If you want a perfect looking lawn around your house, it requires more work than just mowing it once a week. A lawn needs year round attention, not only in spring and summer. Even though it’s not much work, winterizing the lawn will level up the look of your lawn next spring immensely! Here are a few things you can do to winterize the lawn.
Fertilize Your Cool-Season Grass Before Winter
Fertilizing your grass before winter helps deliver nutrients to the roots instead of the leaves. As the temperatures start to drop, grass and other plants prepare for the winter. Their growth slows, and they begin storing their nutrients in their roots.
Winterizing fertilizers tend to contain higher levels of potassium, as the potassium increases nutrient absorption and strengthens the grass. However, this winterizing step is best suited for cool-season grass. These grasses receive most of their growth in the fall, which is the perfect time for fertilizing the lawn for winter. Warm-season grasses tend to remain dormant through the winter, making the fertilizer less effective.
Use a spreader to evenly distribute the fertilizer across the lawn. Handheld spreaders are cheap and suitable for a small yard. However, walk-behind spreaders allow you to cover a wider path.
Always read the instructions on the fertilizer package before spreading it. Applying too much fertilizer saturates the lawn with salt, which may burn the grass.
Use a Lawn Aerator to Help the Lawn Breathe
Aerating the lawn is a great way to help oxygen and water penetrate deep into the soil. By allowing your lawn to breathe, the roots can absorb more nutrients before winter. This is also a useful step if you plan to plant seed before winter.
There are several different tools that you can use to aerate a lawn. These options include motorized mechanical aerators and handheld aerators. Like most lawn equipment, motorized aerators are more efficient and effective. However, they also cost more and can be more difficult to operate.
You can also choose between spike aerators and plug aerators. Spike aerators poke holes in the ground, while plug aerators remove a plug of soil and grass. Plug aerators are more effective and healthier for your lawn, as the spiked aerators can compress the soil.
One to two days before aerating the lawn, water the grass. Watering will help soften the soil, making it easier to operate the aerator. Softening the soil is especially useful when using a handheld aerator.
Apply Cool-Season Grass Seed to the Lawn
Fertilizing and aerating help prepare the lawn for grass seed. Apply cool-season grass seed, as these types of grasses experience most of their growth in the fall.
Before applying the grass seed, you may need to complete a couple more steps. Scan your yard for debris such as stones, rocks, and sticks. Pick up the debris or use a rake to clear the yard.
Use a spreader to apply the seed to your lawn. You can even use the same spreader that you used to apply the fertilizer. The seeds should be spread evenly to help increase their coverage and avoid clumping. Spreading too much seed can weaken the grass, as the seeds will fight for nutrition.
After applying the seeds, thoroughly water the lawn while trying to avoid over saturating the lawn. If possible, use a garden hose attachment to mimic a gentle sprinkle. Lightly water your lawn and perform multiple passes to ensure that the water penetrates the soil.
You can also use a starter fertilizer after spreading the seeds. These fertilizers help the seeds grow and help prevent weed growth.
Continue to Care for Your Lawn Until Winter
After applying fertilizer and grass seed, you should rake the lawn. Raking helps spread and cover the seeds and may be necessary as the leaves start to fall.
The leaves do not provide insulation for the grass during the winter. In fact, they may kill the grass and ruin your lawn if allowed to pile up before winter. The leaves release nitrates and phosphate as they decompose. While these nutrients are needed by the soil, an abundance of these nutrients can damage the grass.
It is much better to get rid of leaves on your lawn. You can mulch the leaves with the lawn mower, or make use of a cordless leaf blower.
You may also need to continue mowing until the grass stops growing. Continue to cut your grass to your preferred length. For cool-season grasses, you should try to maintain a length of about 3 inches. During the winter, longer grass may become matted, which can damage the grass and may even cause snow mold to form.
You should also continue to water your lawn after applying the grass seed. Water until the ground starts to freeze but avoid over saturating the lawn.