The leaves are falling and the weather is starting to turn, with the days getting shorter and the temperatures getting colder. That means that winter is just around the corner, and it’s time to get your lawn ready for its long hibernation. If you prepare your lawn properly, you’ll protect the health of the soil and have lush, vibrant grass come spring.
Before you throw out your premium grass seed, there are a few things you need to do to get your lawn ready. Here’s what you need to do to prepare your lawn for winter:
Aerate the Soil
Over time, your soil can become compacted, which means that it won’t drain as easily. Your lawn will become a slushy mess every time it rains because the soil can’t drain the water, and the water will run across your top soil, taking nutrients with it. The slope of your yard can change, holes can appear, and your lawn and other vegetation will fail to thrive because it doesn’t have the nutrients it needs.
You can prevent this from happening by regularly aerating your lawn. Either hire someone to do it or buy an aerator to do the job yourself. You can use a handheld tool with metal plugs on the end, or you can buy an attachment for your riding lawnmower. The aerator will pull plugs of soil out of the lawn, and you can fill the holes with a fine sand that will improve drainage.
Get a Soil Test
Before you start adding nutrients to your soil, you really should know what the soil needs. The best way to do this is to get a soil test to see what is lacking. You can contact your local cooperative extension or other agricultural service to perform the soil test, or a landscaper or lawn care professional should be able to perform it for you.
Repeat the test every three to five years to find out your lawn’s changing needs.
Add Fertilizer and Nutrients
You should fertilize your lawn in the fall with a good all-purpose fertilizer. However, depending on the results of your soil test, you may also need to add other nutrients. You may be able to use a specialty fertilizer, such as a high-phosphorous fertilizer.
You may also need to add nutrients separately. For example, many homeowners need to add pelletized lime around areas of their yard that are acidic, such as in shady areas where moss is growing or under pine trees.
Add Compost and Top Soil
Add compost to thin areas of your lawn where there is either sparse grass or there is a lot of dirt. These conditions are signs that the soil does not have enough nutrients in these areas. Adding a thin layer of compost will enrich the soil and encourage growth.
You should also add a thin layer of top soil to the areas where you aerated. The top soil puts nutrients back into the soil where the plugs were taken out and replaced by sand. The more organic matter the lawn has, the better it will drain and the better things will grow.
Put Out Seed
You need to overseed your lawn every year to encourage dense growth and reduce the likelihood of weeds growing and taking over your lawn. Mow your grass so that it is no more than an inch or an inch and a half. Then use a spreader to evenly distribute the seed, and go over the yard twice. Use a criss-cross pattern so that you do not end up with stripes in your yard. (The same goes for putting out fertilizer and other amendments.)
Add more seed to the areas where you have bare patches. These areas are going to need a little extra attention to get them healthy and vibrant again.
You can seed your lawn as late as November, depending on the kind of grass seed you use and the climate where you live. Seed like fescue thrives in cooler temperatures. Consult with your landscaper to see if you still have time for seeding.
Cover the Garden
After you have spent the spring and fall creating a thriving garden, you don’t want your efforts to go to waste by letting the cold temperatures, ice and snow ravage your garden. You need to “put the garden to bed” for the winter by covering it with leaves, mulch or straw. This thick layer of material will protect the soil, keep weeds from growing, and break down to add nutrients back into the soil.
If you have plants that need to over winter, you may also consider covering the garden with plastic tarps. Look at information about how to create hoops or how to tie down tarps for temporary protection.
Taking all these steps now will ensure that you have a beautiful, green lawn come spring time. You’ll love looking at the fruits of your labor when the world is in bloom again.