Late Fall Lawn Care Tips – Prepare Your Lawn For Winter

Cool Season Lawns Winter Preparation

Another growing season has come and gone. For us cool season lawn care enthusiasts, the past seven months have flown by and it’s time to put our pride and joy down for a long winter’s nap.

After you fall renovations and overseedings are complete, follow these very important late fall lawn care tips to ensure your grass is well prepared for the long winter months ahead.

Clean the lawn

Don’t leave leaves and debris on your lawn over winter. I made this mistake my rookie year and woke up in April to snow mold galore. Not to mention the extra spring clean-up needed, when all I wanted to go was to get mowing and throwing down. 

Removed as much leaves, sticks and debris as possible. I personally don’t recommend mulching and leaving leaves on the ground over winter – bag them up and recycle in your compost pile. 

Lower the height of cut (HOC)

The final cut of the season should be 1-2″ lower than your normal height. Depending on Mother Nature, this is usually in mid to late November. I aim for 2-2.5 inches for the final mow.

As always, take the height down gradually. Leaving the grass taller, like your normal everyday mowing height in May, can keep your grass greener throughout the winter. However, taller grass can also be more susceptible to snow mold and other funguses in the spring. 

A clean lawn and a short cut will set you up for both winter survival, and early spring success. 

Winter Fertilization 

Your last fertilizer application of the year is going to be before the ground freezes, and after the last final mow of the year. We want to add some Nitrogen (N) to the lawn to provide benefits next year. The Nitrogen that’s applied in the late fall will help green up your lawn in the spring when soil temps begin to approach 50-55 degrees. However, too much Nitrogen applied late in the season promotes more top growth in the lawn – this is a time where the cool season grasses become dormant. This excessive “winter” growth will foster spring diseases, like red thread and snow mold.

You also want to make sure the fertilizer does not contain any herbicides, fungicides, or insecticides. 

Potassium (K), is an essential “all around” vitamin for the grass. Potassium helps it ward-off diseases during cold, harsh winters, and helps the lawns absorb more nutrients in the soil.  Grasses use potassium to effectively make proteins and starches to store for the winter.

I suggest using Jonathan Green’s Winter Survival. Its formula using our trusty Nitrogen Calculator, the 10-0-20 formulation delivers just 1/3 pound of N per 1,000 ft² and will help the lawn bounce back in the spring. 

Winter Lawn Care Wrap-up

  • Clean the lawn of leaves and debris
  • Bag your clippings
  • Lower the HOC
  • Final mow of the season: 2-2.5″
  • Apply a winter fertilizer
    • Before the ground freezes, and after the final cut of the year
    • Nitrogen, No Phosphorus, High Potassium
    • Recommended 10-0-20
  • Limit foot traffic on frozen lawns
  • Use a calcium chloride snow/ice melter on walkways near grass and plants 

Sources: Jonathan Green & LCN

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