Believe it or not, caring for a lawn requires more than a simple mow once or twice a week. Knowing the right time to mow is important if you want to avoid damaging your lawn, but just as important as knowing when to put the mower away. However, since everyone has their own routine, people often hear conflicting advice, which leaves them wondering, “how do I care for my lawn during the winter” and “can you cut the grass in November?”
Because grass does not grow as quickly in the cold, there is often no need to mow during the winter months. However, by following a few common-sense rules, lawn owners may mow in the winter without damaging their lawns.
Continue reading to learn more about winter lawn care, including when to put the mower away and how to mow during the winter when necessary.
When Does Grass Stop Growing?
Although there are several types of grass that may be found in lawns across the world, they can be sorted into two categories—warm-season grasses and cool-season grasses.
Cool-season grasses see more active growth in the cooler seasons, such as spring and fall. Contrarily, warm-season grasses see more active growth during the warmer summer season. However, both types of grass become dormant at low temps.
Warm-season grasses, such as bermudagrass or centipede grass, will stop growing when temperatures fall below 55 degrees Fahrenheit (around 13 degrees Celsius). While cool-season grasses, such as ryegrass and bentgrass, will become dormant around 45 degrees Fahrenheit (around 7 degrees Celsius).
It is important to know which type of grass is in your yard so that you know the best way to care for it. For example, products made for warm-season grass may damage cool-season grass and vice versa. There are a lot of handy grass identification guides that you can use to find which grass you have growing in your lawn—such as Lawn Star’s handy online guide.
Do I Have to Winterize My Lawn?
It depends on how you want your lawn to look in the spring. While winterization is not a requirement to keep grass growing, it is necessary if you want your lawn to look it’s absolute best. Additionally, it also depends on the type of grass that is growing in your yard.
Cool-season grasses spend the autumn months pulling is as many nutrients as they can. These nutrients are stored and used to help the grass survive the dormant winter months. They also help the grass spring back to life once the warmer weather returns. Winterization, especially fertilization, is important for cool-season grasses because it helps deliver the nutrients these grasses need.
Warm-season grasses do not need as much winter attention. In fact, if you live in an area that does not drop below a certain temperature, the grass may not go dormant at all. Furthermore, it is not recommended to fertilize warm-season grasses because it could contribute to lawn diseases such as Spring Dead Spot.
When Should I Winterize My Lawn?
There seems to be some debate about when the best time to winterize a lawn is. For colder regions and places that see snow, it is typically recommended that people begin winterizing in the late fall, before the first freeze. For warmer climates or places where it does not snow, this can be done later in the year, with some people saying to wait until late winter.
When Should I Stop Mowing?
As we learned above, grass becomes dormant when the temperatures fall below a certain degree. Grass that is dormant does not grow, and therefore, you should not need to cut the grass. The question of when to put the mower up for the winter depends on where you live, the type of grass that is in your yard, and the temperature outside.
Generally, you should be able to safely put the mower away once temperatures drop below 50-60 degrees and stay consistent. This could be as early as October in some areas or as late as December in others.
Winter Lawn Care Tips
How you winterize your lawn will depend on several factors, such as where you live and the type of grass in your yard, but there are some winter care tips that are universal for all lawns.
1. Keep Grass Short
To avoid problems with infestation, mold, or fungus, grass should be kept no taller than two inches during the winter. However, grass depends on sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into sugar (which is then turned into the nutrients the grass needs to survive), and because this is mostly done in the top part of the blades, cutting the grass too soon could deprive it of the nutrients it needs to survive the winter.
It is recommended that people should gradually lower the height of their mow, until they reach the intended two-inch heigh, by cutting grass no more than a third of its height at a time.
2. Aerate Your Lawn
Aeration loosens the soil allowing nutrients and air to penetrate the soil and reach the roots. Additionally, it will help new grass seeds germinate and grow strong root systems. Another lesser-known benefit of aeration is that it helps to remove the layer of dead grass that accumulates, which can choke new grass. Burning is another way to remove this thatch, but aeration is a little less harsh on the healthy grass.
3. Lay Seed in the Fall
Fall is a good time to lay seeds and thicken areas that are starting to go bald. People often do this in the spring but doing it in the fall will allow the new seeds to germinate and establish root systems before spring arrives. This works best for cold-season grasses.
4. Avoid Mowing If It Is Wet
Fall is a wet season, and although you can mow in wet conditions, it is often better to avoid doing it. Wet grass will often tear instead of being cut, and you could damage the roots. Additionally, wet clippings are a breeding ground for mold and fungus which could damage your lawn. Finally, because the soil is wet, you could rut up your lawn or pull the grass out of the loose soil.
5. Beware of Salt or De-Icers
Applying salt, or other ice removal products, to walkways or driveways could potentially harm your lawn. Be careful not to apply the salt directly onto the lawn as it could kill the grass. Additionally, as the ice melts, the runoff could contain harsh chemicals that could affect your lawn as well. Calcium Chloride is a better alternative because it melts ice at low temperatures, but it will not damage your lawn.
6. Do Not Walk on Dormant Grass
It is best practice to avoid walking on grass during the winter months. Dormant grass is unable to repair itself as easily/quickly as it would during the summer months. Additionally, grass that is frosted or covered with snow is frozen, and walking on frozen blades could cause them to break. Another frequent problem in the winter is using the same path. Walking on the same path will compact the grass and could cause conditions such as snow mold. Avoid this by keeping multiple paths cleared.
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer at Lawnmowerfixed.com.
He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and shares his know-how and hands-on experience in our DIY repair guides.
Johns’s fluff-free How-to guides help homeowners fix lawnmowers, tractor mowers, chainsaws, leaf blowers, power washers, generators, snow blowers, and more.