Winter Lawn Care Tips – Is There Anything You Can Do?


Jan. 3, 2020

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Summer has come and gone, and you’re now just dreaming about the warm sun and your green lawn as the meteorologist starts warning of incoming snow. Yup, winter has arrived.

Though your grass may be dormant or nearly dormant by this point, there are still some steps you can take to keep it healthy during the winter months so you get a vibrant regreen in the spring.

Here are some key winter lawn care tips to keep your turf happy during the cooler months.

General Winter Lawn Care Tips

We’ll dive into the specifics for the different types of grasses in a moment, but some wintertime lawn care tips apply to almost any lawn.

Clean Your Lawn

In the summertime, you likely have patio furniture, toys and other items strewn around your yard. While leaving these items in your yard is not a good idea at any time, at least you tend to get outside and move them around in the summer.

In the winter, these items get forgotten and left sitting wherever you used them during the last semi-warm fall day. Your grass is most fragile in the frigid months, and leaving these items in your lawn can turn that section of grass from dormant to dead.

So bundle up and head out to grab whatever has been left over from summer and store these items in the garage for the season.

Also, if there are leaves leftover in your yard from fall, get those raked up now before they have the same effect on your grass.

Tread Lightly

Again, dormant grass is delicate, regardless of how healthy it was during the growing season. Heavy foot traffic can cause irreparable damage that will rear its ugly head as large dead spots when the rest of your lawn regreens in the spring.

Avoid walking on your grass during these cold months. Instead, stick to your normal pathways, which bring us to our next point.

Make sure to have all the items you need to keep walkways clear of snow and ice, including rock salt and a snow shovel or snow blower. Clear paths will not only ensure you don’t lose track of the path and accidentally stomp through your fragile grass. It also keeps you from having to walk through your yard to avoid icy concrete and a busted tailbone.

Regreen Your Lawn the Easy Way

When your lawn goes dormant or partially dormant, it can turn an uninspiring light green or even a light brown. This can be a horrible eyesore after spending the whole spring, summer and fall with a lush carpet greeting your guests and passersby.

You can solve this in a day with a simple coat of grass paint. Just like we dye our hair to keep looking like our younger selves, you can dye your lawn to make it look like its spring all over again.

Test For Lime

An established yard doesn’t often need lime, but the early winter is the best time to apply it, so now is the time to test for it. Grab a soil test you’re comfortable using – one you complete at home or one you mail off for testing – to check the soil’s pH levels.

If the test reveals pH levels are under 5.8, your soil needs lime. The test will instruct how much lime to add per 1,000 square feet. Add this before the first frost to ensure it gets into the soil before everything hardens.

You may also consider dethatching and aerating your lawn before applying the lime for better absorption.

Winter Care Lawn Tips for Warm-Season Grass

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Warm-season grasses thrive in the heat. This is why it’s most popular in the south and the transition zone – the agricultural climate zone that spans across the middle of the country.

In the majority of these areas, your grass falls dormant when the weather turns cold, but there are still a few tips to a healthy lawn during winter in these warmer areas.

Keep the Water Flowing

With your grass being dormant, you may think you need not to water at all. On the contrary, most experts recommend scheduled waterings if rain is not in the foreseeable forecast to keep your lawn healthy and prevent it from drying out in the winter.

Kill Those Winter Weeds

Around February, you’ll want to treat any cool-season weeds that started cropping up with a post-emergent weed killer. This is also a great time to drop pre-emergent weed treatment to keep those warm-season weeds from every cracking the surface in the coming months.

Clean Up Before it Greens Up

You should also do a thorough lawn cleaning in February. Walk through your yard and pick up any sticks, rocks or other debris before the spring regreening begins.

Just a Little Off the Top

In the deep south, your lawn will likely never go fully dormant, but things will slow dramatically. You may need to do the occasional light grass cutting and edging to keep things neat.

Winter Lawn Care Tips for Cool Season Grasses

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Like warm-season grasses, cool-season grasses fall dormant in the winter, but there are a handful of things you can do throughout the winter to ensure it regreens perfectly in the spring.

Mow it Low

When you’re ready to do that final mow heading into winter, lower the deck a little further than you usually would. Keeping the grass shorter as you enter winter helps prevent snow mold. Remember to always follow proper cutting techniques by not taking off more than one-third of the grass blade during a single mowing.

Watch out for Snow Drifts

When the heavy snow hits, you’ve got to clear walking and driving paths. According to the University of Nebraska, which knows a thing or two about snow, avoid creating large piles of snow in your grass. This can encourage snow mold growth, which can damage your lawn.

Don’t Get Too Salty

Use great care when spreading rock salt and other de-icing agents, as they can damage your grass. It is nearly impossible to get zero salt in your yard, but use care, so you have less to repairing to do in the coming months.

Wash the Winter Yuck Away

In late winter, your soil may start to thaw just enough to jump on some preemptive treatment.

If you get this opportunity, search your yard for areas showing stress from salt, de-icing agents or pet waste. Soak this area with water to leech the salts, chemicals and pet waste from the soil before the annual regreening begins.