If you want to have a beautiful and healthy lawn in the spring, it is necessary to invest some effort in its maintenance during the cold winter days. From late autumn to early spring, there is little outdoor activity, but it’s still important to dedicate some time to the regular upkeep of your lawn. The main focus is protecting it from snow and frost during the winter. Additionally, it grows more slowly due to low temperatures and reduced daylight.
Caring for your lawn during the winter is easier than in the spring when everything is in full bloom, so if you follow these simple guidelines, the process should go smoothly.
Table of Contents
How Warm-season Handle Winter
Warm-season grasses, like Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine grasses, can remain green throughout the year in regions with a moderate climate. However, in areas where lower temperatures prevail during the winter, these grasses go into a dormant or hibernation phase. Therefore, maintaining these grass varieties during the winter is straightforward and undemanding.
The leaves turning brown are one of the characteristics of the dormancy. It is not a sign of dying but simply a hibernation phase during which the lawn conserves energy for the spring.
If you live in areas where you can expect extremely low temperatures during the winter, it may still result in some damage to lawns with these grass types. In such cases, it is recommended to consider cold-season grass varieties.
All The Steps For Lawn Maintenance During The Winter
There are some general guidelines for preparing your lawn for winter and the maintenance steps you can take during the winter months. In the following paragraphs, we provide details of these activities, specifying how to perform them for grass varieties such as Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine.
Cleaning the Lawn
Start by ensuring that removing any leftover leaves, debris, branches, tree parts, and the like from the lawn is essential. Maintain this process throughout the winter because the wind can bring various debris, and it’s important not to let it accumulate on the lawn, as it can block light and oxygen. You can remove leftover leaves using rakes or leaf blowers.
Fertilizing Warm-Season Grasses Before Winter
It would be best if you did the last fertilization of the year for warm-season grasses like Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine in late summer or early fall. Feeding them with potassium, not nitrogen, is essential, as nitrogen stimulates growth, and these grasses are preparing for their dormant period. Potassium will help strengthen the roots and toughen the grass before it enters the dormancy phase.
You can add lime or sulfur if a soil test indicates it is needed. It would be best if you fertilized during winter, but rather when spring arrives.
By following these steps, you can help ensure the health and vitality of your lawn during the winter months and promote its successful growth when spring arrives.
When mowing these types of grasses, it is recommended to do so in early fall, with a recommended mowing height between 1 and 2 inches for Bermuda and Zoysia grass. Alternatively, you should adjust St. Augustine grass‘s mowing height to 2.5 and 4 inches. The proper mowing height will contribute to strong and resilient roots, even though frost and snow during the winter can influence the grass blades. You should avoid mowing during the winter.
During the winter, keep the grass shorter to facilitate easier maintenance and strengthen it, allowing the soil to breathe normally. In the same way, the moisture level is under control.
Aerating the Lawn Before Frost
Aerating the lawn is one of the best things you can do before winter. Create small holes in the lawn to prevent soil compaction. It allows for the inflow of air, water, and other nutrients into the soil, benefiting the roots.
Aerating is best done about a month before the first frost, as the grass will have time to recover before winter. You can use spiked shoes for smaller lawns, while you may need motorized aerators for larger areas.
Considering that there can be more significant rainfall during the winter, the next thing to pay attention to is watering, and it’s important not to overdo it. Standing water can damage the lawn. It’s crucial to have it well-hydrated before the first frost, and during dormancy, water it as needed based on the climate conditions. Generally, an inch of water per week before dormancy is sufficient for grasses like Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine.
If the winter is rough, your watering may be very infrequent.
Overseeding the Lawn
Autumn is the ideal time to add grass to bare spots in your lawn. If you have previously removed weeds, sow grass seeds, and it will establish a healthy foundation for growth. By spring, it will be green and healthy. It’s essential to use cold-season grass seed for this purpose.
Weed Removal Before Winter
This process is crucial because new problems can arise in the spring if you don’t remove weeds. During winter, weed seeds can spread and compete for nutrients with your lawn. Focus on perennial weeds.
The best way to remove weeds is by using an appropriate herbicide, but be careful when applying it to avoid damaging the grass.
The Most Common Threats To A Lawn During The Winter Include:
A fungal disease that develops beneath the snow cover, especially in regions where snow lingers for an extended period during winter. You will recognize snow mold by brown or gray patches on the grass.
- Trim the grass low before the first frost.
- Regularly rake the lawn to remove leaves and other debris, allowing it to dry more quickly after heavy snowfall and enabling sunlight and air to reach it.
- Minimize walking on the lawn to prevent snow compaction.
- Remove snow regularly.
During the winter, there are freezing and thawing cycles, which can lead to water absorption into the grass crown and damage when refreezing occurs.
Prevention: Ensure adequate drainage to remove standing water from melted snow. Proper fertilization in early fall, as mentioned earlier, can prepare and strengthen the grass to better withstand harsh winter conditions.
Compaction: Heavy objects or equipment on frozen or snow-covered grass can compact the soil, preventing the roots from accessing nutrients. It’s advisable to remove anything unnecessary from the lawn during winter.
Ice Melt Salts
The use of ice melt salts on pathways and sidewalks can damage the grass and soil nearby, causing brown discoloration.
Some regions experience minimal snowfall or precipitation during winter, leading to dehydration of the grass.
Winter Annual Weeds
These weeds can emerge in low temperatures and steal nutrients from the lawn. Using pre-emergent herbicides can help prevent their growth.
In icy regions, you can cover the grass with straw or other materials to protect it from the cold.
If there are bare spots on the lawn, you can even sow cold-season grass seed, such as ryegrass, during the winter. It will give you green grass instead of brown during the winter. It’s an annual grass, so it will eventually die off and not compete with your existing grass.
A resilient winter lawn is the result of year-round prevention and care.
Experts will tell you that preparing your lawn for winter in the fall is crucial to withstand harsh winter conditions, and this is the first and fundamental rule. Timely fertilization, aeration, leaf and dead plant removal, weed control, and adequate hydration before winter contribute to making the grass strong and healthy, ready to face snow and frost.
During the winter, you can use the time to refurbish or repair lawn maintenance equipment, replace certain parts, or purchase new equipment, ensuring you are well-prepared for spring activities.
Test the soil’s pH value to know which fertilizers to use at the beginning of spring and summer.