Winter lawn care tips? It’s Michigan! What lawn care? There’s snow on the ground—or there will be soon. And nothing’s growing. What can I possibly do out there now?
If this is the train of thought that brought you here, let us answer the question for you. This month, J&S Landscaping brings you eight winter lawn care tips you should employ for a better lawn in the spring.
Once winter arrives, many homeowners assume they are done with lawn care for a few months. Nothing could be further from the truth. A lawn that is neglected or given the wrong care over the winter will require a lot more remedial attention when the growing season arrives. Practice at least a few of the following winter lawn care tips now and you’ll thank yourself in the spring.
There’s more to your lawn than you probably realize. All that green grass you’re seeing is part of a larger ecosystem, bedded in a layer of debris and living material. Beneath that there’s the soil (which contains minerals, organic matter, living organisms, gasses, and water). That layer of debris and living material is known as the thatch. In the right amount, it insulates and protects the grass kind of like mulch. But if it’s too thick, it blocks air, contributes to drainage problems, and reduces the roots’ access to necessary nutrients. It can also cause crown hydration (grass takes up water on a warmer day, only to have it freeze inside its cells and rupture them, because of poor drainage). Add in compacted soil caused by foot traffic and large equipment, the possibility of snow mold (which we’ll discuss in a bit), and you’ve got a problem brewing. If you do nothing, by the beginning of the next growing season, you’ve got a lawn that needs a lot of extra care.
The solution to most of the above is simple aeration. This is a process of making holes down through the turf and into the soil below and loosening it, in order to introduce air and allow water to penetrate.
Aeration can be done with a manual or power aerating tool, which may be of either the plug or spike type. The plug-type churns up bits of earth, breaking apart the thatch and compacted soil, pulling nutrients up to the surface where they can be washed back down into the grass the next time it rains or snows. The spike-type of aerator punctures the soil, breaking up the thatch, improving drainage, and introducing air into the soil. You can use a pitchfork to accomplish this as well. Here’s more information.
Didn’t get to your lawn before winter showed up? It’s not too late! Just pick a reasonably dry day and take care of business. You’ll want your grass to be shorter during cold weather than during the growing season to avoid snow mold and vole infestations. Both can result in bare patches that will have to be repaired in the spring.
Be sure and winterize that lawnmower before you put it away though! Clean it up, change the oil and the air filter, tighten any loose bolts, and give the blade a good sharpening. You’ll thank yourself in the spring!
Avoiding Salt Damage
Important Vital winter lawn care tip: If you need to treat walkways near your lawn, be sure and choose alternatives to sodium chloride, such as calcium chloride. Sodium chloride can cause “physiological drought,” a condition that impedes nutrient uptake and creates bare spots.
And never, ever dump snow you’ve scooped near the street on your lawn. Most cities and counties use de-icing products that can seriously damage your lawn.
Break up the snow
It’s the dead of winter and your sidewalks and drives are covered in the white stuff. It’s got to go somewhere, so you can move around outside your house safely and pull out of your own drive. So you shovel it or blow it or plow through it. And where do you put it all?
On the lawn, of course. Duh. Because there really isn’t any place else to put it other than your neighbor’s yard. Which could go badly for your relationship with them (PS. Don’t do that).
And there’s nothing wrong with that, except that the weight of the snow is hard on your lawn (or your neighbor’s yard, as the case may be) too. So if you will need to to spread it on your lawn, break it up and spread it out so that it doesn’t compress your soil or the grass.
If your ground isn’t frozen, early winter may be the perfect time to add a little lime to your soil. You’ll want to test your soil’s PH first to determine the exact amount to use. Adding lime during cold weather allows it to seep slowly into the soil and alter the PH over time.
Seeding and Sodding
You can seed your lawn during the winter. Some people take advantage of the snow and sprinkle it across the surface and let the snowmelt carry it into the soil. Ran out of time and didn’t lay down that sod? It is not too late! Just lay the sod down in the places you want it, and water it well.
Winter is a great time to go in search of those errant weeds that pop up in the middle of your lawn. They’re easy to spot and even easier to pull. Some weeds seem to wait for warm winter days to get a foothold on your lawn.
Your lawn doesn’t suddenly stop needing water in the winter. It just doesn’t need it as often as it does when temperatures are warmer. You can safely water on any day that’s over 40 degrees. Just take care to monitor the weather forecast. Watering is especially important if you’re facing a dry winter. Cold weather plus lack of moisture can severely damage your lawn. It doesn’t just dry it out, it puts it at risk for clover mite infestation.
We hope these winter lawn care tips give you a leg up on next spring’s growing season. If you want more tips, check out Michigan State University’s tips here.
But perhaps, after reading all this, you’re wondering if you’re too busy to look after your lawn the way you want to. It’s understandable! With a full-time job and family, your plate is already full. Lawn care done right is time consuming and J&S Landscaping can help! Give us a call and let us take care of all your landscaping needs!
J&S Landscaping is a member of the Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association. We provide top-notch lawn care and support for plants, trees, and shrubs. And everything we purchase and plant for you has a one-year guarantee.
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