Most people seem to have a thorough understanding of lawn maintenance for the warmer months. You could even say that there is a collective Aussie consciousness on the importance of lawn care during summer – that is if you don’t water your lawn, it will burn and shrivel like the Wicked Witch of the West. So, why is there little maintaining a lawn in winter tips readily available or why do us Australians who love our patch of hallowed turf so much in summer pay little respect to its upkeep outside of the warmer months?
Lack of education is fundamentally at the root of this question and the great news is that winter lawn care tips are simple to remember and easy to follow.
If you want to look summer fit, do you change your diet and hit the gym three weeks before summer? Maintaining your lawn is much like body maintenance, they both require preparation, planning and ongoing love. Here’s how to let your lawn rise to the occasion…
Education and Preparation
The maxim ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ has never been so relevant for healthy winter grass.
Where there is a theory, there is science and the science behind this is pretty simple: during the winter darker months, there is less light, more cloud cover and less chance for your lawn to photosynthesise, retain nutrients and grow. So like your body’s propensity to consume more food in winter – it’s craving for comfort fuel building food; your lawn will crave nutrients, and healthy soil but the reduction in temperature will not allow this. As a result your lawn will not retain that lush green hue that you are used to unless you begin your preparation in autumn.
You Must Change Your Habits
We all have our habits and quirks…some positive and some negative. We all know how difficult the negative habits are to break, yet when we continue to abuse them we usually prolong the damage and make it harder for ourselves to cut ties from their vicelike grip. This is where your planning is fundamental – make a plan and stick to it. As the seasons change, so too must your lawn maintenance habits.
Alter The Blade On Your Mower
As less sunlight is apparent during autumn, our lawn’s growth will decrease. Increasing the height slightly on your blade to leave more green leaf will be pivotal to maximising the nutrient supply to your lawn. Conversely, it’s important to be conscious of any leaves that fall from deciduous trees left on your lawn, as they can starve the grass of much needed air and sunlight and potentially damage the grass.
As a rule of thumb, it’s advised not to cut your grass lower than 2.5cm. If you continually cut your grass too low, you can run the risk of browning and damaging your grass (scalping), which essentially makes it more vulnerable to weeds and diseases.
Watering – Less is More For Winter Preparation
As the soil and air temperature decreases, so should your watering habits.
Most of us have a tendency to either over-water during the colder months which can increase the possibility of turf diseases or rotting of the thatch layer, or under water.
During autumn, your lawn will usually receive an adequate supply of nutrients from dew and infrequent rainfall but the general rule is to continue to check water levels in the soil and water when required. Leading into spring you can begin to slowly increase water levels.
Don’t Neglect Your Fertilising Plan
Your fertilising habits should be included in your plan. It is essential that you are using the correct fertiliser. Winter fertilisers should always be used as it contains higher levels of iron and adjusted nutrients which are essential to strengthening the lawn through the colder months.
It is advised that you apply a high quality winter fertiliser in May that includes a mix of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium – or one month prior to the onset of winter and then apply again in July.
Killing The Two Nasties – Weeds and Wintergrass
It is imperative that as ongoing healthy maintenance of our grass, we take care of weeds and Wintergrass.
Weeds will become more prominent leading into winter and the longer we leave them the more they will multiply and the more problematic they will be to eradicate. It is essential that you treat them as early as possible before they spread. Ouch! Think of your back?
Likewise with Wintergrass, just like your mother-in-law, it isn’t going away any time soon. If your lawn has sprouted it previously, it is almost guaranteed to return the following year. It must be treated when it’s young and can be treated pre-emergent from May.
Pruning – A Prune a Day keeps the Damage Away
Once again planning is essential here, with a pre-emptive approach highly recommended. If you neglect your overhanging bushes and trees you will increase the risk of damage. Unlopped branches left to wilt will cast a shade in winter and cause areas of your lawn to deteriorate. So when is the best time to get out the shears, pruners and lopping tools? Autumn of course!
Final Measures – Sow and Soak
Ok, so you have now taken all the necessary measures to prepare your lawn for winter. You have followed our basic winter care tips, what now?
How does it look? How does it feel? Get down and grab a handful. Is the soil moist enough? Good. You have done a fine job. Does your lawn look patchy? Not so good. You may need to sow some seeds; which in autumn would be the ideal time – the colder months are for seed germination and aeration will also help with the germination process.
Once you are satisfied with how it looks and feels, why not give it a couple of good long soaks in preparation for spring and summer. And then you can clean the barby, dust off the deck chairs, take the cricket kit out of storage and eagerly wait for summer.