Your Ultimate Winter Lawn-Care Guide
Winter is coming… so surely there’s not much lawn care to keep up with, right? Well, although the majority of lawn types become dormant during the winter, there are still some things you can do to ensure your lawn is at its healthiest come spring. Use winter as an opportunity to plan and prepare for the seasons ahead, so you’re primed for lawn-care action when the weather warms up. This planning and preparation pre-winter is often referred to as “winterizing” your lawn.
Winter isn’t the time to get complacent about your lawn maintenance. Yes, you’re not going to be actively feeding and mowing your lawn during this time, but there are certain winter lawn care tips to keep in mind. Healthy turfgrass often mitigates lawn pest and weed problems in the long run, and cold weather is where weak, thin grass can really suffer.
Lawn-care preparation for the winter starts in the fall, in the lead-up to colder months and during the festive season too. To make sure your lawn is in tip-top shape come spring, take the following steps highlighted in our ultimate winter lawn-care guide.
Winter Lawn-Care Tips
Your soil requires potassium nitrogen and other nutrients to feed your lawn over the winter months and promote deeper roots. This will help with an earlier and consistent green-up when spring comes around.
When should I start my lawn-care regime for winter?
Usually, lawn-care regimes for winter start after the first frost, before the lawn becomes dormant and turns brown. Often this is a one-month window to get your winterizing products ready, assuming your lawn is a warm-season grass type.
Now, let's get into winterization and which products and methods can help keep your lawn healthy throughout harsh, cold weather.
Use a Lawn Soil Test Kit
Investing in a home soil test kit is your first point of call. You need to learn which nutrients your lawn needs and the current pH level of your soil. Turfgrass thrives in soil with a neutral pH and a good balance of key macronutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Nitrogen is a component of chlorophyll, which provide lawns with its vibrant green color. Phosphorus strengthens the grass-root system and potassium promotes healthy grass growth. Micronutrients are what your soil needs in smaller amounts which can be corrected by a product called NutriSolve.
Before you embark on fertilization to give your lawn a well-deserved nutrient boost, find out what’s happening underneath your soil. At the beginning of December, conduct a soil test. Once you’ve received your results, you’ll know which nutrients your lawn is lacking and the exact pH level of your soil. Most bags of lawn fertilizers abbreviate the three essential macronutrients to “NPK” with a number above each letter. This will let you know how much of each macronutrient is supplemented in certain fertilizers.
If your soil is too acidic, use a product to raise your soil’s pH, like MAG-I-CAL® PLUS. If your soil is too alkaline, you’ll need a product to do the opposite and lower your soil’s pH.
After soil testing and lawn aeration, it’s time to move on to fertilization. Apply your chosen fertilizer with a broadcast spreader (for granular fertilizer) or a backpack sprayer (for liquid fertilizer). Ensure you follow the instructions on the product label and don’t exceed the recommended amount. Most lawns aren’t growing very quickly this time of year so go with lower application rates. Too much fertilizer can burn or shock your grass, so watch out!
For a breakdown of some of the best fertilization products available, check out our blog on the best fertilizers to use in the fall. Many of these fertilizers are perfect for your winterization program.
Related: Everything You Need to Know About Lawn Fertilization
Winter Lawn Care: Keeping It Clean
This isn’t just a winter lawn-care rule, but keeping your lawn clean is essential to preventing pests, weeds, diseases such as lawn-attacking fungi, and allowing adequate airflow. During fall, leaves can pile up on your lawn, suffocating it and trapping moisture which is the perfect environment for lawn diseases to develop. Slugs and other insects also enjoy moist, insulated conditions, so keeping your lawn clean is a very important part of lawn maintenance.
Rake or blow away leaves and other debris to prevent snow mold after your last mowing. Lowering the mowing height by a notch each time to about two to two and a half inches can help adapt your mowing technique during the fall. Shorter grass will prevent snow mold in the spring, very long grass can suffocate itself, which opens the door to disease.
When the temperatures drop to below 41° Fahrenheit your lawn will enter a state of dormancy. This is the best time to stop mowing your lawn, as it won’t grow too much more during the winter.
Preventing Lawn Traffic
While your lawn is dormant throughout the winter months, try to avoid walking on it excessively. Even the healthiest, strongest grass can become weakened by heavy foot traffic. Given that the lawn isn’t actively growing during the winter, it’s ability to recover from damage will take much longer. You’ll also notice grassy areas that have been heavily used will take longer to green up in the springtime and your lawn will become compacted in those places.
All I Want for Christmas... Is a Golf Course Lawn!
Remember that winter lawn care starts in the fall. Don’t pass up on fall lawn watering — ideally a half-inch of water every other week is enough to sustain your lawn during the winter. Rainfall usually covers this, but if you live in areas prone to drought reduce your usual watering requirements by half. In the winter you can irrigate only to supplement rainfall, without being excessive.
Another great winter lawn-care tip is to use winter as an opportunity to maintain your lawn-care equipment. You’re not going to be using your lawn-care equipment much during the winter months — so sharpen those mower blades, clean out your spreaders and make sure your irrigation system is running properly.
The key idea of winter lawn care is to make turf maintenance much easier when spring comes around. By mitigating pests, weeds, disease and providing your lawn with a nutrient boost now, you’re cutting down on lawn-care costs in the future. A little organization works wonders!
Ready to start your lawn winterization? Check out our selection of lawn fertilizers and soil pH test kits to get you on track to achieving a golf course lawn, or head to our Golf Course Lawn YouTube channel for more information and ideas.