How to Winterize your LawnBy: Roxanne Nichols
The key to a lush, healthy spring lawn is proper preparation for the winter. When the weather turns warmer, turf grass needs to be primed and ready to go. Because grass goes dormant during the winter, any preparation for a healthy spring must be made in the fall. For the most part, lawn winterizing is needed for cool season grasses that grow in the northern United States. Warm season grasses in the south go dormant in the winter. It is beneficial to ensure that the grass has a good, healthy root system going into the fall and winter. Fertilizer for Lawn Winterizing The purpose of fertilizing a lawn to prepare it for winter is to fertilize at the right time for the lawn to build its root system up for the winter. For that reason, a winter lawn fertilizer with a high potassium ratio is best, because that will stimulate root and rhizome growth, not growth of leaves and flowers. Depending upon where you live, you will most likely not want to fertilize past September or October. Fertilizer too late in the season will cause the grass to keep growing, and could leave it susceptible to frost damage. Aerating in the Fall The summer is both a time of growth and harm for turf. With people outside, enjoying their yards, playing sports and gardening, grass takes a beating. Compaction is one of the worst problems inflicted on lawns with lots of foot traffic. Compaction compresses the spaces in the soil where oxygen can be available to the roots. Without oxygen, the plants cannot complete their metabolic processes (breaking down the sugars they have stored from photosynthesis) and will die. Aerating helps overcome compaction. A punch-core aerator is best. That is the type of aerator used at golf courses, and leaves the little soil cores all over the soil. That opens up spaces within the soil that can be top-dressed with compost or sand (depending upon your soil type), which will improve soil fertility, and aeration. Overseeding and Topdressing the Lawn The early fall is a good time to overseed a lawn that might need renovation. Warm season weeds will be dying off, opening up space for grass and reducing competition. Grass that can establish itself in the fall will come back in the spring, more vigorous. Before overseeding, aerate and top-dress with compost or sand. This is an easy way to ensure a more lush lawn in the spring. De-thatching for the Winter A thin layer of thatch is actually beneficial to lawns. A layer beyond ½ inch thick is not beneficial, and can promote disease and fungal problems by limiting airflow between the soil and the top of grass. Thatch is not composed of grass clippings, as many people suggest, but is rather dead stems that build up between the soil and the growing grass leaves. Aerating is the best way to control thatch issues in a lawn. Each of these tasks will help you winterize your lawn for healthy growth in the spring.