Winter is challenging for lawn owners who want their grass lush and greener. Apart from most grass going into dormancy, it’s crucial to maintain a sustainable height for sufficient sun uptake and prevent snow mold. So, what’s the best grass height for winter?
Short grass is the best option for the winter. You should ensure your grass is maintained at a medium height ranging from 2 to 2.5 inches (5.08 to 6.35 cm) in the late fall. This is the ideal grass height for winter to see your grass thrive and remain lush in spring.
In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss the best grass height for winter to ensure a lush and greener lawn. I’ll also discuss the risks of keeping your grass too long or short in winter. Let’s get started!
Is It Better To Leave Your Grass Long or Short for Winter?
It’s better to leave your grass short but not too short for winter. Cutting the grass too short in winter prevents it from absorbing the sun needed for photosynthesis. On the other hand, leaving the grass long exposes it to snow mold and other fungal diseases.
Winter provides the best environment for fungi to flourish and damage your grass. Think about it this way; in winter, there is a lot of moisture in the environment, one of the requirements for fungi growth. Therefore, ensuring sufficient aeration within the grass is the only way to prevent fungi from damaging your lawn.
Keeping your grass long hinders aeration, creating a conducive environment for fungi to flourish. Moreover, grass stores enough carbohydrates in autumn in preparation for winter. Therefore, fungi and mold can thrive in such a lawn since it has the following favorable conditions:
- Carbohydrates from the grass
- Poor aeration due to long grass
- Sufficient moisture
On the other hand, keeping your grass too short in winter is also catastrophic. According to the National Geographic Society, winter has limited daylight, whereas grass needs light for photosynthesis to produce food (carbohydrates) required for survival.
Cutting your grass too short in winter limits its capacity to produce food through photosynthesis due to insufficient light absorption. Thus, the only way to ensure your grass has sufficient light is by keeping it at a medium height so it can receive the limited daylight.
How To Keep Your Grass Safe for the Winter
Winter is a delicate season for your lawn due to the extremely cold temperatures. In this season, most grasses enter the dormancy stage to preserve the food stored in autumn so it can take them throughout the winter.
You can do a lot as a lawn enthusiast to help your lawn through winter and get back greener in spring.
Here are some tips to keep your grass safe and healthy in winter:
Cut It to the Appropriate Height Before Winter
It’s worth noting that mowing your grass in winter is catastrophic. Apart from damaging the roots, mowing wet grass causes wilting, leading to uneven cuts.
To maintain the appropriate grass height in winter, you must do the last cut in the late fall, just before the colder season sets in. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t mow your grass when the temperatures drop below 40°F (4.44°C).
Most lawn experts suggest cutting grass to at least 3 inches (7.62 cm). However, this is the recommended grass height for the active growing seasons like spring. You can cut the grass slightly higher in the active growing season since the conditions are conducive to allow it to recover from the cuts.
However, for your lawn’s safety, you should lower your lawnmower’s blade to a maximum height of 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) in winter.
Aerate the Lawn
Aerating your lawn is crucial for your lawn as it ensures that air and sun get into the grasses’ roots to eliminate the possibility of mold and fungi development. The excessive moisture in the atmosphere during winter makes it easier for mold to grow on your lawn.
Some ways to aerate your lawn include:
- Spike aeration: This method involves using a spike aerator to poke holes into the lawn. The holes serve as a passage for air, water, and nutrients to get into the roots.
- Core aeration: The core aerator pulls out small cores of soil from your lawn as it moves across. The cores left on the surface of the grass act as mulch and return nutrients to the lawn when they decompose.
- Slice seeding: This method is done at the same time as top dressing. It involves slicing the lawn’s surface to leave small slits that act as a passage for aeration.
Fertilizing (winterizing) your lawn in winter is necessary to give it the nutrients it needs to grow and stay green when spring comes.
Timing is crucial when it comes to winterizing your lawn. You should winterize your lawn in the late fall when the grass is still growing. This ensures that the fertilizer gets into the roots before winter sets in.
When applying fertilizer, you should use a slow-release fertilizer to minimize the possibility of burning the grass. Moreover, you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to apply the fertilizer.
It’s recommended to use potassium-rich fertilizer to winterize your lawn as it strengthens the grass throughout winter.
Clear the Leaves
Most trees shed leaves in autumn, just before winter. The leaves that fall on your lawn can damage the grass by preventing sunlight and air from getting into the roots.
You should, therefore, clear the leaves from your lawn as soon as they fall. You can use a rake or a blower to remove the leaves from your lawn.
Common Lawn Problems in Winter
If you don’t take the appropriate steps to keep your lawn safe in winter, it risks the following problems:
- Fungus: Winter creates damp and cold conditions necessary for fungi and mold growth. These fungi can damage your lawn by causing diseases.
- Ice patches: The excessive moisture in the atmosphere during winter freezes to form ice patches on your lawn. These patches prevent air and sunlight from getting into the roots, which can cause the grass to die.
- Winter kill: This is a condition caused by the combination of extreme cold and drought. The lack of water and nutrients in the roots, combined with the cold, damages the grass, causing it to turn brown or die.
Leaving your grass too short or too tall in winter is a recipe for disaster. While short grasses are at risk of insufficient light, tall ones risk fungi infections. Thus, you should keep your grass at a medium height in winter.