Winter Lawn Care for the South
In the South, there are two lawn care seasons: summer and winter. The type of care that your lawn receives depends on the type of grass you have and whether you plan on overseeding it.
Overseeding is the practice of sowing an annual cool-season grass, like annual ryegrass, over the dormant warm-season turf commonly found in the South. This helps gives lawns a green appearance all year long and maintains its health, so you can have a green lawn all year-round.
Preparing Lawns for Southern Winters
To prepare your lawn for the winter, you must complete the second fertilizing cycle, usually around September or October. Then, overseed with annual ryegrass and apply a pre-emergent herbicide one month later. This helps prevent weeds from growing and taking over your lawn during the winter.
Cut back on your watering schedule to about half. If your lawn is dormant and hasn't been overseeded, do not water, as it will do nothing for the grass. Also, do not apply any herbicides, as they will have little to no effect in defending your grass against weeds.
Overseeding Winter Lawns
Overseeding works best on finely-textured warm season grass, such as Bermuda, zoysia, and centipede. Cool season grasses, such as St. Augustine, are sometimes mixed with warm season grass seeds to help protect it during the winter. However, they do not work as well with overseeding.
Start by mowing the grass down to low levels, but without scalping it. Use a rotary spreader to spread the grass seeds and water it three times a day for 5 minutes each until it has started to sprout. Then, switch to watering once a day for the first three weeks. After three weeks, move on to watering only twice a week.
Do not apply any pre-emergent herbicides until at least one month after the new grass seeds have been planted. Doing this may prevent the grass from rooting firmly in the soil while doing nothing to prevent weeds from sprouting.
Other Winter Lawn Care Tips
Keep in mind that the brown color of warm season grass in the winter is not an indication that it is dead; it has simply gone dormant and will turn green once the temperatures are warm enough again.
If you're experiencing a dry, warm winter, run the irrigation system once a week to keep the grass from dying. While it may prevent it from turning brown, you can take advantage of the warm temperatures to keep it alive.
Also, stay off the grass as much as possible. Because it's not growing, it can't recover from foot traffic damage as easily.
Keep an eye out for weeds and make sure to dig up large ones, especially those with taproot. Spot-spray the area with an herbicide so that it is prevented from sprouting again. This should be done on a dry and warm day when temperatures are over 60°F.
For taller weeds, mow it down periodically using a reel mower. Otherwise, no mowing should be done to lawns during winters in the South. With any luck, your Southern lawn will survive the winter and thrive once again when spring comes around.