Simple Tips to Prepare Your Lawn for Winter
Due to the constant rain last year, our lawns were in pretty good shape when fall rolled around. We got spoiled. But this summer was typical as far as Annapolis weather goes...it was brutally hot and devoid of much in the way of rain so your lawn should look pretty depressing about now. But the good news is that's how our lawns generally look in mid-September, so we know how to handle it. The work you put in now will pay off in spades come spring.
The first thing you're going to want to do is bring in a sample of your soil. Take a small spadeful from various spots in your lawn, put them in separate plastic baggies, and bring them in so we can test for free. We want to make sure that you are not over-treating your lawn with product that you don't need to save time and money. With a few simple tests, we can determine what you require to build your soil into a health medium for your lawn.
If you're going to dethatch and core-aerate your lawn, fall is the only time to do that. Thatch is the layer of dead grass, roots, and debris that accumulates between the soil surface and the grass blades above. It looks like a light mat of whitish/grayish fluff at the base of your lawn. Less than half an inch of thatch is good but if it is too thick, rain does not drain correctly and you risk fungus problems. Generally, if you have too much thatch in your lawn, you are over-fertilizing throughout the year. You can de-thatch manually with vigorous raking, but renting a dethatching machine makes quick work out of this tough and tedious job. The same goes for aerating.
Core-aerating removes plugs of soil from ground which has been baked to a hard crust during the summer and loosens up the soil to allow roots to establish. After you've prepared the soil, it's time to overseed or repair bare spots. Growing grass from seed in the summer is next to impossible due to the intense heat, even if you water. Fall, on the other hand, is perfect for seeding as the ground is warm, the air is cool, and there is plenty of time for new grass to establish itself before winter sets in. Follow the directions for overseeding and then water, water, water! Then water some more. We cannot emphasize enough that you must keep your seed and newly sprouted grass hydrated to the tune of AT LEAST one inch of water per week.
If you are not overseeding this fall, then feel free to fertilize anytime before November 1. However, if you ARE putting down seed, you must either wait six weeks before putting down fertilizer or use earth-friendly Milorganite® or Jonathan Green Winter Survival®, which not only benefit the lawn you do have, they can also be used when you put down grass seed. If you use corn gluten as a fertilizer and weed preventer, you’ll need to put down your fall application six weeks before or after you put down grass seed.
That's all there is to it! Test, thatch, aerate, seed, and fertilize. And you may not even have to thatch, which makes it easier! Try and minimize walking on the lawn as the seeds sprout and, again, water! We have plenty of automatic hose timers to make life easier. If you have any questions, come on in to our Garden Supply department and we'd be thrilled to help!