Many lawn owners simply put a line through winter when it comes to their turf. They may see it as a lost cause. The grass will inevitably go patchy, brown and thin, due to the cold, frosts and lack of sun. What are you going to do? Change the weather?
But if you look around in the dead of winter, you’ll notice that grass is certainly able to thrive over the colder months. Look at any winter sports field around the nation. Or the garden of any display home. It can be done, it’s just a matter of knowing how.
The Issues with Winter
As we’ve covered before, grasses can be grouped into two categories; warm season and cool season. Being an overwhelmingly hot country, if we do say so ourselves, our most popular grasses are all warm season, bred to deal with the stifling heat and dry conditions that plague Australia. That’s all well and good for most of the year, but when the more temperate areas of our land get a bit nippy from June to August, things can get complicated.
Many warm season grasses have been developed to hibernate when the mercury drops, meaning that growth and repair capabilities are put on hold until the warmth returns in spring. This can create issues over winter, as any damage from frosts, shade or traffic can be exacerbated while the grass is defenceless.
When you’re up against none other than Mother Nature, winter-proofing your lawn can seem quite the task. But where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Getting Your Lawn Winter-Ready
Ensuring your grass thrives over winter is all about the preparation in autumn. Your work in the preceding months will make or break your lawn’s winter tilt. Let’s have a look at how best to go about it.
Your plant eats the sun. Photosynthesis is a critical process for the health of your turf. The lower in the sky the sun appears, and the less daylight that the sun gives off on its slow march towards winter, the more vulnerable your grass will be. This being the case, you need to give your grass the best ability to catch these dwindling rays that you can. The simplest way to do this is to increase the mowing height. This gives the grass more blade to photosynthesise with. Just a few centimetres will do the job.
As the temperature of both the air and the soil decreases, so too should you decrease your watering regime. On top of the fact that most areas will experience greater rainfall over winter anyway, excess moisture in combination with cold conditions can create perfect conditions for root rot and other diseases.
Giving your grass a solid meal prior to winter (ideally in May) will give it the health and strength to attack the colder conditions. There are a wealth of winter-specific fertilisers available that are designed to get your grass in shape. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions – you’ll often be required to re-fertilise in mid-winter.
Weeds love winter, particularly broadleaf varieties. They are best suited to cooler conditions, and will also enjoy the fact that a lawn’s defences are compromised during this period. With your lawn weakened, it’s up to you to stand up to these invaders. Weekly weeding is your best bet, as it will swiftly nip any potential problems in the bud. If you’re using a herbicide, be careful to choose one that won’t adversely affect you lawn variety, as going too aggressive on the spray may leave you with the unsightly brown spots that you were trying so hard to avoid.
If you get into the habit of working through a weekly or fortnightly routine, winter lawn maintenance needn’t be any more taxing than any other time of year. And the benefits speak for themselves.
If you play it right, your lawn will be the talk of the neighbourhood this winter.