How to winterize a lawn – 7 steps for lush grass year round

1. Deal With Dead Leaves

Once fall really kicks in, you’ll need to decide what to do with the piles of fallen leaves obscuring the lawn below. Many gardeners clear them up, either throwing the leaves away or packing them on the compost pile. However, you can use dead leaves in the garden; fallen leaves provide essential cover and warmth for insects and other wildlife that can bring more activity to your garden and help the environment at the same time.

2. Remove Weeds

Next comes one of the most tedious (but also most essential) garden tasks – getting rid of weeds. Winterizing a lawn, designed to improve the growth of your grass, will also boost the growth of any weeds. This makes their removal later on in the year far tougher, so it’s better to get a head start by removing them early. Removing weeds in early fall limits competition, ensuring the nutrients and water added at this time goes to the grass rather than the weeds themselves. Avoid using harsh chemicals that may impact lawn growth and the surrounding environment and remove weeds by hand.

3. Cut The Grass

Should you stop mowing your lawn for winter? While you’ll be mowing less often in fall, the process does require more finesse than in the summer months. Allowing the lawn to grow too long can lead to mold growth, but to those who ask 'should I cut my grass short before winter?', we advise that cutting it too short can cause stress right before potentially damaging frost. A balance is needed to get it right.

4. Aerate The Lawn

To allow nutrients and moisture to penetrate the grass and reach deep into the soil, aerate the lawn before feeding. This is especially important in cases of thatch build-up in high-traffic zones that can impact not only water and nutrient absorption but also airflow and drainage through the soil. You can find out how to dethatch a lawn in our separate guide.

5. Fertilize

The final step in the process is fertilizing your lawn. Early fall is the best time for cool-season grasses as this is when growth spurs and more nutrients are used. Look out for winter-specific fertilizers formulated for fall applications. These are generally higher in potassium than other lawn fertilizers to provide extra protection over winter. For warm-season grasses that will turn brown when frost hits, avoid fertilizing in fall. This can encourage new and vulnerable growth that will only die off when temperatures drop. In these cases, wait until early spring to fertilize.

6. Test Your Soil

The steps above are the main components of winterizing your lawn. However, they are not the only tasks you should consider. Test the soil if your grass is underperforming; conducting a soil test can give you valuable insight into the potential problem. With an understanding of nutrient levels in the soil, you can use your fall fertilizer application to bring balance, improving growth in spring. Testing the pH of soil will also tell you whether you need to add lime to your lawn or sulfur.

7. Sow Seeds

Planting grass seed to reseed and repair patches in grass or overseeding the whole lawn will ensure it fills out in early spring, helping to crowd any leftover weed seeds that may pop up.

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