The Winter Lawn – How to Look After Your Lawns in Winter
The Winter Lawn
Don’t Put Your Lawns to Bed in Winter
by David Hedges-Gower
Timely advice from the UK’s leading lawn expert, based on the book ‘Modern Lawn Care’…
Over the years, we have been told not to bother with our lawns in the winter. But this can be one of the most important times of year for your lawn care and this is why. It’s a very different plant to others in your garden, when many are simply cut back for hibernation. Lawns are still growing (healthy ones are anyway), and whilst they’re growing, they are very susceptible to attack.
Now, it’s too early to say whether we’re in for a cold one this year or if we will be basking in 20 degrees in mid-December (it has been known). But whatever the weather brings, there are some easy but really useful things to be doing. Think ‘preparation and prevention’ and you won’t go wrong.
So, what are the main dangers and how can we defend our lawns?
Our lawn soil air space is constantly under attack through dry weather when soils shrink and wet weather when air space can be filled with water. And like any other plant, the grass in our lawns is only as good as the soil it lives in. So, before it’s too late, give the soil some TLC.
Get yourself a hollow tine fork or even hire a mechanised one and aerate the lawn. It will produce little cores of soil on the surface that you must remove from the lawn – but they make excellent compost or seedbed material.
And don’t bother smearing sand down into those holes. It will ruin your lawn right now and we’re not trying to do a soil exchange program like the sports industry. Leave them open now and they’ll stay open, so when you do get soil movement, they can continue to create little cracks and fissures, perfect for those little lawn roots. Most important of all, the trusty old garden fork can stay in its shed and be used on the vegetable beds and flower beds – what it was designed for!
Debris – and particularly fallen autumn leaves – create the perfect conditions on the lawn surface for diseases. So a simple but vital job is to tidy up. Leaves, branches and twigs, even garden furniture if not fixed in place, should all be removed so that nothing can cover the grass and create dark warm moist areas.
As with aerating the soil, it’s all about getting the air to your lawn. Plus, a little sunshine when the winter skies let it through. If you can see leaves on your lawn for three days in a row, its time to get that springbok rake out.
Yes, we need to think about moss even in the middle of winter. It is very likely that you will have some moss spores in your lawn, and if we hit a mild damp spell they can leap into life and start growing into robust plants. So, applying a simple ferrous sulphate moss killer during the winter gives you and your lawn the edge for next spring.
Don’t waste money on a multi-purpose product with feed – the last thing your tired grass needs in winter is nitrogen. Professional sports turf people just use a simple moss killer in winter and you can too.
The Winter Lawn: Keeping Fit
Both you and your lawn can benefit from a few more small jobs! Why not sort out those edges where the grass has invaded the flower border, or level out any lumps and bumps that have developed?
You can even replace bad patches with new turf if it isn’t freezing. And if the grass is still growing, give it a topping-off mow from time to time. But make sure the blade is nice and sharp – no shredding.
And finally, when the sub-zero temperatures do eventually arrive, try not to walk on a lawn covered with frost. You’ll just bruise the grass. Instead, make some tea and sit by the fire, reviewing last year’s lawn care and making plans for any changes you’ll make next year.