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.

7 thoughts on “Preparing Your Lawn For Winter

  1. Thanks for your timely tips. I have heard fall is a good time to reseed a lawn. Is it too late? When is the best time and method?

    • Early fall is a good time to reseed a lawn, but we are beyond the best time now. Mid August to mid September is ideal. Late September is usually okay. But lawns reseeded now are not likely to germinate until spring, which is okay but you do run the risk of losing some of the seed to wind and water erosion before spring. There is also a slight chance (I’ve only seen it happen once) that the lawn could receive an extremely hard frost just as the seed begins to germinate, killing the seedlings. In this case you would have to reseed in the spring. If you are planting a small area you are not risking much so I would go ahead and do it, but if you are planting a large area the risk is probably greater than I would be willing to take this late in the season.

  2. I love your newsletters. They are always so helpful with knowing what to do in my yard and when to do it.

    Since you planted the idea in my head of espaliering fruit trees, I’m looking forward to next spring and giving it a try. Will you be giving any more details or classes on techniques and tips?

  3. Your newsletter is our yard bible. Thank you for posting all the important things to do to yards to keep them going. We really appreciate it. Keep up the good work!!!

  4. Thank you!! I am excited to use your tips to keep up on our lawn and garden. I had not thought to use the grass clippings in the garden soil nor the leaves off of the trees. Thanks for the updates!

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