It may be surprising to learn that the secret to a green and healthy lawn often lays in the dormant season. Prepping your lawn for the following growing season in fall and winter results in lusher grass with a stronger root system. The following tips will help you get your lawn on the right track.
Tip #1: Rake to prevent diseases
Dead leaves, pine needles, and twigs are a major enemy to your lawn. When left to sit on top of the grass all winter, they can harbor insects and disease organisms that can kill your lawn. Rake up the leaves and compost or dispose of them. If you notice more debris building up in winter, take a few minutes to clean it up, too. Piles of leaves can also cause snow mold, which can kill or discolor large swathes of grass.
Tip #2: Reseed before the first snowfall
If you live in an area with snow, consider reseeding the lawn before it falls. Over-seeding helps encourage a dense lawn, which is less prone to weed invasion. By reseeding before a snowfall, the seed are protected under a blanker of white from marauding winter birds looking for feed. The seeds will then sprout in spring when the snow begins to melt.
Tip #3: Aerate before dormancy
Aeration is often thought of as a spring chore, but it is also highly beneficial if you do it in fall. By aerating the lawn in fall, you open up the soil so that any winter treatments that are applied can get down to the lawn roots easily. Also, it can often be difficult to aerate in spring due to wet soil, while fall is often a drier season.
Tip #4: Don't over mow
The process of "scalping" the lawn can actually damage it, since this leaves very little blade surface above ground to protect the root systems below. When it is time for the final mow of the season, cut it to the same length as usual. This way the dormant blades provide some mulching benefits to the roots and soil below. In spring, you can mow a little bit closer than usual during the first mow of the season to remove the dead and damaged tops of the grass blades and to reveal the new spring green below.
Tip #5: Apply a dormant fertilizer
Dormant fertilizers are applied in fall, just as the lawn goes dormant and after the final mow of the year. In areas with milder climates, dormant fertilizers may also contain herbicides against winter weed species. They may also contain ingredients to stop overwintering pests, such as grubs. Most importantly, though, a dormant fertilizer provides a store of nutrients for the grass to access immediately as it resumes growth in spring. You will notice the difference because lawns that receive dormant fertilizers are often the first to green in spring.
Contact a lawn care service for more information on fall and winter grass care.