Easy Lawn Winterizing Tips

By Allyn Paul, filed under Lawn Tips.

Now that it is November, many of you are thinking that your lawn care for the season is over. Trust me, I understand you are looking forward to putting up Christmas lights and getting all snug by the fire, but don’t let that lawn go to bed just yet! Winterizing your lawn is pretty easy guys, and very very important! Here are some simple tasks that I do for my lawn every November.

1) Winter Fertilization: Fertilizing your lawn just before winter is the most important of all the tips I give you here. A good dose of nitrogen, potassium, and even a little phosphorus will help your lawn recover quickly next Spring, making you the first green lawn on the block. In addition, a good nutrient balance in the soil will help turf recover from winter stresses and snow mold. When looking for a winter fertilizer, don’t get one with “mostly” nitrogen. Instead, find one with a good balance of all three elements.

2) Core Aeration and Seeding: If you are a regular reader of this lawn blog, then you know that I am a big proponent of lawn aeration. Aerating the lawn opens up the soil and sends air, water and nutrients directly in the root zone. It also loosens compacted soil and helps the thatch layer remain in check. Just so you know, it is OK to aerate your lawn as long as the ground is not frozen. If you can’t aerate, hire a contractor to do it here.

Now the seeding part is a little different. You actually CAN seed your lawn now, but the results will be different. Seeding this late in the year (like November or even early December) is called “dormant seeding.” This basically means that you throw down the grass seed now, and it overwinters in the turf zone and germinates in the spring. I have had great results with dormant lawn seeding, but you do need to use twice as much to get good results. I recommend about 5lbs per 1,000 square feet of turf area when you dormant seed.

GOOD news?… well, many places put grass seed on clearance this time of year so they can get rid of it! Better for you, but just make sure you don’t get anything called “quick grow” or “quick lawn.” These are most normally annual grasses that sprout fast and die faster. If you are going to overseed your lawn now, use perennial rye and kentucky bluegrass mixes. Turf type tall fescue will also work well for dormant seeding.

3) Final Lawn Mowing: There is some misconception going around about cutting your lawn low in the later parts of the year, so let me clear that up for you. You do want to mow lower on your FINAL cut of the season, and I recommend you take it down one inch lower than the normal 3″ I recommend. (Final cut = 2″ tall). The trick is to make sure that it is indeed the final cut of the season. If you can’t guess right, then wait until the end of November and cut it low at that time. Your neighbors may stare at you, but you are doing the right thing for the grass. If you cut it low too soon, and warm temps push growth, things are going to get funky in a hurry, especially with that fertilizer in the lawn.

The reason we want to cut the lawn a little lower on the very last cut is to cut down on fungal formation and also to help reduce dead spots that appear in the early spring. If your grass is tall, it will lay over and pack down, smashing the grass crowns.

4) Lime Application: Fall is a great time to apply lime to your lawn. Not all lawns need lime, however.

5) Rake Those Leaves: I know you hate it, but you have to get those leaves up before the snow flies. If you allow piles of leaves to stay on your lawn, you will most certainly have dead or thin spots appear there in the winter. Imagine how you would look if I left a blanket of wet, soggy leaves on top of your face for 4 months. :)

6) Stop Walking On The Grass: Well, you gotta be wondering why I would tell you to do all of the above tasks, and now I am telling you not to walk on the grass; am I nuts? Well, maybe, but you still need to stay off the grass. What I mean is be sure you don’t step on it constantly getting in and out of the car, for example. Also, don’t play football on it either; you get the point. The reason is that when it is cold, the grass plants get brittle and can crack and die easily.

That’s it for the simple winterizing tips. Of course, if you want, you can still get my book on lawn care and start reading up for next year too!


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2 Responses to “Easy Lawn Winterizing Tips”

  1. Confused Says:
    4Avatars v0.3.1 v0.3.1

    All I have is a manual mower that cuts my small lawn VERY low even on the longest setting. Almost kinda like a buzz cut. Do I still want to make one final cut or should I just let it stay longer. Last time I cut my lawn was a month ago and I don’t want to cut it too low. Is too low better than a high cut? Thanks beer guy.

  2. Allyn Paul Says:
    4Avatars v0.3.1 v0.3.1

    Hi confused,
    if you have a reel mower and you have trained your grass to “live low” then just keep cutting like normal. You don’t want to let it go long if it is used to being short.
    The reason I tell folks to mow tall is because that gives you more room for fudge factor. But if you have a healthy lawn now and have been mowing short with the reel mower, then good on you! Keep it that way.
    I bet you get quite the workout with that thing eh?

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