Lawn winterizing helps reduce winter dormancy due to ice and frost formation. Winterizing your lawn ensures the grass has enough stored food to take it through the winter and encourage thick growth. However, you must winterize your lawn at the right time for the best results.
Winterizing a lawn involves applying fertilizer in the late fall. The fertilizer provides grass with the nutrients needed to survive winter. Timing is essential in lawn winterizing since the grass needs to have absorbed nutrients from the fertilizer before winter.
In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss the right time to winterize your lawn. I’ll also discuss the consequences of late winterizing and the right way to winterize your lawn. Keep reading!
Is November Too Late for Winter Fertilizer?
November is not too late for winter fertilizer if you have cool-season grass. These grasses thrive in fall, making this the right time to apply a winterizer fertilizer to your lawn.
On the other hand, if you have warm-season grass, November is indeed too late for winter fertilizer. These grasses enter their dormancy stage in winter to avert the freezing that comes with this season. Therefore, you risk fueling new growth by applying the winter fertilizer after September 1.
New growth in warm-season grass in winter is destroyed by freezing. When this happens, the roots become more susceptible to damage. Consequently, you may not have a smooth and lush lawn in the warmer months when the growing season starts.
Winterizing Cool-Season Grass
Cool-season grasses are those that thrive in the cool of fall and spring. These grasses perform well in temperatures between 65 and 75°F (18.33 and 23.89°C) and can stay green throughout winter.
Here is a list of the main types of cool-season grasses:
- Tall fescue
- Kentucky bluegrass
- Chewings fescue
- Hard fescue
- Perennial ryegrass
- Creeping red fescue
You can winterize your cool-season grasses in two settings:
- Late summer/early fall. Cool-season grass thrives in fall when temperatures are cool. As a result, it’s recommended to apply the winter fertilizer in late summer or early fall so the grass can utilize the nutrients to grow. You should apply half to three-quarters of a nitrogen pound (.23-.34 kg) for every 1000 square feet (92.90 square meters).
- Late fall. This is the period to apply the second dose of winterizer fertilizer to your cool-season grass. The fertilizer provides the grass with the nutrients it needs to survive winter. You should apply one nitrogen pound (.45 kg) per 1000 square feet (92.90 square meters) of lawn.
Based on the above two scenarios, it’s best to winterize your cool-season grasses between October and November.
Winterizing Warm-Season Grass
Warm-season grasses have different growing stages from their cool-season counterparts. Therefore, you have to treat them differently when it comes to winterizing.
Warm-season grass thrives in hot and moist climates. They perform well in temperatures ranging from 75 to 90°F (23.89 to 32.22°C). These grasses include:
- St. Augustine
Warm-season grasses require slow-release nitrogen fertilizer in early autumn. Here is a list of 17 fertilizers high in nitrogen. This is because they’re still growing at this time. However, you must stop fertilizing these grasses by September so they can enter their dormancy stage.
Winterizing warm-season grass after September means the fertilizer will activate the grasses from their dormancy stage. The grass will start growing when it should be dormant. Consequently, freezing damages the forced growth, making the grass more susceptible to pests and diseases.
The Consequences of Late Winterizing or Not Winterizing Your Lawn
There are consequences to late winterizing or not winterizing your lawn. They include:
- Damage to the roots. Applying fertilizer to warm-season grasses late in the fall or not applying fertilizer at all weakens the roots. When this happens, the grass becomes more susceptible to damage from heat, cold, and pests.
- Loss of color. Your lawn will lose its green color if you don’t winterize it. This is because the grass isn’t getting the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.
- Thinning of the grass. A lack of nutrients also causes the grass to thin out. This makes your lawn more prone to weeds and pests.
- A patchy lawn. Applying fertilizer late in the fall or not applying it at all may result in a patchy lawn. This is due to insufficient nutrients needed for the grass to grow evenly.
To avoid these consequences, winterize your lawn on time. You should also follow the recommended fertilizer application rates for your type of grass. Applying too much or too little fertilizer can damage your lawn.
How To Winterize Your Lawn Correctly
Winterizing your lawn requires utmost care to ensure the grass thrives in spring. You must know your type of grass before proceeding with the winterizing process. At this point, I believe you know when to winterize warm-season and cool-season grasses.
After knowing when to winterize your grass, here are some tips to help you do it correctly:
Cleanup the Lawn
Leaves fall off trees onto the lawn mainly in autumn and fall. If you don’t clean them up, they may weaken the grass beneath them by blocking out sunlight and air circulation. Consequently, your grass may end up dying.
To avoid this, you should rake up the leaves before winterizing the lawn.
Aerate the Lawn
It’s advisable to aerate your lawn before winterizing for air, nutrients, and water to reach the roots of grasses. Aeration is crucial for high-traffic lawns as they may suffer from thatch buildup.
Some ways to aerate your lawn are:
- Plug aeration. This method involves removing small plugs of soil from the lawn using a plug aerator. The holes left behind facilitate air circulation.
- Spiking. You can use a garden fork or spike to make holes in the lawn (here in this article with a pitchfork). This is a good option if you have a small lawn.
- Slit seeding. This technique entails making slits in the ground and then sowing seeds in them. It’s an excellent way to overseed your lawn.
Fertilize the Lawn With the Right Fertilizer
The right winterizer fertilizer should have high potassium content. I’ve written an article about 15 fertilizers high in potassium here. Besides helping the grass survive the cold weather, potassium strengthens the plant’s roots to withstand the extensive winter stress from freezing and ice.
Once you have a potassium-rich fertilizer, use a spreader to apply it evenly on the lawn. Here is an article on how to spread fertilizer with a seed spreader. Then, water the fertilizer to help it seep into the ground and reach the roots of the grass.
Don’t forget that excessive fertilizer can be detrimental to your grass. Thus, you should follow the recommended application rates for your type of grass to the latter. You can also confirm the right fertilizer amount from your local extension service.
Winterizing your lawn at the right time is essential for healthy grass. The nutrients in the fertilizer help the grass survive the cold weather. However, you should clean up and aerate your lawn before winterizing to ensure the grass reaps all benefits of the fertilizer.