Unlike hedgehogs and butterflies, your lawn doesn’t hide away for the winter. In our winter lawn care special we’re looking at some seasonal hints and tips to keep your garden carpet looking great all year round.
Winter lawn care: essential jobs
- Maximise ventilation to minimise lawn diseases
- This is moss breeding season – apply a treatment now
- Keep mowing while your lawn is growing
- Keep roots healthy with nutritious lawn feeds
- Apply a seaweed tonic to keep the colour vibrant
- Avoid soil compaction
- Protect from damage in frosty weather
- Plan your spring renovations
Keeping those common lawn diseases at bay
Most lawn diseases in the UK are caused by fungal infections. And what do fungi love? Mild, damp conditions with poor ventilation.
Just like catching colds, you cannot control whether or not your lawn succumbs to fusarium patch or redthread disease, but you can take steps to prevent a breakout.
- Take all of the garden furniture and toys off the lawn for winter. You probably won’t want to use them anyway. This allows light and air to get to every blade of grass.
- Sweep up all of those fallen leaves. It’s a bit of a chore I know but trust me, if you leave them down you will have problems by spring. If not with lawn diseases there’ll be baldy bits where the grass has suffocated.
- Don’t let the grass get too long – there’s a section on mowing later in this article
- Scarify your lawn in autumn. Provided the weather is mild enough, removing most of the thatch layer will improve ventilation and drainage. Thus avoiding creating the conditions that fungal diseases love.
- At the first sign of discoloured patches in your lawn, apply a lawn disease control treatment. https://www.turfonline.co.uk/turf-tools-and-equipment/lawn-disease-control/
- Trim back trees and hedges while the plants are dormant and birds are not nesting. This will help reduce shade and improve air flow around the lawn all year round.
Treat that pesky moss
Moss is a primordial plant that cannot breed without water. So the steps you’ve taken to keep lawn disease at bay will also help to control moss.
If moss is a problem in your lawn, you are definitely not alone. Now is a good time to treat it.
Start by scarifying – take out all of the existing plants (it’s a great way to burn calories on an autumn day)
Now aerate the lawn – lets get that drainage working!
Next, feed your lawn. This will help the grass bounce back after the renovations.
After a couple of days, it’ll be OK to apply Iron Sulphate. Iron Sulphate is available in most garden centres but it’s not usually a branded product so can be hard to spot. I usually have to ask a member of staff. You could buy a proprietary moss killer, but it’s usually a lot more expensive. Simply spread the powder over your lawn. The early morning dew should “water it in”. It won’t take long before any remaining moss turns black but the real benefit is that any spores that germinate will be terminated before they turn into moss plants.
Winter lawn mowing
While the soil temperature is 6 degrees celcius or more, your lawn will keep on growing. Bear in mind that soil is quite good at retaining the heat of the sun so it will generally be warmer than the air. Growth will be slower than in spring time, so you may only need to mow once every two or three weeks.
Unless the grass is frosted or a really hard frost is forecast, you will not damage your lawn by mowing it in winter time.
Be sure to have really sharp blades on your mower and lift them a little. 3-5cm is a good length for a winter lawn.
Feeding your lawn in winter
Because your lawn is still growing, it’s important to keep up with your feeding regime. Even when the grass above soil level appears to be static, the roots will be working like fury to sustain the plants.
Be sure to use the correct formulation for the time of year. In winter it’s important that your lawn has access to plenty of phosphorus (for strong root growth) and potassium (for disease resistance and frost hardiness). Be vary sparing with nitrogen at this time of year – without the support of sunlight it can encourage weak, sappy, disease prone growth.
The Turfonline Team strongly recommend Rejuvenator Feed from Harrowden Turf. It has just the right balance of nutrients for a family lawn with an average amount of wear and tear.
Lawn tonics for extra green-ness
Sometimes in winter, grass naturally loses a little of its lustre. That’s normal, but you can do something about it. A seaweed tonic contains lots of iron and other micro-nutrients that are absorbed by the grass leaves and improve not just the health of the grass, but the colour too.
Our good friends at Premier Lawns in Belfast have written an article explaining lawn tonics in more detail. You can read it here.
Avoid soil compaction
Once of the things that causes most problems in lawns is soil compaction. Roots need water and air in order to thrive. And for those two vital components to be in your soil, the structure must be right.
Soil is made up from millions of tiny particles of minerals, silt and organic matter. In healthy soil, air and water flow freely between the particles. If however, the soil is squished, the air and water are pushed out and the soil particles squeeze closer together making it hard for that air to return.
Compaction is simply a consequence of using your lawn. In some ways it’s a positive thing because a garden would be no fun if you could never explore it. But it’s important to avoid compaction when at all possible.
Winter is when your lawn is most vulnerable. When soils are wet, they are more likely to be compressed (which is why you don’t see farmers working their fields when they’re muddy). Try to avoid walking on the lawn when it’s sodden. If you do need to be on there for essential garden maintenance, use some turf laying boards to spread your weight. PS Turf laying boards are great for standing a ladder on while you trim trees and hedges. They also make it easier to push your wheelbarrow across the lawn.
Your lawn in frost and snow
The rule here is simple. NEVER walk on your lawn in frosty weather.
Each blade of grass is made up of millions of cells, each one is important to the life of the plant. In simple terms, a plant cell is like a water balloon. Only it has a very thin skin. When the cell is at normal temperature, it can flex and squish out of shape when trodden on and then bounce back when the pressure is released. That doesn’t happen when it’s frozen. With the liquid contents turned solid, pressure will simply break the cell wall. The plant won’t repair it until warmer weather comes and so what you end up with is millions of dead cells. In turn they become dead leaves and what you’ll see after the thaw are brown, footprint shaped dead patches in your lawn. YUK.
Plan your spring lawn renovations
- While its frosty outside and you cannot walk on your lawn, you can take the opportunity to plan ahead for spring.
- Service your lawnmower and sharpen the blade.
- Order in your spring/summer fertiliser so you’ll be ready to go as soon as the weather changes
- Pre-book your scarifier and aerator hire – these things will be in high demand come March.
- If you need help with your spring lawn care, start looking for a reputable lawn care company