Getting your lawn ready for winter: A 3-step guide

Preparing your lawn for winter is a straightforward but crucial process that involves 3 key steps: timely mowing, aeration, and fertilization. By tending to your lawn now, you can save yourself the trouble of reviving it after a harsh winter.

Fall lawn watering

Autumn in many regions brings rainy weather, so it's essential to reduce your watering. Thanks to the rain, the soil usually has enough moisture. Watering should only occur during dry spells, approximately every 5-7 days. 

Avoid creating puddles, as this can harm your lawn. Typically, lawn watering stops in October to prevent oversaturation, weakening the grass before the cold sets in.

When to mow your lawn in fall

If in summer, you might have mowed your lawn about 1-2 times a week, reduce this frequency in the fall. As the soil temperature drops, grass growth naturally slows down. However, don't completely skip fall mowing because overly tall grass can collapse under snow, hindering new growth in the spring.

The optimal grass height before winter is 2.5-3 inches (6-8 cm). As for the last mowing in autumn, aim for about 2 weeks before the first expected frost.

Fertilizing your lawn in fall

To ensure a safe winter for your lawn, focus on strengthening its root system rather than promoting above-ground growth. Therefore, your autumn lawn fertilizer should be rich in phosphorus and potassium while avoiding nitrogen. Nitrogen encourages green growth, which is counterproductive as winter approaches.

About 7-10 days before the expected first frost, apply bone meal at a rate of 2-3 cups per square meter. This not only balances soil acidity but also provides a gradual release of nutrients, kick-starting grass growth in the spring.
You can also find specialized autumn lawn fertilizers in stores, usually labeled as such. Follow the instructions on the packaging for the best results.

Lawn aeration in fall

To ensure your soil gets the necessary oxygen, it's essential to aerate your lawn in the fall. If you don't have an aerator, regular garden forks can suffice. By piercing the soil, you'll slightly lift the turf and improve airflow. It's best to do this in dry weather.
Regarding whether to leave or remove leaves from your lawn in the fall, there are two opposing schools of thought. Some argue that in nature, the natural leaf drop is beneficial, so you can leave them undisturbed on your entire lawn. However, this approach can be too simplistic, as your lawn is an artificially created landscape. Leaving leaves on the lawn can lead to them being compacted under snow, hindering grass growth. Plus, come spring, you'll still have a layer of rotting leaves. Therefore, we recommend clearing the leaves and using them, for instance, for compost.

With these steps, your lawn will be better equipped to endure the challenges of winter and emerge lush and green in the spring.