Depending on the climate of where your live, your lawn will most likely not need as much water in autumn as it would during the warmer seasons. In fact, too much water during the fall months may harm your lawn more than benefit it. If you saturate your lawn’s root system with too much water it could actually damage your lawn.
If you live in a region where you consistently get snow over the winter seasons, then you can stop watering around the end of September or October. This is the time when your lawn goes dormant. If you live in a more humid climate that gets sun year around then simply curb your watering to once or twice a week for 20 minutes is sufficient.
Following these few simple steps will ensure you have a gorgeous lawn next spring.