Beautiful lush fields of green grass in the spring start with adequate preparation in the fall. By the time the first fall frost hits, next year’s growing season has already begun. Preparing your lawn for winter doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort. Just a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon and a few basic tips is all you need to get a head start on next year.
When should I prep my lawn for winter?
September or October is the best time to get started. If you haven’t had a soil test recently, start there, then aerate to make it easier for fertilizer and water to reach the roots before they are dormant.
How short should I mow?
In the fall, you should mow your grass every 10 to 14 days until all of the leaves have fallen. By the time you mow your grass for the last time before winter, it should be about an inch tall. However, you must take it down incrementally to avoid stressing the plants. Start by mowing no more than one-third of your current grass length. A few days later, mow again. It might take two or three mowing’s to get it short enough for winter.
Do I need to aerate?
Yes. It’s always a good idea to aerate your lawn before winter. This makes it easier for fertilizer and moisture to get to the roots once the ground is frozen over. Choose a day when the soil is moist, but not wet. You can rent an aerator and do it yourself, or hire a company to aerate for you. A couple passes around the lawn is all it takes.
How much should I fertilize?
The only way to truly know is to conduct a soil test. This will give you a clear direction as to what your lawn needs. When distributing fertilizer use a rotary spreader with a high-phosphorus product to stimulate root growth, based on your soil test.
What if my grass is struggling before winter hits?
If you have areas of your lawn that need extra care where grass is already sparse, start with seeding in the early fall. First, spread a half-inch layer of aged compost, then use your spreader to seed the area over the compost. Mix the seeds into the compost with a leaf rake and water lightly 2-3 times a day until the seeds start to sprout. This process should be started well ahead of the first frost, so the new grass has time to reach at least 3 inches. Then mow, and let the grass rest for its long winter’s nap.
Is winter prep really crucial?
Honestly, no. If you do absolutely nothing to your lawn before winter, chances are it will still come back and provide green grass next year. But you’ve spent all spring and summer creating a beautiful lawn for backyard barbeques and summer fun, don’t let all your hard work go to waste.