The leaves are falling, the air is chilly, and you're due for snow soon. You may have dusted off your snow boots and stocked up on hot chocolate, but have you prepared your lawn for the months of snow and frost to come?
Winter may sound like an odd time to take care of yard work, but you need to plan months in advance for a lush lawn next year. To make your lawn fresh and healthy in the spring, take care of these chores now.
Rake the Leaves
Sure, it's fun to crunch leaves as you walk and play in leaf piles with your kids. But don't let laziness get the best of you. Raking leaves is the most important step to a beautiful, healthy spring lawn.
Though autumn leaves make for great compost, they won't nourish your grass over the winter. Instead, leaves will make your lawn brown and patchy by blocking the sun. So rake them up and bring them to the curb. You can find bigger leaf piles in public parks anyway.
If you have a compost pile in the backyard, you can add your gathered leaves to it. Next spring, these leaves can nourish the grass instead of making it sickly.
Keep on Mowing
Did you think you were done with mowing just because leaves started falling? Think again. Mow your lawn until the grass stops growing, and you'll have a more beautiful lawn in the spring and a lawn that's easier to rake now. Plus, any extra dead grass could choke your lawn when the snow melts again.
If there aren't too many leaves on your lawn, you can mow over them. By crushing the leaves to tiny bits, you'll give your lawn much-needed nourishment to prepare for the months of snow ahead.
Aerate Your Lawn
Chances are, your grass will spend much of winter smothered under a layer of snow. Autumn is the time to get fresh air to your lawn's roots, especially after months of picnic lunches, games of tag, and summer yard work compact the soil. Compacted soil prevents roots from getting the air and nutrients they need. Fix that problem before your grass has to hibernate.
Aerate at least a couple weeks before the first snow of the season. Your lawn needs time to heal and grow its roots together again.
After a healthy growing season, the soil around your lawn may lack some key nutrients. Once you aerate and heal your lawn, add a great fertilizer or the contents of your compost pile to make the soil rich and healthy again.
Turn Off the Sprinkler Systems and Store the Lawnmower
When temperatures start to sink below freezing, turn off your sprinkler system. You don't want to start off the winter with a burst pipe and a layer of ice in your backyard.
With the water shut off, you can safely pack up the rest of your lawn-care tools. When you stow your lawnmower, however, siphon the gas out of the tank, disconnect the spark plugs, and drain oil from the engine. Fluids left in the mower over winter can leave residue on the machinery that could cause rust and worse performance in the future.
While your mower is down for the winter, you can remove the blades, sharpen them, and clean out the undercarriage. By spring, you'll have a clean machine ready for another season of regular mowing.
Before the first frost, head to your local home improvement store to pick up fertilizer, rent an aerator, and learn how to winterize your lawnmower. If you need more personalized help, call a local landscaping company. They'll know enough about the local grass species, the soil quality, and the climate to prepare your lawn for the months ahead.
Have a great winter!