It’s the most wonderful time of the year…to get your lawn ready for the winter snows!
It’s that time of year again, when we prepare ourselves for the snow to come and cover our lawns in a cold white blanket, retiring our flowers and plants until the spring when they can grow again. Most people assume that lawncare is impossible in the winter—how can you take care of your lawn when it’s covered in so many inches of snow? Although our lawns do not need as much care in the winter as they do in the spring, summer, and fall, it is important to prepare your lawn for the winter to ensure a healthy lawn when the snow finally melts.
Tip #1: The Last Mow and Rake
Although you may think it is okay to let your grass grow out right before the snow hits, the truth is that longer grass is more susceptible to fungus and snow mold, as there is more room for it to grow. Slowly get your grass to its healthiest height by shortening it over the course of a few mows, as cutting it all off in one mow will put unneeded stress on your lawn. By slowly cutting your grass, you can bring it to the healthiest height, which is in between 3 and 1.5 inches. Grass that is too short will become stressed under the weight of the snow, and too long of grass will grow that unwanted snow mold. Another tip: avoid mowing your grass when it is wet or muddy, such as after a rain or light snow storm. This will have many negative effects on your lawn, such as: attracting rodents like moles to burrow; disease spreading throughout your lawn; wet clippings clumping together, resulting in a messy looking lawn; and damage done to the mower’s deck on your lawn mower. With these mowing tips in mind, you should be ready to begin preparing your lawn for snow season!
Tip #2: Aerating and Fertilizing
After making sure your grass is mowed for the snow, the next step is to ready the soil of your lawn by aerating and fertilizing it. Aerating is the act of penetrating your soil with small holes. These holes combat soil compactness by allowing air and water to get through the soil and to the grass roots. Compacted soil leaves some parts of the lawn unhealthy and brown because of the lack of circulation of the air, water, and nutrients; thus, aerating before the winter cold sets in is essential to ensure that all of your soil is healthy, leaving you without those unhealthy patches of dry, brown grass. Fertilizing is a step that goes hand in hand with aeration; while aeration punctures holes in the soil to circulate nutrients, fertilizing your lawn provides nutrients needed to create a healthy lawn that are not naturally occurring. Water and air provide the oxygen and hydrogen that plants need, and most fertilizers typically provide the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that your grass needs to be healthy. Fertilizing after a fall aeration will feed your lawn those nutrients throughout the winter, resulting in a thick, green lawn for you to enjoy in the spring.
Tip #3: Protecting Trees and Shrubs
Always remember that the beauty of your lawn does not come from just healthy grass and nutrient-filled soil. One important step to remember when preparing your lawn for winter is to protect not only your grass from the cold, but your trees and shrubs too. Trees and shrubs undergo harsh temperature changes, as they are exposed to the sun and snow, and not just covered with snow like your grass is. To avoid damage done to your woody plants, the first step is to ensure that the soil surrounding them is properly irrigated and mulched. Mulch lessens moisture loss and maintains the ground temperature, keeping the soil around your trees from expanding and contracting, and therefore damaging the roots within it. In addition to this, wrapping your woody plants in burlap, plant blankets, or other insulated materials will prevent the plants from experiencing harsh temperature changes due to sun exposure. In addition to helping maintain temperature, covering shrubs can protect them from breaking under the weight of snow or the pressure of heavy winds.
Tip #4: Preventing Salt Damage
Although using de-icing salt is helpful in keeping driveways and walkways safe during the winter, the runoff water from the salt is detrimental to the health of your lawn and landscaping plants. This harm can be caused in two ways: from the salt absorbing water, and from the salt dissolving in water. Salt has a high capacity of absorbing water, and with a high amount of salt on the ground, the soil can be left in drought-like conditions. Typically there is not enough salt to absorb all of the water, and thus the salt dissolves. When salt dissolves in water, the release of sodium chloride offsets the balance of natural chemicals in the soil, causing nutrient deficiencies in your plants due to poor soil quality. To avoid these issues, consider using de-icing salt that does not have sodium as the main ingredient, or protect your lawn from the salty runoff water by flushing it with fresh water. These will minimize the sodium levels in your lawn, thus creating a happy and healthy lawn come springtime!
Tip #5: Gentle Snow Removal
Following the above tips will ensure a beautiful landscape come springtime, but it is not just your lawn and plants that make your yard look fantastic. Your driveway, walkways, gutters, and downspouts are also part of the appearance, and how you treat them can affect your lawn’s health. Removing snow from driveways and walkways can be harmful to your lawn if you simply put it in piles on the side. This puts more weight on the certain parts of your grass that the piles are on, causing it to undergo stress. Instead, scatter the snow around your lawn to avoid those dry, brown patches when the snow eventually melts. Likewise, snow buildups in gutters and downspouts can lead to snow drops, harming the grass as well as your gutters. Clean gutters and downspouts whenever it snows, so as to avoid any breakage of your appliances and harm done to your lawn.
If you follow these five tips and tricks, you should see a healthy, lush, green lawn in the spring! Taking care of your lawn before and during the wintertime is vital to your landscape’s health, and by putting in the extra time now, you’ll be saving yourself time and money come springtime.