Last Updated on December 6, 2021 by Mark Brian
Winter is just around the corner, and for those who own lawns, this may be a tough time of the year. Lawns can be difficult to manage, especially during the winters.
Anyone who does their gardening themselves will know not to mow the grass as often as they should during the rest of the year. This is because grass growth is significantly slower in the cold because of low atmospheric and soil temperatures.
In many cases, there is a major turf loss during the winters. This is generally known as winterkill. Winterkill can be caused by a number of factors including crown hydration, desiccation, low temperatures, ice sheets and snow mold.
If you live in a region where the cold hits bitterly, this guide will show you in a few simple steps how to adapt or winterize your lawn to prevent any turf loss and destruction.
Step 1: Checking soil pH
A good time to start doing pH tests would be autumn or early winters. This requires a basic understanding of how pH readings work.
A pH value lower than 7 means the soil is acidic. The lower the pH value, the higher the acidity will be.
A pH value above 7 means the soil is alkaline. The higher the pH, the greater the alkalinity.
A neutral or almost neutral pH is crucial for a healthy lawn. During weather changes, there may be some patches that have a higher pH than others and vice versa.
For areas that are more acidic, you will need to raise pH. This is done by adding lime to the soil. Note that this process is very slow and lime can take months before it fully reacts with soil to decrease acidity.
Therefore, this mustn’t be delayed for too long. You should also know not to start applying lime to your soil when it’s still summer. That could cause your grass to burn.
For alkaline patches, a simple treatment is to add sulfur to the soil. A preferred amount would be 1 to 3 ounces of ground rock sulfur per 1 sq. yard. You can watch this YouTube video for further guidance:
It is more preferable to consult a specialist before treating your grass.
Step 2: Cutting out weeds
Weeds are the one thing you don’t need growing in your lawns. There are two classifications of weeds; annual and perennial weeds.
Right now, we are dealing with annual winter weeds. Their germination process normally begins during the fall season. They will lay dormant during the winters and start appearing in the spring.
Some common winter-weeds that could invade your lawn are mouse-ear chickweed, hairy bittercress, henbit, deadnettle and poa Annua. They can severely affect grass growth by taking up nearly all of the soil nutrients for themselves.
For a detailed guide on removing harmful winter weeds, watch the following video:
Step 3: Fertilizing the soil
Winter fertilizers are different from the ones you use in the summer. These are also known as winterizers.
It is mandatory to know when to start applying them. Late fall is the perfect time to do so. They help lawns store more food in order to survive harsh winters, and stimulate thick and rapid growth and rooting during the spring.
You should know which fertilizer to pick depending on the current weather. It is a common misconception that winter fertilizers should be low in nitrogen content and rich in potassium and phosphorus, however, the best winter fertilizer will be the one with the highest nitrogen content.
When shopping for fertilizer, you must check the labels for quick-releasing water soluble nitrogen, or WSN. It is better not to opt for the slow-releasing water insoluble nitrogen that is WIN.
For tips on winterizer application techniques, you can check out the following video:
Step 4: Aerating the lawn
Aerating your lawn all over the year is a splendid idea, however, winters are just the perfect time to do so. The process involves poking holes deep into the soil in order to provide air passages allowing the roots and soil to breathe since they will now have easy access to oxygen and faster contact with nutrients.
In winters, aerating your lawn can prevent the soil under the grass from drying up. Not to mention, if you have heavy or compacted soil, it will be very helpful to aerate the lawn as this will prevent waterlogging and any buildup of moss. Aerating your lawn will overall keep it in good health all over the year.
To learn how to do so, see the following YouTube guide:
Step 5: Removing yard debris
Removing yard debris may be the most annoying fall task, however, it is also very important and very beneficial to your lawn. It is always a good idea to keep cleaning out your lawn throughout the autumn so there isn’t any leaf pile up, but it is most crucial right when the last leaves fall.
Winter is already pretty harsh for grass growth, and leaving fallen leaves and debris to pile up can suffocate your lawn and rob the grass of any possible air and sunlight it could get, stunting its growth and making it more susceptible to damage from the cold, pests and diseases.
Cleaning up your lawn can also allow room for new grass to grow in spring. It is the first step to efficient dormant seeding, which is discussed in the next step. Without proper cleanup, dormant seeding is barely ever effective, wasting your time, energy and money.
Removing fall debris will also help get rid of any harmful pests can have a negative impact on the lawn health or even yours and your family’s.
Step 6: Dormant Seeding
Dormant seeding is a collective term for overseeding lawns in fall and winters when the soil temperatures are too low for grass seeds to germinate. A good thing about grass seed is that it can survive winters. So especially if you live in northern areas, this could be an excellent idea for you, seeing how it will save you plenty of seeding time in the spring.
Although we are discussing pre-winter winter prep, dormant seeding is something that you should be doing during the peak winter season. The perfect time to do this is around November or December, just before it gets snowy.
Before you start dormant seeding your lawn, you must make sure you haven’t skipped the previous step. Dormant seeding is most effective and most successful when the autumn has ended completely and the lawn is clear from all fallen leaves and debris. This ensures better contact between the seed and the soil.
You should also keep in mind that delaying this process for late winter or early spring will only create a nuisance for you since the soil is usually muddy during that time of the year, considering the spring thaw, rain and humidity.
It is always a good option to know which grass seed to pick for dormant seeding. Cool-season grasses such as bluegrass, perennial rye, and turf-type tall fescue are ideal for dormant seeding.
If grasses like turf-type tall fescue and perennial rye are sown over cold winter soils, they will hopefully germinate sooner than the same grass seed sown in April, which means that you need to be very particular about when you start dormant seeding.
For a better understanding of how to carry out the process, you can check out the following video:
Step 7: Covering plant beds
This is an important step if you have a flower or vegetable garden. Covering plant beds can protect the bed soil from cold winter rains. It also kills out any existing weeds and suffocates those that are sprouting.
One way of doing this is by covering the garden bed with a sheet of black plastic. Plastic is typically most effective when it comes to covering plant beds since it can prevent rain from causing soil compaction and erosion.
You can also cover it with a layer of cardboard or an old carpet. Another way of covering plant beds is to use old mulch. Mulching suppresses weeds and protects the soil without insulating it.
However, it is important to note that the more mulch you use, the more it will prevent the soil from freezing. This can be a bad thing since when soil freezes, many pests and diseases are killed from the cold.