While it’s tempting for us to take the winter off when it comes to looking after our gardens, there are still a few things we can do to care for our lawns. We provide some tips on how to look after your lawn during the winter, and how to get it into the best possible shape for the spring.
Winter is a quiet period of the year for garden maintenance, and it’s tempting to sit back, relax, and wait for spring to arrive.
While it’s true that we needn’t be as active the garden during the winter months, it’s important not to abandon your garden completely. Especially not your lawn, which you’ve probably spent months or even years trying to perfect.
There’s nothing we can do about the winter weather, so we just have to take whatever comes our way. It’s quite natural and normal to lose some grass cover and lawn density over the winter months. It’s therefore important to take steps to ensure your lawn grass is as well prepared as possible for the ravages of winter.
There are quite a few things you can do to help your lawn to survive the coldest part of the year and be ready for the spring. With this in mind, here are our top ten tips on how to care for your lawn during the winter period:
1. Keep mowing – grass doesn’t hibernate!
The first thing to say is that grass doesn’t simply go into deep freeze mode during the winter. Sure, its growth will slow down, and depending on the temperature, it may even slow down to a complete stop. But if the temperature is above 5 degrees Celsius, your grass will continue to grow during the winter months.
If you leave your lawn for the entire winter without mowing it, the grass can quickly become long, thin, less dense and diseased. So, if the ground is not frozen, and if we have a period of warmer winter sunshine, then get yourself in the garden!
Take advantage, get the mower out and “top” your lawn by taking around 10-25% off the top of the grass. This will not only tidy it up, but will also stimulate whatever growth may be possible at this time of the year.
2. Scarifying – give it a rest over winter
A word on scarifying – don’t! At least, not during the winter months. Scarification is unquestionably beneficial for your garden in the long term. But in the short term it can be quite harsh on your lawn, which takes time to recover and rebuild after the scarification process. It therefore doesn’t make sense to do it during the winter months, when there is little chance of natural grass recovery following the scarification process.
3. Keep off the grass! (Yes, you can create a sign if you want to…)
If possible, try to avoid walking on the lawn, especially when it’s wet or frosty. The grass plants can easily become damaged and likely won’t be able to repair themselves until the spring.
If your lawn suffers from heavy foot traffic during wet and muddy weather, then consider laying down stepping stones to allow access across your grass during the winter without causing unnecessary damage.
Keep pathways and sidewalks clear of snow and ice to discourage people from taking shortcuts across your lawn. And never park a vehicle on the lawn in winter, as this can do serious damage.
4. Clear leaves and debris
Make sure you’ve cleared all the leaves off the lawn so that the grass plants are not being smothered. A light rake or even a brush should be fine for doing this. Fallen leaves will also trap moisture, which will encourage disease and worms.
As winter progresses, continue to remove any new fallen leaves, branches and other debris. The weight of these objects over the course of the winter can kill or seriously stunt your grass.
5. Deal with worms and moles
Speaking of worms, remember that they improve the nutrient content of soil and are beneficial to the soil structure. Worm casts are best left to dry and then swept away with a stiff brush.
Moles are generally more active in Jan/Feb, so remove any molehills and prepare to overseed those areas when the weather improves in the spring.
Aeration can be very helpful to your lawn. It will relieve compaction of soil, improve drainage and allow air into the root system of your grass, leading to a healthier lawn.
You can aerate your lawn with a fork or a dedicated spiking machine.
7. Feed your lawn
It’s a good idea to try to perk up tired lawns by giving them a feed. Use an autumn lawn fertiliser, which is high in phosphates and potash. This will not only increase resistance to disease, but will also help strong roots to develop, which will in turn produce healthy leaves.
Don't be tempted to use a spring fertiliser. These contain high levels of nitrogen, which encourages soft, sappy leaf growth that’s vulnerable to disease and could be damaged by any frost.
You could also consider applying a soluble iron to provide some colour and winter hardiness, but don’t apply if the ground is frozen.
8. Consider artificial grass
It might not be to everyone’s taste, but artificial grass these days can provide the ultimate in low maintenance lawn solutions. It looks great, requires virtually no looking after whatsoever, which means it’s also environmentally-friendly: no watering, no fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides or fungicides.
Don’t knock it ‘til you try it…
9. Get your mower serviced
Take advantage of the quiet season to get your mower serviced, sharpening or replacing the blade, if necessary.
Once spring arrives there will be mad rush of enthusiastic gardeners doing the same thing, so plan ahead and beat the rush!
10. Don’t worry too much about snow
If it does snow during the winter, don’t obsess about clearing snow from your lawn. You’re likely to more damage to your frozen grass if you start trying to shovel snow off the lawn.
In fact, snow can provide a protective layer for your grass. Removing it may simply expose your grass to the frozen elements which are likely to cause even more damage than the snow itself.
Just enjoy the snow, build a snowman (without trampling all over your lawn!) and don’t worry about it damaging your grass.
The final word
Winter lawn maintenance need not be an onerous or time-consuming chore. But if you want your lawn to look its best in the spring and summer months, it’s worth doing some basic maintenance. Then, come the spring, your grass should be in fine fettle and everyone will soon be admiring your lawn again.
FirstLight can help you with all your garden needs. If you think maintenance won’t solve your lawn issues and you are looking for some help and advice on laying a new lawn or artificial grass, feel free to get in touch with us. Our team is standing by and happy to provide any advice you may need.