How to Care for the Lawn in Winter

Front of Home During Winter
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In most parts of the country, lawn grass goes dormant in the winter. In the south, cool-season ryegrass is often overseeded into the turf to maintain a green lawn. In the north, it's too cold for any grass to grow, so we wait patiently for spring, sometimes under snow cover, sometimes not. However, lawn care doesn't quite end in the winter. Try these tricks to keep your yard healthy.

Fertilize

Apply fertilizer with a spreader. As you move the machine back and forth over the grass, grip the handle like a trigger, it releases pellets when you "shoot." Follow the instructions on the fertilizer package. Apply only the recommended amount. Be careful because too much fertilizer can burn your grass.

Aerate the Lawn

Provide some extra air for grassroots by aerating your lawn. Use a spade to take out spikes of soil across your lawn to make holes for planting seeds. If your lawn is large, you might want to rent a motorized aerator or a manual one.

Spread Cool-Weather Grass Seed

Purchase grass seed that says "cool season" or "cool weather" on the package, such as most fescues. You can sprinkle the seed over the lawn with the same spreader you used for the fertilizer. Try to spread the seed evenly so you won't have clumps of grass later.

Rake and Water the Lawn

Drag a rake over the lawn to break up soil clumps and cover the seeds a bit. Water the lawn with the garden hose spray. After that, keep the soil moist, don't let it dry out.

More Winterizing Tips

  • Clean it up. It is extremely important not to leave debris, leaves, or toys out on the lawn. These things can smother the grass, create disease conditions, and invite insects, mice, and other damaging pests.
  • Lower the height of your mower by a notch or two the last couple of times you mow. Excessively long grass can smother itself, cause disease, and is at risk of damage from freezing and thawing conditions. However, do not cut the grass so short that you scalp it, thus exposing the crown of the plant to extreme conditions.
  • Be aware of traffic. Under snow cover or exposed to the elements, dormant grass will tolerate a moderate amount of traffic, but a heavily worn path will be slower to green up in the spring and cause compaction.
  • Monitor weather conditions. Turf is very resilient and can tolerate an extreme winter, but certain conditions can be harmful in the long term. It might be worthwhile to chip away a little-exposed ice in a low spot if you know a winter storm or deep freeze is approaching.

    Winters can often be unpredictable and may put your lawn through some extreme conditions during the course of the season. The best thing to do is make sure the grass has hardened off, once you've "put the lawn to bed" properly, you can focus on keeping your sidewalks clear and building snowmen. Just remember to keep an eye on the weather.