Winterizing Your Lawn
Keep your lawn in the best shape by preparing it properly for winter. This process, known as winterizing the lawn, involves simple steps that don’t require lots of time or money. When you winterize a lawn, you’re paving the way for lush, healthy spring turf.
The first step in winterizing a lawn is knowing what type of grass you have. Warm season turf includes St. Augustine, Bermuda, zoysia and centipede. Cool season turf usually contains Kentucky bluegrass, fescue or perennial ryegrass. Both warm and cool season grasses benefit from precise actions in fall to prepare them for winter.
Cool season grasses grow most strongly in fall. Many lawn care experts recommend that if you choose to fertilize this type of lawn only once each year that you should do so in fall. The lawn fertilizer typically available in fall is called winterizer fertilizer. In most locations, you should aim to apply the winterizer fertilizer in October or November. Check with your local turf care expert on specifics for your location.
The reason that fall fertilizing is so effective is because plants respond to external triggers in fall to start the process of preparing for winter. These triggers are things like temperature and daylength changes. As days shorten and air becomes cooler, plants (including turf grass) respond by slowing their growth and shifting food reserves from leaves to roots. Although the air temperature continues to fall, plant roots remain active in soil. This is true for many different plants, including grass.
Shifting excess nutrients to their roots is the secret to plants’ return each spring. Those stored food reserves are the fuel for spring wake-up. The same is true for your lawn. By fertilizing the grass in fall, you’re feeding the active roots and giving them even more nutrients to store for winter.
When spring arrives with warmer air and longer days, grass blades sense the change and respond by kicking into growth gear, feeding upon those food reserves. Grass that is fed in the fall greens up quickly in spring, growing thick and lush, and a thick lawn crowds out weeds.
When winterizing a lawn, fertilizing is most serious for cool season grasses. Treat warm season lawns differently. In regions where late fall brings freezes, warm season grass typically goes dormant in the winter. In these areas, do not fertilize warm season grasses after September 1st, or you risk feeding new growth that will be damaged by freezes. This type of damage makes roots more vulnerable to stress and damage.