Getting lawn ready for winter.
Fall weather can be tough on outdoor activities, your heating bill, and especially your lawn, but there are things you can do to help your lawn through its winter hibernation and flourish in the spring.
Probably the best thing you can do for your lawn is to rake up leaves and small branches that, when buried under snow during the winter, will not only attract moles and other under the ground dwelling rodents, they can damage the grass, leaving you with dead spots in the spring. Additionally, a summer’s worth of grass clippings and dead leaves can add to the layer of thatch on the top layer of your soil, creating a barrier to the sun, water and air that the grass needs to survive.
As the temperature drops, so does the frequency with which you mow. However, two or three cuts in October are not unusual, nor is another cut in November, if the weather allows. By your best guess as to when the last cut will occur, you should trim your lawn to two-inches or less. You may also want to take this time to apply a winter fertilizer to the lawn to keep it fed during hibernation. This will give it a head start in the spring.
Aeration can be done in the spring, but your lawn will appreciate the additional air it allows during the winter. Aeration typically involves literally poking hole in the ground to allow air and water to get to the roots of the grass. There are attachments for riding mowers that you pull behind you as you cut the crass as well as push-type aerators for smaller lawns.
The pH factor in the soil also affects your lawn’s growth and many professional landscapers recommend adding gypsum in the fall. Another secret to a lush, green lawn is the addition of Epsom salt to the lawn, but this is usually done in the spring and occasionally throughout the summer. You can have your soil tested to determine the right amount of fertilizer and gypsum, either liquid or powdered, to return the soil to the correct pH level.
Herbicides and insecticides work well in the fall
Herbicides applied in the fall offer the best protection against weeds in the spring and summer. It’s likely you have tried to kill weeds throughout the summer, but the best attack against their growth is in the fall. Insecticides can also be applied in the fall, providing an unwelcome home to many insects that will attack what little growing grass that is available during the winter. Most lawn-care experts agree that insecticides should only be applied on an as-needed basis.
If your lawn has brown or dead spots, adding cold weather grass seed in the fall is another step to improve your lawn’s appearance in the spring. Winter rye can help fill in the brown or yellow spots during the winter. You should know that winter rye, as the name implies, only grows in cooler weather and only for a single season. If you accept the multi-color appearance of your lawn in late fall and winter, you can skip this step.
During the fall and winter, the humidity level drops and the need to water the lawn increases. If you have sown new grass seed in the fall, two-inches of water per week will be needed to help it live through the winter. If time passes with no appreciable rain, you can use the tune-can method to insure the lawn is getting the correct amount of rain. Use an empty tuna can, or 5.5-ounce cat food can in the lawn when watering. When the can is full, it’s about two-inches.
Lastly, nearly everyone knows that road salt is deadly to a lawn. If you have spread salt on the driveway or sidewalk, when you shove the snow avoid dumping it on the grassy areas of your lawn. This may not be easy to accomplish during heavy snows, but it will make a difference in the growth of your grass in the spring.