During the cold winter months, cool season grasses such as turf type tall fescue stops top growth. However, the lawn’s roots continue to grow and store carbohydrates for next summer’s growth period. There are a few critical steps you can take to help keep your lawn healthy during the winter months and ready to bounce back in the spring.
Test Your Soil
Testing your soil will determine any nutrient or pH deficiencies. Without testing, you do not know what may be deficient and holding back the health of your lawn. Fall is the best time of year to make nutrient and pH corrections.
You should fertilize your tall fescue lawn in fall when temperatures have cooled to somewhere in the 50s, but your grass is still growing. Fertilizing at this time will help grass plants stay green into the winter, but more importantly, it will promote healthy root growth. This root growth will help the grass start well in the spring. After you spread your fertilizer, lightly water your lawn to wash the fertilizer off the blades and into the soil. Do not fertilize if your ground is already frozen, as the nutrients will not enter the root zone.
Aerate Your Lawn
Aeration is an excellent way to encourage root growth and minimize thatch build-up. Thatch makes your tall fescue lawn vulnerable to diseases and insects and reduces its drought tolerance. You can use core aerators to remove small plugs of soil, which allow air, water, and nutrients to travel directly to the roots. Before you aerate, make sure your soil is moist but not wet. Aerating a day after a rain shower, or after watering your lawn is best. Once you finish, you can leave the soil plugs to decompose naturally on your lawn.
Spread Cool Season Grass Seed
You can purchase turf type tall fescue grass seed recommended by your state’s Land Grant University. It is important to purchase seed that contains recommended varieties and is free of weed seeds.
Rake and Water Your Lawn
Drag a rake over the lawn to break up soil clumps and cover new seeds. Water the lawn, afterward and keep the top inch of soil moist until the new seed germinates. After germination, gradually decrease the frequency of watering, but water more deeply into the root zone.
Mow the Lawn for Winter
Continue to mow your lawn until it stops growing, which may be until late fall. It is acceptable to mow over fallen leaves, as they will decompose rather quickly and add organic matter to the soil. Mowing also helps prevent the leaves from forming a mat that will smother grass plants. You can gradually reduce the height of your mower to one inch shorter than the recommended Spring, Summer, and Fall height of three to four inches. Excessively tall grass can smother itself and is at risk for disease during freezing and thawing conditions
Clean Up the Lawn
Finally, it is important not to leave debris, excess leaves, or toys out on your tall fescue lawn. These objects can get buried under snowfall and smother the grass, and even create disease conditions. You don’t want to take every other step to winterize your lawn, only to forget a pet toy and have it leave a dead spot in your grass next spring.
Scientific Plant Service Is Your Go-To Source In Landscape Healthcare
Scientific Plant Service, located in Baltimore, is a privately owned corporation, chartered in Maryland in 1957 by Frank J. Burke. We started as a full-service Arborists specializing in the care of shade trees and ornamental shrubs, but today we are a Lawn Care company that is a huge part of the community. From aquatic environments and snow management to deer and mole control, SPS has services tailored specifically for your lawn and landscape.
We offer services in Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia, including: Harford, Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick, Howard, Anne Arundel, Montgomery, Prince Georges, Talbot, Queen Anne’s, Calvert counties in MD, as well as Loudoun County, Fairfax County, Arlington, Alexandria, and Falls Church in VA. For more information, contact us online, or call us at 410-321-0970. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest!