Winter is that time of the year when the last thing we think about is our front yard. It is only natural because everything will be covered with snow. It’s the time when we put our mowers away, or properly prep them for next season, and we are ready to take at least three months off from lawn maintenance.
The Best Tricks and Tips on How to Protect Grass in Winter
In this guide we will cover these steps you should take now in the fall season to get your lawn winter ready.
- Prepare your lawn in the fall
- Winter Fertilizer
- Aerating Your Lawn
- Reduce Watering
- Rake The Lawn
- Limit Lawn Traffic
- Mowing Patterns
- How To Deal With Ice
- Apply organic matter
- Dealing with Snow
- Getting Fresh Air to your lawn.
Prepare in the Fall
But what many of us don’t know is that there are quite a couple of measures we can take, so that when spring rolls back in, our gardens will be just as healthy and beautiful as the previous year.
And there’s no better time to start prepping and setting things up than the fall. Lawn care before winter is essential, so we should aerate during months of fall, keep on fertilizing and mowing until the first freeze drops in. And since it’s fall, we can also rake away all the dead leaves that have fallen during this season. Debris is another thing to look out for and clear, but most importantly, we need to maintain our walkways clear and visible, to prevent people from trampling all over your lawn.
When it comes to maintenance during snow season, one of the first questions that will arise is ‘should I fertilize my lawn in the winter?’ The answer is yes. There is even a special term for this – “winterizer”, and it’s the 3d most important fertilizing of the year. The best time to apply some winterizer is when the grass has stopped to grow in autumn but is still green and active below the surface. It’s sometime in late November or early December. In other words, once you put your mower away for the next year, that’s when you have to apply winter fertilizer.
Here is why you should do it: after the hot months of summer, the soil loses a lot of essential nutrients. To replace them, you should go for a winter lawn fertilizer, right before the first freeze. It will remain active in the soil for the whole winter season, feeding the grassroots and keeping them healthy and active.
An ideal solution will be Nitrogen fertilizer. Read a label carefully, it must indicate most of the Nitrogen as quick-releasing WSN – water-soluble nitrogen.
If you use granular lawn fertilizer, apply at ½ or ⅓ of the normal fertilizing amount to prevent unabsorbed solution from percolating into the groundwater. Go even lighter with liquid fertilizers. Read this short guide on applying winter fertilizer.
Aerate Your Lawn
As previously mentioned, aerating is another vital measure one can take to help protect the grass during the cold season. If you don’t aerate properly, there is a risk of the soil below the grass drying out.
So, what does aerating actually mean?
Lawn aeration is a process of penetration of the soil across the yard to enhance the flow of water, air, and nutrients down to the grassroots; it helps a lot to strengthen the lawn. Aeration prevents soil compaction and breaks up dried grass so that the lawn can breathe and grow better.
Also see: Should you aerate or dethatch a lawn?
Ideally, you should aerate and fertilize your lawn in late November or early December before the first frost shocks the grass. This way, the winterizer will be able to make its way deep down through aerated pathways and protect the grassroots during the winter season.
Before aeration, remove all leaves, branches, and other debris from the lawn. The fewer objects in the yard, the easier the process of aeration will be. If you are a newbie, start with a plain spade and take out chunks of soil, to make room for planting seeds. Depending on the size of the yard, you can use a manual aerator or go for a motorized one instead.
Note that during cold seasons there should be nothing on the lawn since that can kill your grass. Did you know that heavy clay soils need to be aerated twice a year?
Reduce The Watering
In winter you don’t need to water your lawn as much as you were doing during the summer, so change your watering program. Obviously, your irrigation plan will depend on where you live. With this in mind, below are a couple of climate characteristics for water usage during winter.
- Cooler climates
You have to completely stop irrigation if you live in a cooler climate. If you go on sprinkling the grass before a big freeze, your lawn will just become a sheet of ice. Also, don’t forget to drain a sprinkler system, otherwise, pipes may freeze and burst, and you’ll need a costly replacement in spring. Luckily, the majority of modern sprinkler systems come with auto draining devices, simplifying the process for you.
- Warmer climates
If you are lucky to live in a warmer climate, you just need to reduce the irrigation. It’s the best example of how to keep grass green in winter. Now, when you battle no longer the heat of the sun, the grass doesn’t need to be watered so often. In most cases, keeping to irrigate the grass with the same regularity as you did during hot days, only wastes water. On the other hand, you can do more damage than good since the lawn becomes over-saturated. With an automatic sprinkler, cut back on how often you utilize it. If you water the grass manually or with an expandable garden hose, check the soil to ensure whether the lawn really needs watering.
See also my detailed article on how long to run a sprinkler system
When it comes to winterizing, it’s an absolute must to keep up with raking your lawn during the autumn. It is one of the best examples of how to keep your soil healthy.
Not only will the raking get rid of dead leaves, but it will also open the pores and prepare the soil for seeding. Let’s discuss how to rake the lawn in detail! But you don’t need to rake leaves if you have 50 percent coverage.
Gardeners have to rake their lawns because a dense covering of wet leaves, especially if they have frozen, may damage the grass and turn it into a patch of dirt. Raking is quite a tough activity, however, it’s one of the most important things you should do to prepare your lawn for winter. Note that you can use the leaves as compost, molding them into fertile soil in the future.
Also, consider mowing leaves instead of raking them if the layer is light and thin. Well-chopped leaves will serve as a compost layer and feed the grass during cooler winter months. Additionally, if you use a mulching mower, you’ll be able to spread the leaves more evenly around the lawn.
However, make sure that they won’t get weighed down from ice or snow.
Limit Lawn Traffic
The presence of snow tends to make people forget about regular walkways. When everything is covered in white, including the sidewalks, the risk of someone stepping directly on your lawn will considerably increase. Children, in particular, are fascinated by the tracks they make in snow, so you will have to keep a close eye on them. But the best way to limit the traffic is to maintain your walkways visible and clear of snow and ice.
If the grass stays long during the cold season, it will start folding over and die under the snow and ice that settled above. Mowing will seriously help you prevent this by keeping everything beautiful and trimmed. You should follow a semi-regular mowing schedule and keep cutting the grass with a sharp blade until its growth slows down. If you’re wondering how to protect the grass in winter, this is one of the best possible ways.
The first thing you can do is to drop down the height of the lawnmower by one level or two. It should be done gradually, as the fall season comes to an end. The grass mustn’t be longer than 3 inches, otherwise, it might start to mat. It can lead to various issues such as mold or diseases. On the other hand, you should never mow the grass too short, as this will expose its crown to harsh weather outside, causing it to wither and die.
Treat Ice Wisely
The accumulation of ice can cause a wide range of damages. The impact depends on the level of ice coverage, duration of exposure, and type of grass you have planted. As a quick tip, you could add thin layers of mulch before the real cold settles in. It will protect the grassroots and make them more resilient to snow and frost. And after the cold season kicks in, the first thing you can do to prevent the formation and development of ice is to remove the snow accumulated in your yard periodically. However, when temperatures drop way below zero degrees, ice build-up is inevitable. When this happens, you should research and choose the best eco-friendly ice melting products available at your nearest convenience store.
Apply Organic Matter
Late autumn or early winter is a perfect time to apply organic matter to your lawn. You should add the following:
- Cottonseed meal
- Blood meal
- Bone meal
Applying organic material to the soil will significantly enhance its condition for the next growing season. If you add this matter at the end of the fall, it’ll have enough time to break down and turn into the part of the soil in spring. The soil will become more productive when it’s time to plant grass and other annuals.
Don’t Remove The Snow
Usually, when it snows, you plow a driveway and sidewalks but don’t plow the grass. If you have already plowed the area of the lawn that fringes the pavement, you might have noticed that this herb is patchy in the spring.
Snow shields and protects the green-fodder throughout the winter. If you remove the snow, the lawn won’t be protected and may lag behind other grass over the spring. Besides, frequent shovels and plows can gouge and destroy the lawn, hence, just leave the snow where it falls. But make sure not to add an extra layer of snow to the lawn when you plow the driveway and sidewalks. Most lawn harm is caused by manmade snow cap. So, be careful not to accumulate extra snow on your shrubs or lawn.
Help the Grass Get Some Fresh Air
Winter can put your lawn through extremely harsh conditions, especially during mid-season or by the end of it. It is one of the main reasons for which aerating and seeding before the first freeze is crucial. By aerating, you will break up compact soil, create adequate space for your grass to grow, and you will give help to your roots have access to clean, fresh air and essential nutrients. If you do this in time, lawn care after winter will turn out considerably easier.
If you are one hundred percent decided to maintain your lawn healthy and secure during the cold season, each of the actions enlisted above will help you considerably. We know it might seem hard to invest more time in this activity while it’s snowing outside, but this will help substantially your grass make it through cold days and make it to the next year. You can always hire a lawn care company like TruGreen to take care of it during the winter to save yourself the trouble. And if you do everything right, when spring comes, you will have a perfectly healthy lawn that will improve the overall value of your home.
Hi, Alex Kuritz here. Growing up I remember that my family had one of the best lawns in the neighborhood. Richly green and lush. I did a lot as I grew up in terms of caring and tending for not only my family’s lawn but also my neighbors. I can say I have years of experience, and I am here to share it with you.