Preparing Your Lawn For Winter

Preparing Your Lawn For Winter

In east Idaho the month of October brings dramatic changes in the weather. Average highs typically start out in the low 70’s and end in the upper 40’s with plenty of hard freezes. With the change in temperatures our lawns begin to slow down and prepare for winter. There are several things we can do to ensure that our lawn is in the best possible shape to survive the long Idaho winter and bounce back lush and green next spring.

Fall feeding. This is the most important feeding of the year for your lawn because all of the food goes straight to the root rather than just making the leaves grow faster. That’s why I developed Town & Country Premium Lawn Winterizer specifically for our soils and climate in east Idaho. The high potassium content helps the lawn survive the stressful conditions of winter and the slow release nitrogen gives a reserve for the lawn to bounce back quickly in the spring.

Purple tinge seen on lawn with crabgrass infestation

Fall weeding. Fall is an excellent time to kill weeds like dandelions in the lawn, but don’t wait too long. Most lawn weed killers are not effective at temperatures below 60 degrees. However Fertilome Weed Free Zone is the exception. It works well when applied when temperatures are in the 50’s and 60’s.

Close-up of crabgrass in fall

Late fall is a good time to prevent crabgrass also. Best results come from applying Dimension herbicide in November. One of the best is Hi Yield Ornamental Turf and Weed Stopper. This granular product is applied like fertilizer and prevents the seeds from sprouting next spring. It can also be applied next March if preferred.However it does not work on quack grass or most other weedy lawn grasses we have around here. You’ll know if you have crabgrass if you see patches in your lawn that have a definite purplish tinge this time of year. Look closely and you will see the seed heads with millions of tiny reddish seeds. Those are the little devils you don’t want germinating next spring.

Fall watering. I like to just turn off my automatic sprinkler clock this time of year. I just hit “Run” to let it run through all the zones when I see the lawn is getting a little dry. When you have watered for the last time be sure to winterize your sprinkler system by shutting off the water supply and blowing out the system. Also be sure to disconnect the hoses from your outside faucets so your faucets don’t freeze.

Fall mowing. The lawn’s growth slows with the cooler weather this time of year and usually stops entirely in mid to late October. On the last mowing of the season I like to mow my lawn as short as possible. I catch the clippings and put them on the garden to be tilled into the soil. Mowing low can be difficult because you are pulling up a lot of old dead grass, but your lawn will green up more quickly next spring because it won’t have all that dead grass left from winter to come up through.

Leaf raking. Depending on how many trees you have, leaf raking can be a fun fall activity, a great source of cardio workout, or just plain old fashioned work. We once had a country home surrounded by huge old cottonwoods that left so many leaves in our yard we used the tractor’s front end loader to haul them off. A few leaves on the lawn is not a big deal, but you don’t want so many leaves that they form a mat over the winter that can smother the lawn. The leaves you rake off the lawn can be tilled into the garden or flower beds or used as mulch to protect perennials and roses.