Most homeowners know that it takes a lot of work to maintain a lush, green and healthy lawn. Once warmer weather arrives, home gardeners across the country dust off their lawn mowers and broadcast spreaders and prepare to bring their lawns back to life. What many do not realize is that there are things you can do in the winter--even if the grass is covered in snow or brown and dormant--to care for your lawn and keep it healthy for the arrival of summer.
Prevent Snow Mold Fungal Disease
If you live in a winter climate that receives a lot of snow, chances are your lawn has suffered from snow mold fungal disease in the past. This disease occurs when deep snow melts slowly, especially if the snow has piled up on the grass in drifts. Prevent snow mold fungal disease from developing on your lawn by breaking up and spreading out deep areas of snow. Use a shovel to level the snow out evenly on your lawn, which will cause it to melt more quickly and reduce the chances of the mold developing.
Remove obvious areas of winter debris from your lawn as quickly as possible after all the snow has melted. Then, remove any thatch (layer of decaying vegetation) from your lawn by using a thatching rake to vigorously rake the grass. This does not have to be done every year, but should be done when the layer of thatch is greater than 1 cm thick.
Keep it Short
Once fall arrives, gradually lower the blade of your lawn mower until you are cutting the grass very close to the surface, leaving it quite short and cutting off the more fragile, tender growth. The hardier portion of the grass will remain, which is less likely to succumb to fungal diseases or dry out in cold winter winds.
Leave it Alone
Resist trying to fertilize your lawn in order to bring it back to life in early spring. In most cases, an application of fall fertilizer is sufficient for the winter, and subsequent feedings should not occur until late spring, according to Stu Nelson, a horticulturist with the University of Saskatchewan. Too much fertilizer too soon can damage tender, new grass growth.