How to prepare your lawn for winter

How to prepare your lawn for winter

Preparing your lawn for winter is essential in maintaining its health and ensuring it emerges in spring as vibrant and lush as it was before the cold set in. This preparation helps to protect your grass from the harsh conditions of winter and sets the foundation for robust growth when temperatures rise. 

This guide will dive into various strategies tailored to different grass types and climates, ensuring your lawn receives the best care possible during the colder months. Let's dive in!

Understand your grass type

Identify grass type (cool-season or warm-season)

The first step in effective lawn winterisation is knowing whether your grass is a cool-season variety like Kentucky bluegrass and fescue, which thrive in cooler weather, or a warm-season type like Bermuda or Zoysia, which are more suited to warmer climates. This knowledge guides all subsequent care and treatment decisions.

Determine specific winter needs

Cool-season grasses generally need ongoing care during colder months, including feeding and sometimes mowing, as they continue to grow. In contrast, warm-season grasses usually go dormant and require different strategies to ensure they wake up healthy in the spring.

Assess the lawn's current condition

Inspect your lawn thoroughly for any signs of weakness or existing damage, such as uneven growth, bare patches, or signs of pest infestation. Addressing these issues before the winter can prevent further deterioration during cold weather.

Time your preparation correctly

The timing of your lawn care activities is crucial. For cool-season grasses, late fall is typically the best time for most maintenance tasks, as the grass is still active. Warm-season grasses should be prepared before they go dormant in late summer or early fall.

Follow best winter care practices

Educate yourself on the best practices for your grass type, including optimal mowing heights, fertilisation types, and schedules. These practices are often detailed in local gardening guides or can be provided by a professional landscaper.

Adjust your mowing routine

Lower mower height gradually

Instead of abruptly cutting your grass short, gradually lower the height of your mower with each mow as winter approaches. This gradual reduction helps prevent stress and shock to the grass, which can weaken it ahead of the frosty months.

Time the last cut properly

Timing your last mow of the season is crucial; it should occur just before the growth ceases and the first frost sets in. This timing can vary significantly based on your geographic location and the specific weather patterns of the year.

Avoid cutting too short

It's a common misconception that lawns should be cut very short before winter; however, this can expose the grass's crown to extreme conditions, potentially damaging it. Instead, maintain a slightly longer length to protect the roots.

Keep grass longer to protect roots

Leaving your grass slightly longer over the winter months can help protect the roots from freezing temperatures and provide insulation against the cold wind and frost.

Maintain equipment before storage

End the season by thoroughly cleaning and maintaining your mowing equipment. Sharp blades make cleaner cuts that heal faster, and cleaning the mower prevents rust and ensures it's ready for use in the spring.

Fertilise for future growth

Select appropriate fertiliser

Choosing the right fertiliser is crucial. For many regions and grass types, a winter fertiliser rich in potassium is ideal as it aids in root development and enhances the grass's resistance to cold and disease.

Benefit from fall application

Fertilising in the fall helps strengthen the grassroots, which is essential for enduring the winter months. This application should be timed to coincide with the last few cuts of the season when the grass is still absorbing nutrients.

Fertilise before the first frost

Applying your chosen fertiliser before the ground freezes allows it to dissolve and be absorbed by the soil, providing sustained nourishment to your lawn throughout the winter.

Avoid over-fertilising

While it might be tempting to give your lawn a significant nutrient boost before winter, over-fertilising can lead to nutrient runoff and might even burn the grass, leading to weakened plants that are less able to cope with winter stress.

Consider organic soil enhancers

Incorporating organic material like compost or manure can improve soil texture and fertility, providing a natural boost to the grass. These materials help improve the soil's water retention and nutrient profile, which supports healthier grass growth.

Manage leaves and debris

Remove leaves regularly

Leaves left on the lawn can form a wet, suffocating blanket that blocks light and air from reaching the grass. Regular removal helps prevent fungal diseases and ensures the grass blades can breathe and receive sunlight.

Mulch leaves into the lawn

If you prefer not to remove leaves entirely, utilise a mulching mower to chop them into small pieces that eventually decompose and return nutrients to the soil. This method also reduces waste and enhances soil health.

Prevent wet leaves from matting

Ensure that any leaves are promptly removed after rainfall or irrigation to prevent them from forming dense mats that can smother the grass and foster disease environments.

Use gentle raking/blowing tools

Select tools that are gentle on the grass to prevent damaging the blades or pulling them out of the soil. Soft-tined rakes or leaf blowers set to a lower power setting can be effective without being harsh.

Clear debris to avoid pests

Fallen branches and other garden debris can harbour pests over the winter. Keeping your lawn clear reduces the risk of pest infestations that can lead to bigger problems in the spring.

Watering and other maintenance

Adjust watering for colder temps

Reducing the watering frequency is essential as the temperature drops and your grass's growth slows. Overwatering during colder months can lead to ice formation in the soil, which can damage the root systems.

Avoid overwatering

Water only when necessary based on the weather and soil moisture levels. Overwatering can potentially lead to shallow root systems that are less drought-tolerant and more susceptible to frost damage.

Aerate for better nutrient uptake

Aerating your lawn helps relieve soil compaction, allowing air, water, and nutrients to deeply penetrate the ground and reach the grass roots more effectively. This process helps the roots grow deeper, strengthening the overall health of your lawn.

Aerate late in the season

Performing aeration in late fall ensures that the holes you create will remain open during the winter, improving drainage and reducing the likelihood of water pooling, which can lead to turf diseases.

Repair damages pre-winter

If you notice any areas of your lawn that are uneven or have become compacted, take the time to repair them before the winter. This might include reseeding bare patches or applying a thin layer of topsoil to even out the surface.

Protect your lawn from the cold

Use insulating methods

Covering your property's lawn with a thin layer of organic mulch can provide insulation and protect the roots from extreme temperatures. Materials like straw or shredded bark can be effective, particularly for younger or newly seeded lawns that may be more vulnerable to frost damage.

Apply lawn blankets for severe cold

For regions experiencing severe cold snaps, consider using fabric lawn blankets or frost cloths. These covers help retain heat and moisture around the grass, shielding it from frost and freezing winds.

Reduce foot traffic on frozen grass

Walking on frozen grass can break the brittle grass blades and damage the roots. Encourage family and visitors to stick to walkways and patios during the coldest months.

Minimise salt damage

Salt can harm your lawn when used to melt ice on driveways and walkways. Try to use less damaging alternatives like sand or calcium chloride, and be mindful of where the runoff goes after snow melts.

Plant winter-resistant grasses

Consider integrating winter-resistant grass varieties into your lawn if your area is prone to harsh winters. These types can withstand colder temperatures and recover more quickly in the spring.

Monitor and manage pests and diseases

Identify common winter pests/diseases

Stay vigilant for signs of pest activity or disease, such as discoloured grass, thinning patches, or unusual insect activity. Winter can bring different challenges, with some pests lying dormant and diseases developing in cold, wet soil.

Take preventive actions

Before winter sets in, treat any identified pest infestations or diseases. This might involve applying appropriate pesticides or fungicides and following recommended safety and application guidelines to avoid damaging the grass.

Recognise signs of infestation

Understanding the early signs of lawn pests and diseases can help you take swift action. Look for irregular growth patterns, discolouration, or wilting, all indicating underlying issues.

Use safe pesticides/fungicides

Choose products that are safe for use on lawns, ideally, ones that are environmentally friendly and specifically designed for residential use. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for application to prevent overuse and protect other plants and wildlife.

Treat early to prevent spring issues

Addressing pests and diseases promptly can prevent them from becoming severe and limit the likelihood of significant damage when the lawn returns to active growth in the spring.


Preparing your property's lawn for winter involves a combination of good practices tailored to your specific lawn type and local climate conditions. If you need further guidance on preparing your lawn for winter or have specific concerns about your landscaping needs, don't hesitate to contact a professional landscaping service. Expert lawn advice can make the difference between a good lawn and a great one.

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