When caring for your lawn there are certain times of year that require much more maintenance from mowing, leaf removal, weeding, watering, and more. Winter seems to be the time of year we kick our feet up, enjoy the holidays and forget about our lawns. However, just like summer bodies are built in the winter there is a wide range of tasks you can do during the winter months to keep your lawn healthy year long.
Our complete guide to winter lawn care will cover everything from before the first frost through the winter months and when to begin spring maintenance. We also cover some tips and tricks to keep your lawn attractive even in the dead of winter.
Before the First Frost
The bulk of what will make the difference in your lawn all winter long is the lead up to the winter months. There is an entire other list of best practices when it comes to fall lawn maintenance but what we are going to focus on is putting your lawn to bed. In the winter your lawn actually becomes dormant and to make sure it has a rejuvenating sleep there are a couple of steps to complete.
- Aeration – Lawn aeration reduces compaction that can occur with snowfall and frost. Creating 1”-3” deep cores in your lawn allows air and nutrients to freely enter the grass roots and keep your lawn from suffocating over the winter. Late season aerations on warm grass types should be performed before the lawn begins transitioning into dormancy.
- Fertilization – Think of the fertilization process before the first frost as the last feed before hibernation. You want to make sure your lawn has all the nutrients it freely gets in the growing season with long sunny days in a form it can digest in a dormant phase. We recommend fertilization multiple times a year on a schedule however ensuring proper fertilization before the first frost is also essential.
- Leaf/Debris Removal – With autumn comes falling leaves and while leaf removal is a labor-intensive task, it is absolutely necessary to ensure your lawn doesn’t experience compaction or suffocation during winter. It is important to remove all leaves, pine needles, sticks, and other debris from your lawn before the first frost. We suggest leaf removal a few times throughout the fall season to make it easier to keep up with as the months get colder here in Atlanta.
- Fresh Cut – The last item on our pre frost checklist is a fresh short trim. Lower your mower blades on your mower to give the lawn a short cut. Longer grass can cause compaction once the snow begins to fall so its best to keep in short going into the winter.
- Preventative Weed Control – During dormancy, your grass may be resting, but winter weeds are not. Common seasonal weeds can germinate low beneath the soil and eventually sprout through the surface, resulting in a bright green eyesore in a pale dormant lawn. Pre-emergents should be applied in fall and winter to prevent these weeds from germinating and will make lawn maintenance in the spring much more manageable.
Grass Dormancy During Snowfall & Freezing Temperatures
So what really happens to your grass during the winter? Dormancy is the word we use to explain the hibernation effect that most plant life takes during the offseason. Plant life that comes back every year never dies, and the same goes for your grass. Your grass can sense the changing seasons and it begins to prepare by deepening its roots in the soil.
To care for your dormant grass the checklist is pretty brief however there are a few items that can have a big impact on how your overall lawn looks come spring.
- Limit Traffic – The biggest tip we can give during snowfall is to stay off the lawn! When walking on snow-covered grass, the grass gets compacted underneath. The more often you walk and especially if you create pathways or walkways on top of snow-covered grass the higher the likelihood the grass will die and develop patches.
- Shovel Walkways & Driveways – While this might not seem like lawn care by creating walkways and areas for you and your guests to park it makes it easier for the lawn to stay untouched. If driveways are not properly plowed it’s hard to tell where the driveway ends and the edge of the lawn begins, also increasing the likelihood of driving on the edges of the lawn. It’s best to put the focus on snow removal on these surfaces to keep your lawn pristine.
- Spot Treat Weeds – Here in Atlanta, we don’t get a lot of snow. That means our lawns go dormant due to low temperatures but we can still see the grass in our lawns. This can actually make weeds more prominent. When you see the green weeds among your grass you can go out and spot treat them with solutions that kill the weeds at the root but don’t affect the grass. We only recommend this once or twice during the winter as we don’t want to much compaction from walking on the lawn.
- Treat the Soil – During the offseason, a recommended annual maintenance practice is to apply potassium and limestone to your lawn. Potassium is used to strengthen to root systems so the lawn can better protect itself from harsh winter temperatures, drought, and disease. Limestone balances the pH of the soil to make sure everything is in tip-top shape for Spring.
Grasses for Winter Temperatures in Atlanta
There are a lot of different types of grasses however most can be categorized as warm weather or cool weather grasses. Warm weather grasses as you can guess are more typically found in climates where frost is uncommon to non-existent where cool weather grasses are most common in areas that have a typical winter season.
While Atlanta has often been endearingly called Hot-Lanta we still have freezing temperatures in the winter putting most of our residential grasses in the cool weather categories. The most common grasses in Atlanta include:
- Bermudagrass – although a warm-season grass Bermuda grass fight drought, heat, traffic, and is salt tolerant. It also requires full sun and good drainage.
- Centipedegrass – also a warm season, heat-tolerant grass. Suitable for southeast lawns, moderate shade tolerance, and a relatively shallow root system.
- Zoysiagrass – warm-season grass with more shade tolerance than Bermuda. Thrives in areas of mixed sun and light shade, suitable for southern lawns and transition zones with moderate heat and drought tolerance.
- Tall Fescue – cool-season grass although it has improved heat tolerance, suitable for northern and transition zones, disease-resistant, and grows in a bunch-forming habit. Active growing season from Fall to Spring and should not be exposed to full sun.
- St. Augustine – warm-season grass, grows best during warm months between 80-100 degrees, drought and heat tolerant, ideal for coasts.
All Year Round Plants To Compliment Winter Landscaping
There are things you can do to your landscaping to have curb appeal all year round. The best way to keep your lawn looking great even in the winter months is to work with winter-blooming plants, trees, and bushes. Adding these types of hearty plants to your landscape allows greenery to adorn your home no matter the weather.
Some of the best all-weather landscaping to shop for include:
- Evergreen Trees – Typically associated with the Christmas Tree evergreen tree’s come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and shades of green. Rows of evergreens can add privacy, define your yard, and add color during the winter months.
- Winter Berry Bushes & Shrubs – Many shrubs have brightly colored berries that become very vibrant in winter. Some notable berry bushes include holly, firethorn, winterberry, and beautyberry.
- Red Twig Dogwood – In the summer this varietal is covered in white flowers however once winter comes the red twig dogwood really shines with its brightly colored red branches in full view.
When To Switch To Spring Lawn Care
While it seems when in the thick of it winter will never end, the truth is Spring does com
e and so does spring lawn care. When should you start to think about spring lawn care? In Atlanta, our spring is pretty consistent with the calendar. Starting in mid-March temperatures warm up to start thawing the soil and signs of budding begin to appear.
Once the temperature reaches the high 50’s to low 60’s Fahrenheit it is time to start thinking about your springtime lawn. For more information on springtime lawn maintenance, check out our complete guide to spring lawn care!
We hope this gives some insight into how to care for your lawn in the winter months here in Atlanta, as well as how to spruce up your landscaping year-round. For help with your Atlanta Lawn contact All Turf Lawn Care. We provide a wide range of services including, aeration, overseeding, shrub and ornamental care and more. Give us a call at 770-554-5478 for a free estimate today!