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Winterize Your Lawn

Take a few moments now to care for your lawn and you will be rewarded with a healthier turf next year.


Fall is the best time to improve your lawn.Is your lawn prepared for winter?

Take a few moments now to care for your lawn and you will be rewarded with a healthier turf next year.

Mulching/Raking Leaves. Most gardeners manage their leaves by shredding them with a mulching mower. The lawn will not suffocate from the mulched leaves as long as you can see the grass blades after mowing.  Thick layers of leaves must be raked; otherwise the lawn could be smothered and suffer disease problems next spring.

Mowing. Mow your turf after it has stopped growing. A tall turf is bad during winter. The tall grass blades will attract voles and other critters. A tall turf gets matted down by snow and becomes susceptible to diseases. 

Fertilizing. Fertilizing the lawn this late in fall is not recommended. Our lawns are going dormant and will absorb very little of the nutrients this late in the season. Any fertilizer that remains on frozen ground is at risk of running off the land. Let’s wait to fertilize in spring.

Killing Weeds. Weeds should be sprayed when they are actively growing. Mid- to late September was the most effective time to control weeds. Weeds can be sprayed after a frost if the leaves appear not to be damaged.

Watering. Fall 2019 has been extremely wet. Lawns do not need to be irrigated.

Sowing Seed. The best time to sow grass seed is in early fall (August 15–September 20). We missed that opportunity.

You can still “dormant seed” your lawn in late October or November. The seed will stay dormant through winter and then germinate in spring. Dormant seeding works best in level sites where soil will not wash away during the spring thaw.

If you dormant seed, do not use a crabgrass preventer next spring. The crabgrass herbicide will kill all germinating grass seedlings, including your desirable lawn grass seedlings.

Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. The photo was made available under Creative Commons licenses specified by the photographer, all allowing for adaptation, modification or building upon: Auntie P.

Filed under: Horticulture, Lawn, Tom Kalb, Fall, Grass
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