What to Know About Winter Lawn Care
January 7, 2022
Winter is here, and you might not be thinking much about lawn care. However, it’s a necessary time to make sure you’re maintaining your outside areas. Preparing your grass for cold weather will help it be healthy when you go into winter. You want your grass to be able to rebound when the weather warms up, which is why proper lawn maintenance during winter is crucial.
The following are some things you should know about taking care of your lawn in the winter and making sure it’s ready for warmer weather when it comes.
The soil under your grass can get compacted from things like foot traffic or the weight of machinery bearing down on it. That compaction can then dry out your soil. When the soil is too dry, it means the grassroots can’t take in nutrients and it leads to drainage problems.
The layer of material and debris between your soil and the grass you can see is called thatch.
A thickness of around to one inch is considered healthy thatch. If you have more than that, it can prevent air and water penetration, further increasing drainage issues and reducing the uptake of nutrients.
When you aerate your lawn, you’re making holes through the turf and into the soil that’s below it. Aeration allows air and water to then penetrate. You can aerate your lawn manually, or you can use a power tool.
The goal is to have spikes that cut through the thatch.
Before winter, aeration is also important because it can prevent snow molds. Snow molds happen when the snow melts. Snow molds are fungal infections that can weaken or kill your grass.
As long as the ground isn’t frozen, any time is a good time for aeration.
Prevent Salt Damage
Those handy de-icing products that contain salt can, unfortunately, damage your grass. Salt de-icers can leach into the grass and prevent nutrient uptake. That then creates bare spots.
If you’re going to de-ice your driveway or walkways, try to find products that are made with calcium chloride instead of sodium chloride.
When you shovel your sidewalks after it snows, you should avoid piling it on your grass. The snow can contain residue from the products you used to melt it.
If you know that salt spray and melt runoff are getting in contact with your grass, you should water your lawn as soon as temperatures go above freezing. You can use a soil thermometer to make this determination.
This will then help to flush out salt and reduce damage.
Another note about snow—if you get a lot of it, try to move it around and distribute it, so there’s not so much weight and compaction on your grass all winter.
If debris collects, especially after a winter storm, make sure you get everything up and off your lawn as soon as you can. Heavy limbs impair drainage, cause soil compaction, and can lead to bare patches.
Give Your Grass a Final Winter Cut
If you haven’t already done so and it’s dry enough, you should give your grass a final cut for winter. You want the grass to be shorter in winter than it is in summer, which helps prevent an infestation from rodents, as well as snow mold development.
Water If It’s Dry in Winter
If you have what’s called a winter drought, you should water your lawn. Try to deeply water on a day that’s above 40 degrees. You can prevent dehydration damage, and you can also prevent clover mites. Clover mites are attracted to the ground when it’s dry.
Something else you might want to do to winterize your lawn is spread grass seed. Look for seeds that are labeled as cool-season or cool weather. You can sprinkle it over your yard, and you can do so using the same spreader you use for fertilizer. Spread the seed evenly to avoid clumps later. Even if you aren’t going to spread new seed, you can apply lawn fertilizer.
When you’re prepping your lawn for winter, you want to give your grass enough carbohydrates to use throughout the cold weather. You can do this by mulching your clippings back into your lawn or using a fertilizer with at least 10% nitrogen.
If you don’t give your lawn enough nitrogen to prepare it for winter it won’t have adequate nutrients as you go into spring. The result will be dead grass and disease.
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