Last-Minute Lawn Care
Follow these five simple steps to prepare your lawn for winter.
By Andrew Hind, Gilford, Ontario
In our area, temperatures are beginning to drop and the growing season has faded to memory.
But that doesn't mean my lawn chores are finished...and you shouldn't let your lawn settle into a long winter's slumber without properly tucking it in, either.
Autumn is arguably the most important time for lawn care. Here are a few vital steps to take if you dream of a green healthy lawn next spring.
Step One: Mow until your lawn goes dormant.
You'll know it's reached this phase when the grass stops growing.
When mowing late in the year, lower the blades to cut your lawn 1 inch shorter than your normal cutting height. This will give you a little cushion before you have to fire up the mower next spring.
Step Two: Pick up debris on your lawn.
This includes leaves, sticks and anything else you might find scattered about. Debris left on the lawn over winter will block sun from reaching the grass and will trap moisture. This increases the risk of disease or even the die off of your lawn.
Step Three: Reseed bare areas.
Fall is an especially good time to plant grass as conditions are ideal for the seed to take root. By planting now, you eliminate space for weeds to grow in spring.
Step Four: Aerate your lawn as needed.
This procedure removes small cores or plugs of soil from your lawn. It should be done if soil is compacted or to break through thatch that's deeper than a 1/2 inch. Thatch is the build-up of dead grass, roots and stems that collect on your lawn. The resulting holes allow roots to breathe, improves drainage and helps your lawn absorb more nutrients.
Step Five: Apply a final feeding.
Fall fertilization will give the lawn better fall and winter color, earlier spring green-up and strong root development. Apply fertilizer to cool-season grasses (fescue, bluegrass and ryegrass) in late fall, before the grass goes dormant, and to warm-season grasses (Bermuda and zoysia) in early fall.
For cool-climate grasses, look for a slow-release winterizing fertilizer with a high nitrogen content, like a 20-5-15 ratio. Warm-season grasses will thrive if treated with a fertilizer that has more potassium, like a 5-5-25 ratio. Such formulas are designed to help your grass survive the winter and emerge with a healthy resistance to disease. Before applying any fertilizer, however, it is important to conduct a soil test first to see exactly what amendments your soil might need.
Spread fertilizer evenly, following the label instructions, and water thoroughly afterward to prevent burnt turf.