If you want a lush green lawn in the spring, the first thing you’ll have to do is winterize this Fall. The ideal time to start this process isn’t in winter itself but at the beginning of autumn. The result won’t be apparent right away, but come spring, and you will thank yourself.
To winterize your lawn, you need to choose and apply the proper winter fertilizer and prepare your lawn and its soil for the hard winter months. There are many ways to accomplish this, including removing weeds and leaves, mowing your lawn, and checking the pH level of the soil.
In this article, we will explore some effective ways you can winterize your lawn. We will start with selecting and applying the proper winter fertilizer. Then we will look at all the other tips like overseeding, winter lawn care, etc.
Choosing the Right Winter Fertilizer
The first important step to winterizing your lawn involves choosing the right type of winter fertilizer. If your lawn consists of cool-season grasses such as bluegrass, perennial rye or fescue, you must give it some winter fertilizer. Other grass types can also benefit from the right kind of winter fertilizer.
Depending on the climate and the soil type, there are various types of fertilizers you can choose. All of these are composed of three elements: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
- Nitrogen helps with the leaf growth
- Phosphorus helps with root growth
- Potassium helps develop flowers and fruits
Based on your situation, you can choose one of the following four types of winter fertilizers:
- Organic fertilizers: Organic fertilizers can be raked into your lawn to provide the necessary nutrients to last the dormant winter.
- High Potassium fertilizers: These fertilizers help boost the hardness of the roots in lawn grasses.
- Potash fertilizers: These help stimulate growth in the spring by repairing any kind of sun damage the grass may have sustained.
- Slow-release fertilizers: Slow-release fertilizers release nitrogen gradually into the soil. This helps stimulate the plants during the springtime, so they can grow lush and green.
Just as important as choosing the right winter fertilizer is knowing the right time to apply them.
Choosing the Right Time to Apply Winter Fertilizer
The right time to apply winter fertilizer depends on the type of grass in your lawn, and the climate of the place you live in.
Cool-season lawns (consisting of cool-season grasses) are a lot easier to maintain, as they are hardy in the winter climate.
Your best bet here is to winterize your lawn in two batches. The first feed can be applied late in the summer, and the second can be applied late in the fall.
Most commercial brands of winterizers are made for cool-season grasses like bluegrass and fescue. Since most of these grasses have their peak growing season in the fall, it is best to winterize them during that season.
If you’re more laid-back about taking care of your lawn, you can simply choose to apply the right winter fertilizer on your lawn just once. This should be done late in the fall, or early on in the winter.
If you have a warm-season lawn (consisting of warm-season grasses), your grass will continue to stay green through the winter or go brown or dormant. This depends on whether or not the place you live in gets winter frost.
In an area without winter frost, you may apply slow-release nitrogen fertilizer early on in the fall. This way, the slow release of nitrogen through the winter will help stimulate the grass come spring.
In an area where you get winter frost, your grass will probably go brown and dormant. In this case, it is advisable to apply the fertilizers late in the summer or early in the fall. This process helps stimulate root growth.
In most cases, warm-season grasses like Bermuda, Zoysia, Centipede, and St. Augustine do not require winterizers. While they do need potassium, these grasses are best fed with fertilizers during spring and summer.
Removing the Weeds & Aerating the Lawn
A very important step in winterizing your lawn is removing all the weeds.
All of the plants (including the grass and the weeds) draw their nutrients from the soil. So during the winter, when the conditions are particularly harsh, you wouldn’t want any of these unwanted weeds competing with the grass in your lawn.
Late in the fall, before the frost, make sure you’ve removed all the perennial weeds from your lawn.
Another very important step is the aeration of the lawn. Aeration is the process of allowing air to circulate properly and healthily between the grasses. This process is of particular importance in lawns that people constantly walk on. The thatch buildup can result in the grass from suffering.
Checking the pH Level of the Soil
Another key step in the proper winterization of your lawn is to check the soil’s pH level in your lawn. The pH level will show you how acidic or alkaline the soil is.
A nice healthy lawn will require a soil that is neither acidic nor alkaline. So before you winterize your lawn in the fall, do a pH test of the soil across its surface. If there’s a patch of acidic soil, you can treat it with lime-based products to neutralize it. And if there’s a patch of soil that is too alkaline, you can treat it with sulfur.
Correcting the soil’s pH level before the winter will ensure the growth of lush and healthy grass in the spring.
Planting Grass Seeds
While spring is the ideal time to plant warm-season grass seeds in your lawn, if you want a cool-season lawn, your best bet is to plant the seeds early on in the fall. During this season, the soil will retain some of the warmth of the summer months, and the temperature will be ideal for cool-season grass germination. A daytime temperature of between 60 – 70°F (15 – 21°C) and soil temperature between 50 – 65°F (10 – 18°C) is ideal.
If you plant your grass seed at least 45 days before the first frost of the season, your grass will fully enjoy the fall season. The grass will go dormant in the winter, and in the spring, it will enjoy a second growing season, resulting in a lush green lawn.
Removing the Fall Leaves and Covering the Plant Beds
An absolutely crucial but often overlooked part of winterizing your lawn is the raking and removal of all the fall leaves. If left unremoved, these leaves will prevent water and other nutrients from reaching the roots of the grass underneath and house all sorts of fungi, insects, and diseases.
Furthermore, raking the fall leaves will also result in the removal of thatch from the top of the grass, which helps with aeration.
Another important thing to do is to cover the plant beds. For flower and vegetable beds to survive the winter, you will have to insulate the topsoil. You can do this by covering the bed with burlap or by planting a cover crop. If you can, you should repot small plants and bring them indoors to survive the winter. Adding mulch is on top of the plant beds is also an effective winterization technique.
Mowing Your Lawn Before Winter
When it comes to mowing your lawn, you will find yourself doing a lot less or it or none altogether during the winter.
Starting at the beginning of fall, you need to raise the blades of your mower by half an inch from where they were set during the summer. This is because of the general reduction in the growth rate of the grass during the cooler months.
Once you start getting frost, you need to prepare for the last mowing of the season. For this, you will lower the blades of your mower by a full inch of where they were set during the fall. This extra cutting will help in the root growth and the removal of the grass blades. These blades, if left unchecked, could end up succumbing to infections and diseases during the winter.
Another important thing you need to do is rake all the fallen plants and grass once you’re done mowing. While it may be tempting to leave them where they are, they could help shelter insects, fungi spores, and other diseases during the winter. If you’re not into picking, you could mow over them with a special blade (a mulcher) that cuts them into smaller fragments.
Winterizing Your Lawn Mower
While some of you will continue to mow the lawn through the winter (especially if you live in a warmer climate), you will be doing so at a lower frequency. And if you’re living in a cold climate, there’s a good chance you will be putting the lawn mower away for the winter altogether.
Just as winterizing your lawn prepares it for a lush and green spring, winterizing your lawn mower is vital if you want to prevent deterioration during the winter. There are a few easy steps you need to follow before storing the lawn mower for the winter.
Cleaning the Mower
The first step to winterizing any lawn mower is to clean it well before storing it. And the first step of cleaning involves removing the blades and then sharpening them well. Once you’ve sharpened the blades, apply a gentle oil goal before you reinstall them on the mower.
Now clean the other parts of the lawn mower. Make sure you remove every trace of grass, mud, or grease from the mower’s surface and bottom.
Finally, apply a light coat of oil on its surface and its wheels.
How to Winterize Gas-Powered Lawn Mowers
- Emptying the fuel: If you own a gas-powered lawn mower, the first step to winterizing it is to empty its fuel tank. Either drain or siphon out the gas. If you have a gas preservative, you can store it through the winter. If not, you can use it in your gas-powered winter tools (snowblower, etc.).
- Disconnect the fuel lines: Once you’ve removed all the gas from your gas-powered lawn mower, disconnect the fuel lines. Make sure the lines are empty as well. If there’s some trace of gas you can’t remove from the mower tank, turn it on and leave it on till the fuel is completely used off.
- Replacements: Finally, there are a few replacements you have to make before storing your mower for the winter. Change the air filter, the spark plug, and the engine oil.
How to Winterize Battery-Powered Lawn Mowers
Winterizing a battery-powered lawn mower is a lot easier than powering a gas-powered lawn mower. All you have to do is give the mower (the battery) a full charge before removing it and storing it in a cool and dry place for the winter.
Mowing the Lawn in Winter
If you’re living in a place where the climate is warm enough to prevent the grass from going completely dormant in the winter, you will still mow the lawn every now and then through the winter. The general rule of thumb is that frost kills the grass. So you can stop mowing once the nights start getting frosty.
Regardless of where you live, you won’t have to mow as often in the winter as you would in the warmer months. So make sure you winterize your mower before you put it back in storage.
Storing Your Lawn Mower and Other Lawn Maintenance Equipment for the Winter
Now that you’re done winterizing your lawn mower, the next step is to store it properly. One of the main causes of damage to a lawn mower over the winter is moisture. If stored in a damp place or left outside without a proper cover, your mower will succumb to corrosion or rust.
One of the best places to store a lawn mower is in the garage if you have enough space. But even when storing your lawn mower in the garage, make sure it’s properly covered with a tarp. Also, make sure it is kept a bit off the ground. This will help protect the mower from any dampness that it might otherwise pick from the floor.
Most regular lawn mowers will fit in any garage, but riding lawn mowers will demand more space. If you own one and it won’t fit in your garage, you could invest in a small backyard shed (or build one yourself if you’re up to it). If you decide you’re going to leave your mower outside, it must be properly covered with a tarp. Make sure it is covered well on all sides, including the bottom. Finally, fasten the cover with some ropes.
If you live in a place where the temperature tends to go below freezing during the cooler seasons, there is an extra step you will have to take before the winter. The water stuck in your garden hose or sprinkler system could get frozen during the winter, leading to damage.
Drain all of your garden equipment to flush out the water well before the winter. If you leave them with water in them, that could lead to freezing damages. You might want to get an air compressor system for this. These systems send compressed air to push out all the water from a system.
Should I Even Winterize My Lawn?
We just finished looking at all the different ways you can winterize your lawn and set it up for the spring’s lush green grass. While some of the tips shared above, like planting seeds or the storage of mowing and other garden equipment, are important in any context, the application of winterizing fertilizers may not always be necessary.
Like we’ve discussed above, the fertilizers for cool-season grasses are typically fed in the fall. Most fertilizers labeled as winterizers are rich in potassium, which is the one element that other fertilizers lack. Most fertilizers contain an abundance of nitrogen, as that is the element that results in the lushest and the greenest grass. But unless these fertilizers contain a proper balance of elements, winterizing fertilizers have to be applied.
For most lawns, the experts suggest using a fertilizer brand that contains three parts nitrogen (half of which is in a slow-release form) and one part potassium.
There are plenty of things you need to be mindful of regarding the winterization of your lawn. The first thing to figure out is which fertilizer to use and when to feed your lawn. Most commercial winterizers are made for cool-season grasses. So also, be mindful of the type of grass in your lawn. Proper winterization will ensure that your lawn will turn lush and green in the spring.
Besides feeding your lawn with the right fertilizers at the right time, you also need to winterize your mower since you most likely won’t be using it during the winter.