In many areas, winter is a welcome respite from the constant mowing, edging and trimming that may be necessary to keep a lawn in great shape. That doesn't mean the lawn can be forgotten in winter, however, and there are a few simple steps every homeowner should take to be sure their lawn is healthy throughout the winter so it will grow lush and green again in spring.
To care for a winter lawn…
Take Appropriate Fall Steps
Winterizing the lawn in late fall is critical to keeping turf healthy through the cold season. Cool-season grasses can be fertilized in late fall, and that fertilizer will seep into the soil to nourish the roots throughout the winter. Mowing the lawn short in late fall will help minimize pest populations that can devastate a winter lawn, and autumn leaves should be mulched into the lawn to help protect the grass and provide natural compost.
Keep It Clear
When objects are left on a lawn for long periods of time, they kill the turf and create unsightly brown patches. Those patches are thinner and less resilient to invasion, giving weeds a better opportunity to take over the lawn. Toys, tools, branches, logs and furniture should be removed from a lawn in fall, and the lawn should be checked regularly all winter long to be sure nothing has accidentally been put on the grass that could cause these problems.
Avoid Lawn Traffic
A winter lawn can easily become compacted if it is frequently walked over, even if snow has fallen and the entire lawn is dormant. Stay off the grass in winter as much as possible, including keeping vehicles off the lawn. Use tall stakes to mark the edges of sidewalks, patios and driveways for easy plowing or shoveling that won't damage the edges of the grass. Ideally, grass should not be walked on until all snow has melted and excess moisture has drained away in spring.
In areas that are subject to dramatic amounts of snow and ice, it can be tempting to overuse salt and other deicing chemicals, but doing so can devastate a lawn when those chemicals overflow onto the edges of the grass. Shovel or plow before applying chemicals so they are only used in appropriate areas, or opt for less damaging alternatives such as sand or plain cat litter to provide winter traction on snow and ice.
Maintain Lawn Tools
When the lawn is buried under snow, there's plenty of time to take proper care of lawn tools. Use the time that isn't needed for mowing to sharpen mower blades and oil parts to keep the mower operating at peak efficiency. Sharpen other lawn and garden tools, replace worn out parts and investigate fall and winter clearance sales at lawn care centers to be ready to tackle the lawn again in spring with ease.
While there may not be much mowing to do in winter, there are plenty of lawn care tasks to keep a lawn healthy and thriving all year long.