Give your grass TLC during the cooler months so it will look lush and green come spring
Cool weather, shorter days and less sunlight. For your favourite patch of green, winter offers a recipe for disaster.
It’s true that most lawns take a beating in the colder seasons, but there are a few simple things you can do to ensure yours stays healthy, and ready to surge back to life in the spring.
Here are our simple tips for winter lawn success.
For years, the advice was to cut the grass at a certain height to suit the time of the year. So what is the right height?
Most lawns are warm-season varieties, meaning they grow quicker when the temperature is higher and slower during the cooler months.
As such, you’ll only need to mow about once a month in the winter.
The right height A rule of thumb is that grass should feel comfortable under bare feet, as the lawn needs sufficient leaf blades to achieve effective photosynthesis.
If you cut it too short, it is likely to be weakened, while leaving it too long may cause fungal problems, so finding a happy medium is best.
TIP When it comes to how short to cut the grass at any time of year, think Goldilocks. Not too short, not too long, but just right.
Catch don't mulch
A mulching mower creates very fine pieces of cut grass that provide organic nutrients for the lawn and soil.
But, while this benefits the lawn in spring and summer, the mulch won’t break down as fast in the cool months, resulting in fungal disorders. So switch the mower from mulch to catch in winter.
When it comes to how short to cut the grass at any time of year, think Goldilocks, not too short, not too long, but just right
Perhaps the most difficult part of lawn care in the cooler months is watering. It can be easily forgotten, or else done too much or too little. There are a few key steps to getting it right.
WATER WISELY You need to ensure that you don’t overdo the watering in winter, as wet grass and soil can take a long time to dry out.
If the lawn stays wet for periods of time, you’re likely to end up with fungal problems and boggy spots.
Remember as well that moisture retention varies greatly by soil type. Sandy soil will shed water much faster than clay-based soil, which may stay damp for weeks.
TIME IT RIGHT It is essential you get the frequency of your watering correct, as well as the time of day you do it.
Good practice year-round is to only water in the morning, and this becomes critical in winter, as you don’t want the lawn sitting wet overnight.
Reduce how much you water the lawn by at least half at this time of the year, in both duration and frequency, especially if it is done by an irrigation system. You may even find a monthly watering is all that is required.
TIP Water in the morning rather than later in the day so you don’t leave damp patches overnight, avoiding fungal problems
Save on water
To manage your watering most efficiently, use an adjustable oscillating sprinkler.
This will ensure that the water is only reaching the areas that need it, regulating the amount of water used and avoiding wastage.
You can also adjust the distance and pattern of the spray to suit virtually any situation.
If you run an irrigation system controlled by a computerised timer, change the settings to suit the season
Traditionally, lawns were only fed in spring and summer but now, thanks to new fertiliser technology, it’s common to feed them year-round. This will vary depending on your region, so ask a local lawn specialist for advice.
Feeding your lawn in winter keeps it growing, albeit slowly, and makes it well prepared to compete with weeds. It also makes it better able to recover from cold conditions and damage.
FEED IT WELL Applying a hose-on seaweed tonic in place of the normal watering is also very useful.
In doing this, you will be feeding the soil directly, keeping beneficial bacteria populations happy and active and making sure nutrients are readily] available for the lawn.
You can use a hydrating product as well, which will aid water penetration and rejuvenate the soil.
It is now recommended to feed your lawn in autumn and winter
Maximising the amount of sunlight your lawn receives in winter is critical to keeping it healthy. With shorter daylight hours and a lower intensity of sunlight, virtually every minute of exposure makes a difference.
KEEP IT TIDY Give yourself a winter warm-up by getting out the rake and keeping leaves and twigs off the lawn.
These can build up very quickly, especially after windy weather, and this can greatly reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches your lawn.
LET IN LIGHT After strong growth in the warm months, a host of plants may have started casting shade over parts of your lawn.
Prune back any offending plants to an appropriate degree, with the aim of both maximising the sunlight reaching your lawn and shaping the plants to keep them healthy and tidy.
TIP Keep plants and trees well pruned in the winter months so that as much sunlight as possible can reach the lawn.
Just because grass growth slows down in winter doesn’t mean that weeds take a rest. In fact, there are a number of annual weeds that bolt ahead when the temperature cools down.
Certain weeds cause dead patches by smothering the lawn and, as they’re annuals, leave bare spots when they die back. Others, like bindii, grow in cool conditions, so they need removing before reaching maturity in spring.
REMOVE THE WEEDS Keeping your lawn well fed can help to win the weed war, as your lawn may be able to out-compete certain weeds.
But removal or treatment of the offending plants is always going to be the most effective option.
It is often best to get rid of larger weeds manually using a daisy grubber or high-tech weed extraction tool.
SPRAY THE LAWN There are also a host of chemical options available, but it’s crucial that the product is suitable for the time of year, as well as the right one for your lawn type and the weeds you’re killing.
Ask at your local garden centre about the right weed treatment for your grass