Dude, your yard looks great. The grass is at the right level. You finally found your groove for creating the perfect mow pattern. And that groundhog? Yeah, he’s gone. You’ve spent hours each week perfecting your lawn. You planted the bulbs your wife bought and even found a spot for the stupid sparkling gazing ball your kid “needed.” Lawn care was practically a part-time job for the last six-ish months. Now winter is coming and you’re packing away that lawnmower and looking forward to a break, right?
Ehhh… not so fast. In order to keep from basically starting over in the spring, you’ll need to put in just a bit more work in the fall with some winter lawn care best practices. It’s also a good idea to remain vigilant over your yard, even in the darkest days of winter. Here’s what you need to know and do.
Start winter lawn care in the fall
Do Leaf Control
We know both Finn and Fido love crunching through those autumn leaves. However, leaving them sitting on your grass can take its toll. For your absolute best bet at a healthy lawn, rake often and pick up the piles immediately. If you can’t get to them right away or they end up rain-soaked on your lawn, you leave your yard more susceptible to critters and your grass is likely to end up diseased. At the bare minimum, use your mower to mulch the leaves into dime-sized pieces.
Aerate Your Lawn
What’s it feel like when you walk across your lawn? Is it firm or do your feet sink into the earth? Aerating your yard is beneficial no matter what, but a harder ground is more likely to benefit.
What is aerating?
To aerate literally means to add air or give air. In other words, loosen the earth under your grass so it’s not so compacted.
How do you aerate?
You can do this in multiple ways. There are spikes you can strap onto your shoes so you can walk your lawn and push holes into the ground. There are also tools/machines you can buy that you push across your yard. As they roll over your grass, they pull out plugs of dirt and, again, leave holes to help loosen the dirt.
Why should you aerate?
An aerated lawn has multiple benefits. To begin, you already know that plants need oxygen. Those holes also allow better drainage during rain and snow. This not only brings water to your grass roots, it also helps avoid standing or pooling water. As an added bonus, it also helps with your next step…
Feed, seed, and treat your grass
Did you know there’s actually stuff you can put on your lawn now that will settle in over winter and help your yard look even better in the Spring? Scotts Turf Builder, for instance, has several different fall and winter lawn treatments you can use, depending on what your lawn needs.
Once winter arrives
Keep off the grass!
No. Really. Your grass is much more fragile during colder temperatures. If your dog likes to run in the same path around the yard, look for ways to redirect him every few days, so he doesn’t wear down a path. And, while your kids’ occasional romp through the snow won’t do much damage, make sure they’re sticking to the walk or driveway on regular treks out of the house.
Treat your snow carefully
When managing snow, there are two things to keep in mind: How long snow piles will sit on your lawn and what you’re using on hard surfaces to melt the snow. If your neighborhood plows the street and you end up with snow piled on the easement, it might be worth getting out the shovel and moving it elsewhere. Piled up road slush carries a lot of weight… and harmful chemicals from cars. Leaving snow berms sitting on your grass can actually cause mold, too. Another way harmful chemicals seep into your grass? The chemicals in the “salt” used to melt the snow and ice off your walkways.
This is hard, right? If you have a pet, you might already be buying a special ice melt that’s less painful for your pooch. Is it safe for your lawn, too? There’s a ton of products out there. In the long run, it might be a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils. If you’re only worried about your lawn, calcium chloride is the best option. And if you must use straight rock salt? Use it as a pretreatment before the ice and snow arrive instead of using it after the fact. Why? You can use a lot less if you use it before instead of after.
Clear the yard of clutter
Finally, don’t shoot the messenger on this, but you need to bring in anything you can and cover the rest. Winter winds blow ornaments over and knock branches down. Part of your yard’s charm is the cute accessories. Don’t let winter ruin them — that crap is expensive! For bigger pieces, try to invest in covers or even just cheap tarps and bungee cords from any hardware store.
Just a heads up, if you buy stuff using the provided links, The Dad may collect a small commission.