Winter lawns hardly ever look fantastic, but that’s because most grass goes into hibernation during the cold season. It might look dead and brown, but the roots beneath the ground are growing thick and deep, so the lawn can spring back once temperatures warm.
That is, your lawn will come back to life if you treated it right during the late summer and fall. Without the right preparations, lawns cannot build up enough nutrients to hibernate properly during the winter, which means patches might freeze, starve or die without your notice. That means come spring, your lawn will look brown, bare and generally bad.
Here are some serious lawn care mistakes you should learn from, so your lawn won’t look like a mess next spring.
You Didn’t Fertilize in Fall
The fall is a critical time for lawn care – which is counter-intuitive to most homeowners. After all, you probably aren’t using your lawn much in autumn; the temperatures are too chilly, precipitation and wind are too common, to truly enjoy your outdoor spaces. However, it is precisely the change in temperature that makes looking after your lawn during this season especially important.
In winter, your lawn will hibernate. This means it will likely turn brown and get crunchy, but it won’t be dead. In fact, the roots below the ground should survive and even grow deeper and wider, bolstering the health of the plant overall. Unfortunately, your lawn won’t have the energy to keep the roots alive all winter if you don’t give it the right nutrients in fall.
Lawn fertilization in fall is easily the most vital of your yardwork tasks for the season. While raking up dead leaves and pulling out dead plants is also useful for the sake of your lawn, applying a fertilizer with a macronutrient ratio of 3-1-2 this time of year is absolutely mandatory. Without fertilization, it’s likely that your grass will die in patches during the winter, leaving you with an ugly inconsistent lawn when the weather turns nice.
You Aren’t Watering in Winter
This is like gardening 101: Plants need water. However, many homeowners skip watering during the cold season, believing that their yards are getting enough moisture from precipitation or else that the frozen ground won’t accept irrigation anyway.
This isn’t true; often, cold temperatures come with dry air, which leeches moisture from the ground even after heavy rains and snows. As long as you continue to mow your lawn, you need to water it, too. Grass needs between 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week, which you can apply via a sprinkler system or flood irrigation. If you live in an area that experiences mild winters, with few days of frost and freezing temperatures, then you might be watering all winter long.
However, once your lawn goes dormant – i.e. it no longer grows green and you stop mowing – then you can take a break with watering. In fact, by watering a hibernating lawn, you risk waking it up too soon, causing it to freeze to death in low temperatures.
You Won’t Seed in Spring
If you aren’t prepared to add additional grass seed in the spring, you won’t like how your lawn looks. As your lawn is just waking up after winter, it is likely to be thin and somewhat patchy – especially if you didn’t fertilize or water when you were supposed to. You can give some oomph to the growth by overseeding your lawn, which will thicken the blades and provide a lush, green effect in a few weeks.
It is best to seed and fertilize at the same time in the late spring, when grass should be growing tall to stay safe against oncoming summer heat. You should be careful to seed with the same kind of grass that is currently in place; mixing and matching varieties of grass is a good way to make your lawn look disorderly and wild. You can also seed more aggressively in bare patches or in shady spots that aren’t growing as you’d prefer.
There are ways to fix a lousy lawn, but by taking good care of your lawn the first time around, you have to put in less work overall. This year, commit to fall fertilization, winter watering and spring seeding, so your lawn will look luscious – not lousy – all year-round.