Preparing Your Lawn for Winter

Fall Leaves
September 27, 2019

For many homeowners, as the temperatures begin to cool in the fall, our focus turns to indoor home improvement projects. But before you put your mower and garden tools away for the season, there are several things you can do to get your lawn ready for the colder months. And with a little work now, your lawn will be in great shape in the spring.

Rake Those Leaves

In parts of the country that have seasons, those colorful autumn leaves eventually end up on the ground. And if you leave them there, they will block light and trap moisture, making an ideal breeding ground for weeds and decaying grass. While it may seem obvious, it doesn't hurt to remind yourself to keep raking leaves as they come down.

Keep Mowing

Until I owned a home, I had no idea how long into the fall I'd have to continue mowing. I don't have a self-propelled mower, so I'm not a huge fan of mowing. But I figured out if I don't keep mowing until the first hard frost, my lawn looks much worse for the wear in the spring. One thing I recently learned is that you should adjust the height of your mower in the fall so the grass is no longer than 2 to 2 1/2 inches. If the grass is too long, you're more likely to have mold and moss. But if it's too short, the root system won't be able to withstand the colder temperatures.

Don't Stop Watering Yet

Like most people, I've always assumed that once the temperatures start to drop, it's safe to stop watering my lawn. Granted, I live in Oregon, where it rains - a lot. So this assumption isn't too far-fetched. Whether your lawn gets water from the sky or from your sprinklers, make sure it's getting at least an inch a week until the end of October. You can either buy a rain gauge for less than $5, or you can put some cans or jars in different places on your lawn and measure the water in them. As long as you're getting an inch a week through Halloween, your lawn will be ready for the winter months.

Get Those Weeds!

Until I started learning how to take care of my own yard, I had no idea that fall is the best time to get rid of perennial weeds. Unlike annual weeds that sprout of from seeds and die off every year, perennial weeds have roots that can lie dormant all winter. And as soon as spring starts - they pop right back up! Most broadleaf weed killers will get rid of these pests. But if you'd rather try natural options, some sites online suggest everything from using boiling water, to vinegar and dish soap, to alcohol (rubbing or cheap vodka), and salt. Some people even suggested burning the weeds with a "weed burner." One of our team members (I won't reveal who) said he's tried the burning method, and it works well. But all of these suggestions came with caveats and warnings, so be sure to do your research before venturing out in your yard with a blow torch!

Thatch and Aerate as Needed

Depending on where you are in the country, you may need to aerate your lawn every couple of years. This basically means using a tool that pulls up small pieces of sod so your lawn can get more oxygen. This helps prevent rot and keeps your lawn healthier. And if you have brown patches of grass, use a rake or a thatching tool to get rid of the dead grass. And the bonus? Thatching provides a great all body workout. I can attest to this firsthand. After a day of thatching, I had sore muscles that I didn't even remember existed.

Reseed and Fertilize

If you have any bare spots from thatching, fall is a good time to reseed those areas. Finish things up by applying a slow-release fertilizer to your entire lawn that will provide nutrients through the fall and winter.

Enjoy the Season!

Once you've taken care of your lawn, you'll have more time to enjoy those crisp fall days and maybe even some hot apple cider. And if you're like me, you'll have more time to get out those Halloween decorations! This weekend is "go time" in our house for spooky decorations, and I need to get my yard taken care of so I can focus on the important things!