If you live in a climate that experiences freezing temperatures in the winter, you’re probably looking forward to forgetting about your lawn for a few months. But don’t forget about it just yet! Knowing when to stop mowing your grass and how to prep it for cold weather is the key to maintaining a healthy and vibrant lawn throughout the year.
We spoke with Erin Schanen, Troy-Bilt® gardening partner, master gardener volunteer, and creator of The Impatient Gardener blog and YouTube channel, to learn more about caring for your lawn this fall and winter.
Knowing when to stop mowing your grass in preparation for fall and winter is crucial for maintaining a healthy lawn. According to Schanen, it’s not that difficult to tell when you can put away your lawn mower.
“The time to stop mowing is when your lawn goes dormant, and the timing of dormancy will vary depending on the kind of grass and, of course, the temperature in your area,” she said.
So how do you tell when your grass goes dormant? Look at its color. When it starts to turn a tan or brown color, it’s finished for the season.
The exact time of year that your lawn may go dormant will depend on where you live and the type of grass you grow. Cool-season grasses, like Kentucky bluegrass and fescue, tend to go dormant once temperatures stay below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Warm-season grasses, like Bermuda grass and zoysia grass, usually start their nap in the fall when the soil gets to around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
The exact time when you should stop mowing will depend on your individual lawn, said Schanen, so you’ll need to pay attention to its color.
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If you want your lawn to look luscious and healthy in the spring, there are a few things you need to do before temperatures start to drop. According to Schanen, the most important thing to do before you put your lawn mower away is to clear leaves and debris from your lawn.
The easiest way to do this is to use a mulching mower, like Troy-Bilt’s TB210B.
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“For a small amount of leaves, a mulching mower can be used to mulch and return the mulched leaves and grass to the lawn, where they will provide excellent organic matter to improve the health of the grass,” said Schanen.
If you have a lot of leaves on your lawn, you can mulch them and use them in your garden beds or compost piles. You should also think about applying herbicides for weed control in the fall, suggested Schanen. Avoid using these products on new lawns.
You’ll also want to aerate your lawn around this time if you have a compacted lawn or a lawn with a thick layer of thatch. Try to do this in the early fall.
Finally, Schanen recommended using a slow-release fertilizer before your lawn goes dormant if you have cold-season grasses.
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“This is especially important for lawns where clippings have not been left on the lawn during mowing,” she said.
The timing of your application will depend on where you live, but the best time is in October in northern climates and in November in mid-range areas.
Fall can also be a good time to address any bare patches or thin areas in your lawn. While the grass is still active, consider overseeding with a grass seed mix. This can help fill in those sparse spots and promote a thicker, lusher lawn come spring.
Be sure to choose the right grass seed variety for your region and lawn type. Before seeding, prepare the soil by loosening it and removing debris. After seeding, keep the area consistently moist until the new grass establishes itself.
When giving your grass one final trim before the snow falls or when maintaining it throughout fall and winter, Schanen suggested trimming it short to help prevent diseases and fungus problems. Aim for grass that is about two inches high.
“This prevents matting of longer grass and provides good airflow without leaving the roots exposed,” Schanen said.
When it comes to maintaining grass throughout the colder months, Schanen said it’s better to focus on what not to do on your lawn. Avoid walking on it when possible since it won’t be as healthy as during other times of the year.
If you salt your driveway or patio, make sure to avoid getting salt on the grass. It can cause damage and make it harder to care for in the spring. You should also keep this in mind when plowing since salt-filled snow can get piled up on your lawn and kill your grass.
Lastly, don’t forget about your lawn equipment. As the mowing season comes to a close, it’s an excellent time to perform maintenance on your lawnmower and other tools. Sharpen the mower blades, change the oil, and clean the equipment thoroughly. Properly maintaining your lawn tools ensures they’ll be ready for action when spring rolls around.
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Neglected equipment can lead to uneven mowing, torn grass, and other issues that may affect your lawn’s health and appearance next year. By taking care of your tools now, you’ll be well-prepared to care for your lawn in the spring.
Knowing when to stop moving the lawn during colder months is key to maintaining a healthy and vibrant lawn. By following these guidelines, you can maintain a healthy lawn throughout the fall and winter months.