Looking after your lawn in winter
Even though there is typically a lot less to do in the garden during the winter, especially when it comes to your lawn, you still need to keep looking after it where you can. It’s nice to enjoy a break from lawn maintenance, but some basic upkeep will make all the difference when spring rolls around and your grass starts to become active again. Proper winter lawn care can mean the difference between a lush, green landscape come spring and a patchy, brown mess. Some of the tasks can be dependent on the climate, so keep an eye on the weather forecast for things like mowing.
It’s not uncommon to find your lawn scattered with leaf litter at this time of year, but it’s important to rake any remaining fallen leaves. The same goes for any other debris- it might seem harmless given that it’s all organic, but leaves and debris can lead to dead patches. They can smother the grass, which blocks out important light and moisture. They also trap moisture underneath, which encourages disease and worm activity. It’s important to make sure that there’s plenty of air circulation and that nutrients can reach the grass, because it leads to a stronger root system and overall healthier growth.
Whether you carry on cutting your grass in the winter or not really depends on the weather. You should only mow the lawn if it’s absolutely necessary, and make sure you don’t cut at all if the ground is really wet or if there are heavy frosts on the way. If it stays mild, you might need to do some mowing - grass continues to grow in temperatures above 5°C. Just make sure that you set the cutting height higher than you would in the summer months. Around 25% higher should be enough to minimise turf stress.
If you notice water sitting on your grass and puddles appearing after heavy rain, it’s a sign that your soil is compacted. Aerating is the perfect way to relieve compaction. It involves making small holes in the grass to allow air, water and nutrients to penetrate the roots. Simply spiking consolidated areas of your lawn with a garden fork or aerator is enough to improve drainage and stop water from pooling on the surface. Doing it by hand isn’t too strenuous for smaller gardens, but if you have a good amount of land it’s probably worth using a spiking machine to save yourself a serious amount of work in the winter.
Your grass shouldn’t need too much food over the winter period. Giving it a final feed just before winter completely kicks in, usually around October, normally does enough to toughen up the lawn for the winter months and strengthen the roots. Once winter hits, it’s unlikely that granular fertilisers will work because the ground and air temperatures are too cold. If you think your grass could do with some grub, the best solution for this time of year is to apply some iron and seaweed, either in liquid or granular form. This combo helps to reduce the stress on the lawn and hardens it to keep it protected during the colder spells.