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What should I do to prepare my lawn for winter?

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A

The cooler temperatures have probably strengthened your lawn after the hot, dry summer. Grass color and density have likely improved. Consider these tips to enhance the grass’s recovery and to prepare your lawn for winter. Keep in mind that the things you do now for your lawn play a key role in how well it will fare during next summer’s hot, dry months.

Stop your lawn irrigation. As cooler weather intensifies, grass does not need as much irrigation as it did during the heat of the summer. Now is the perfect opportunity to conserve water. A great deal of water can be wasted in the fall because irrigation controllers are not adjusted for cooler temperatures.

Prepare for the final mowing. As the weather gets cooler, your lawn will grow more slowly. At some point soon, you will perform your last mowing of the growing season. This is a critical time in the life and health of your lawn. A healthy mowing height of 2 1/2 –3 1/2 inches promotes root growth and stress tolerance during the summer, but your final mowing height of the season should be much shorter. A mowing height of 1 to 1 1/2 inches will reduce the chances of snow mold disease. Grass blades left long over the winter can lie over and increase humidity beneath snow cover. If there is lengthy snow cover, snow mold disease may occur.

Apply your last fertilization. After your final mowing is the best time to apply your last fertilization of the growing season. Nitrogen is of primary concern. Following the last mowing, apply 1 pound of quick-release nitrogen fertilizer per thousand square feet of lawn. It is important to use a quick-release nitrogen source so that grass can take it up before going dormant when the cold weather hits. This is probably the most critical fertilization of the entire growing season and should not be missed. Research has shown that this late fall fertilization provides the most benefit and drought tolerance to the lawn the following summer. These simple steps will ensure that your lawn makes it through the winter and is healthy and strong next summer.

Posted on 29 Oct 2004

Kelly Kopp
Water Conservation & Turfgrass Specialist

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