The weather is getting cooler out there, the air is crisp, and the leaves are starting to turn. Now is the time to get your lawn ready to weather the winter – and prepare it to grow back strong and thick in the spring.
Preparing your lawn for winter takes just a few easy steps.
As days grow shorter and the temperature falls, your lawn starts to prepare itself for winter by slowing growth and transferring nutrients and sugars to the roots instead of to the leaves. The nutrient reserves in the roots fuel spring growth and help your lawn grow back thicker and stronger. Fertilizing your grass in the fall helps store even more nutrients for a healthy spring lawn.
The best fertilizer for wintering will contain less nitrogen (N) and more potassium (K). Potassium strengthens the roots and leaves of your grass, and allows your lawn to absorb more nutrients. On the other hand, nitrogen promotes growth, so it’s best to use the lowest number you can find. Scotts WinterGuard provides just the right balance of nutrients to prepare your cool season grasses for winter.
Spread your fertilizer lightly and evenly using a broadcast spreader. Scotts offers a handheld spreader, though their walk-behind spreader will make it easier to keep an even distribution of fertilizer. Uneven distribution or over-application will burn your grass and create dead spots in your lawn.
* Remember, these tips apply only to cool season grasses such as bluegrass, ryegrass, and fescue. If your lawn has warm season grasses like buffalo grass, do not use a fall fertilizer after the 1st of September: fertilizing will encourage late growth, and actually harm your lawn!
Aerating provides air to the roots of your grass, allowing for strong growth in the spring while also providing space for more grass seeds to germinate. Manual aerators are available, and most equipment rental agencies will have machine aerators for you to use. Aerating does leave little lumps of soil in your lawn, so be sure to rake those up when you’re done.
It’s a myth that leaving dead leaves on your lawn will insulate the grass from snow damage. In fact, a thick covering of leaves can suffocate your lawn and harbor bacteria and other grass-killing diseases. Rake your yard thoroughly to remove leaves, soil clumps from aerating, and other large piles of debris.
Use your spreader to reseed with a quality cool weather grass seed mix. This can help to fill in thin patches in the fall, and provide young plants for lush spring growth.
Keep your lawn moist, but not soggy. A light misting of water a few times a day should be enough to keep your soil at the right moisture level to allow the fertilizer to reach the roots of your grass and help your new seeds to grow.
In the fall, keep your lawn mowed about ½-1” shorter than you do during the rest of the year. Collect your grass clippings unless you are using a mulching mower: mulch will provide more of the much needed nutrients to help your grass survive the winter, but clippings can clump up and provide a home for bacteria. Husqvarna makes a combo mower (available through our Whitefish location and Polson Outdoor Equipment) that will bag or mulch your clippings, depending on your needs.
7. Fertilize again!
Six to eight weeks after your initial fertilizer application, do it again! Remember, do not over apply, and keep your fertilizer evenly distributed to prevent burning.
Your lawn is now ready for winter! When the snow melts in the spring, you’ll have a happy, healthy, lush, thick lawn to enjoy all season.
Questions? Just check with one of our sales associates at your local store to find the right products for your project.
- Scotts Lawn Care: Fall Lawn Maintenance
- HGTV: How to Winterize your Lawn
- DIY Network: How to Winterize your Lawn
- Weed Man: Winterizing Your Lawn
- Today’s Homeowner: How to Winterize the Grass in your Lawn