How to Prep Your Lawn for Winter
The end of summer signals the best time to lay the groundwork for a lush field of grass come spring
Q: What sort of lawn prep should I do before winter to get a jump start on next year's growing season? —Dave Krocak, St. Louis Park, Minn.
A: Roger Cook replies: With summer's heat and dryness at an end, September is the best month to lay the groundwork for next year's lush lawn. Pre-winter lawn care consists of aerating the turf—to reduce compaction and make it easier for fertilizer and water to reach the roots—and reinvigorating thin areas with compost and seed. Before you start, get a soil test so that you know the type and amount of amendments to add. (Repeat the test in three to five years.) Then read the steps below to learn how to prepare your lawn for winter.
Just remember: When aerating, fertilizing, or seeding, always go over the turf twice, with criss-crossing paths. You don't want stripes in your revitalized lawn.
Pictured: Roger Cook uses a lightweight rotary spreader to broadcast fertilizer, lime, and grass seed.
Cut the grass down to 1 to 1½ inches, making it easier to aerate and to judge how much compost to add. If your grass is more than 3 inches tall, take it down incrementally over a few mowings—no more than a third of the grass blade at a time—to avoid stressing the plants. This is an important step to prepare your lawn for winter.