Last week I began a series of posts about what to do in your yard to prepare it for winter. I focused on a few key tasks for the garden. This week I want to talk about what you can do for your lawn to help it weather whatever winter weather winds your way (whew!).
OK, first of all, as I said last week, we live in a mild winter part of the country here in the South Puget Sound region. Our winters are downright warm compared with most of the rest of the country. But, because our summers are also fairly mild most of us have lawns that were planted with grass designed for cool-season climates.
That means our lawns generally don’t have any trouble getting through the winter. That’s good news. Still, wouldn’t it be great to do more than just get by? All it takes is a few simple steps and your spring lawn will be one of the nicest around.
Keep the lawn mowed short this time of the year. That will help reduce the amount of moss buildup now that it is wet outside again. After mowing it apply some moss killer. The best time to kill most is when it is growing actively. That means fall and spring.
It’s also a good idea to apply lime (dolomite) on your lawn. This raises the pH of the soil in the lawn which is good for the grass. It also makes conditions less welcoming for moss, so you won’t grow as much of it during the winter.
Apply winterizer fertilizer. Experts say we should apply fertilizer to our lawns four times a year. They all agree, however, that the most important application of all is right now with winterizer. This special kind of fertilizer, unlike other times of the year, does not focus on making the top growth thick, strong, lush and green. Instead it concentrates on building a stronger root system, building nourishment for spring and overall making the grass healthier.
Fall is a pretty good time to dethatch and aerate. If you can’t afford to rent the equipment to do it, just talk to your neighbors about going halvesies. You can usually get a better deal if you rent for a longer period of time, like two days instead of just one. When you split that with a neighbor, both of you save money.
If you had a lot of moss you should probably get out the rake and rake up the thatch and moss together. You can dump it into the compost pile. It’s pretty gratifying knowing that your lawn moss is being turned into something useful for the yard!
If you have lots of deciduous lawn trees, particularly if you have maples or oaks, then you may want to rake up the leaves. What could be better on a fall day than to rake the leaves into a nice big pile and play with the kids?
After you’re done playing, what do you do with the left over leaves? There are lots of options, but you shouldn’t throw them into the compost pile in one big mound.
Leaves tend to stick together, and when they do they don’t decompose. If you want to add them to the compost pile you should chop them up first. You can do it with your lawnmower.
I only have a couple trees that put out lots of small leaves. I usually just leave them on the lawn until the next time I mow. Then I mow them right up with the grass. The chopped up leaves and grass mixture is great for putting in the compost pile. The mixing job has already been taken care of.
You can also mow the leaves without the bag and let them stay on the lawn. They will add some extra nourishment and protection for the lawn. By next spring there will be no trace of them, either.
With big leaves, though, such as maples or oaks, you really should remove most of them from the lawn. Again, just chop them up with the mower. Then you can put them in the compost bin. Or you can make a pile of just chopped leaves. Over time they will decompose and make what is called leaf mold. This is similar to compost and is a great additive for your garden.
Get in your last mow in late October or early November. Just look for a dry couple of days in a row and get the mow done. Mow the lawn nice and short.
Don’t fill up the mower to the top with gas before this mow. Just add barely enough to get the job done, adding more only if necessary. Once the lawn is completely mowed let the mower continue to run until it runs out of gas. Whatever gas remains in your gas can, just add it to your car. You don’t want any gasoline in containers or in the mower sitting around unused for several months.
If you’ve ever taken your lawnmower into the shop for repairs in the spring, you know that every other person on the face of the planet does the same thing, and they all go to your local mower repair shop. It is not uncommon to have a 3 month backup in the spring. However, most people don’t think about taking in their grass eater this time of year. Now is a great time to do it. Find a shop nearby and take the mower in for a tune up and blade sharpening. You’ll probably get it back that day, or at least within a week.
Once you get the mower back, clean it up on the outside and underside, and then store it in a dry place until spring. When that first mow of 2013 comes around your mower will be primed and ready to go.
Now that wasn’t so tough, was it? Following these simple steps will make sure your lawn is in the best shape possible for winter. And wouldn’t it be nice to be organized next spring for a change?