It's not uncommon for lawn care to fall by the wayside as temperatures drop and snow begins to cover the ground. Chances are your lawn mower is already in storage as you enjoy the break from outdoor gardening and yard chores until spring. However, maintaining your lawn throughout the winter will make for a healthy, strong lawn, and a smooth and seamless transition into spring. If neglected, issues like dead grass, overgrown weeds and an unruly landscape may arise.
To maintain a healthy lawn throughout the winter, preparation and ongoing monitoring are key. Keep your lawn hydrated, fertilized and trimmed with these winter lawncare do's and don'ts.
Don’t mow after the first frost
Cold weather causes grass to become dormant, meaning it won't grow again until warm weather returns. This typically occurs after the first frost. Mowing grass during a dormant period can cause damage to your lawn due to the dropping temperatures. All grasses, both cool and warm season varieties, require a minimum temperature and amount of rainfall for growth. Give grass a trim before temperatures plummet, and put the mower in the shed until spring.
Do continue regular weeding throughout the winter
Though usually deemed an issue during the summer months, some weeds can withstand cold temperatures and continue to harm your grass during the winter. In fact, winter is the germination period for weeds. Common weeds like dandelions, cloves and thistles can quickly spread across your lawn, depriving grass of the nutrients, sunlight and space needed to thrive. It's best to remove unwanted weeds at first sight, when your lawn is moist or soft, but not covered in frost or snow; this makes for easy removal. To help streamline the process, use a weed removal tool to easily uproot weeds from the ground. Eliminating weeds during the winter will cut down on the amount of weeding required come spring.
Don’t walk on your lawn
Avoid walking on your lawn, especially if you live in an area with severe winters marked by low temperatures and abundant snowfall such as the Midwest or Northeast. Stepping on dormant grass can damage the turfgrass crown - the stem from which the rest of the grass grows, and continued foot traffic can lead to bare spots and compaction by spring. Instead, avoid damaging the grass by walking on paved walkways. Mark 'walkable' areas with reflectors, and be sure to keep paved walkways clear of snow to reduce chance of injury.
Do apply a lawn fertilizer
Applying fertilizer at the end of the fall season can keep your grass fed all winter long. Because the grass will be short, fertilizer can slowly seep into the soil. Begin by aerating your lawn to make room for fertilizer and alleviate soil compaction. Start with moist soil and be sure to make multiple passes over the most compacted areas that experience a lot of foot traffic. Once your lawn is aerated, follow it up with a fertilizer. Be sure to evenly distribute fertilizer throughout your lawn; fertilizer burn, or over fertilization of your lawn, can cause quite a bit of damage due to a buildup of salt in the soil.