All year, your lawn has been doing great. However, one bad winter can significantly impact its performance next year. Damage, a lack of nutrients, and mismanagement can make your lawn stay browner in spring and perform worse even through the summer. And you may find that portions need to be re-seeded. Conversely, if you protect your lawn from winter damage it will bounce back greener than ever. So how do you protect your lawn from winter damage? Follow these steps.
Clean Fall Debris
Before any snow falls, take the time to collect any debris that has gathered in your landscaping. Broken twigs, dropped branches and fallen leaves can all be used by animals to nest in your yard over the winter and may encourage them to burrow on your property.
Also, the debris may look distasteful come spring, as it will be left behind when the snow melts. A thick enough layer of debris can also prevent your plants from getting the sunlight they need to get started growing. In particular, debris in spring bulb beds may interfere with their blooms.
Mark the Driveway
Do you have someone shovel your driveway, or do you do it yourself? Either way, it’s helpful to have stakes in the ground to mark the edge the driveway. Some homeowners find that they can’t remember quite where the driveway ends once there’s enough snow, which leads to them shoveling on the grass bit. This may do significant damage to your lawn.
Stakes are even more useful if you have a company that comes in to remove your snow. They probably have no idea where your driveway starts and stop, horizontally. Having a guide will ensure that they don’t accidentally roll onto your lawn or garden and damage it.
Mow the Lawn
After you tidy up the lawn and mark it, it’s time to cut it down to a reasonable length for winter. In particular, if you have ornamental grasses that you let grow high, cutting it down before winter protects the health of the plant. It has a fresh start in spring to grow up and shouldn’t have any brown strands come spring.
When you’re cutting your lawn, it’s wise to get a little close to the ground than you normally do, especially if you do this cut earlier in the year. The grass may still grow a bit afterwards and you don’t want it to be too long come the snow. If the blades are too long, they can retain moisture and develop fungal problems.
Aerate the Lawn
Lawn aeration is all about giving the soil beneath your grass room to breathe. Cutting these small holes into the ground loosens compacted soil and gives the grass roots room to expand. It also ensures better drainage in the soil, so that water and other nutrients reach down to the grass’ roots.
Fall is a great time for aeration because it ensures the lawn will have access to all of the nutrients it needs come spring. As grass is more vigorous in late spring, it will also more easily fill in the holes left behind by aeration.
Add Fall Fertilizer
For some plants it is a bad idea to fertilize in the fall, but lawns can use a slow-release fertilizer at this time. It guarantees that the grass will have the full nutrients it needs to grow in the spring, without encouraging unnecessary growth in the fall, as quick-release fertilizer could. In fact, you will find that grass that has been slow-release fertilized around the time you give it the last cut will come back faster in the spring. If you have a problem with brown grass well into spring, a late fertilizer is a great solution.
Keep Off the Grass
Walking on the grass when it’s gone dormant for the winter can actually do significant damage. When the grass isn’t actively growing, it won’t repair the damage that you cause. Instead, the damage will get worse until spring, when the grass will have to focus on repair instead of creating new growth. So, avoid walking, running, and playing on the grass.
Protect From Salt
Using salt as an ice melt is a great safety measure, but it can be very damaging to grass. Ever heard of “sowing the ground with salt?” If you add enough salt to ground it can’t grow anything because the salt stops roots from absorbing water. So, take care to keep the salt off the lawn.
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