Even if you leave in a moderate climate, keeping your lawn green in winter is a challenge.
Certainly, if you spend weeks below freezing, there’s not much you can do to keep your grass green.
This article is more specifically directed at generally warm climates. Even generally year round warm climates can see yellowing grass in the winter. This may be due to the type of grass seed used, but often is completely preventable.
That said, what keeps a lawn lush and green in the Summer is not necessarily the same for the winter.
Here are the top ways to keep your grass green during Winter:
1. Remove Leaves and Debris
This may seem self-explanatory, but removing excess leaves, small branches, pine needles, pine cones, etc… can help the proper life cycle for optimal grass growing.
This particularly becomes an issue in Northern hemispheres during Fall as deciduous trees shed their leaves. A good leaf blowing should do the trick, but raking by hand (the old fashioned way) also works.
2. Overseed with Cool-Season Grass Seed
If you are in climates with relatively temperate but still variable seasons, overseeding before cooler months with a “cool season” grass seed can help keep your lawn evergreen.
A good example of these locations might be Mid Atlantic US regions, northern regions of the South (Virginia, North Carolina), or Mid Western areas like Southern Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Kansas. Basically anywhere where temperatures might drop below freezing overnight, but warm up to 60s during Winter months.
Some Good Cool Season Grass Seeds:
- Kentucky Bluegrass
- Perennial Ryegrass: Great for overseeding Bermuda grass types for southern lawns
- Tall Fescue
- Fine Fescue
3. Aerate in the Fall
You may be used to aerating your lawn in the early Spring. This is still a great best practice. BUT, consider adding a Fall aerating rotation to the mix for healthy Winter grass growth.
In the fall, grass is in a period of active growth and needs these essential elements to prepare for the winter months ahead. Aeration can also help alleviate soil compaction caused by heavy foot traffic or mowing equipment, which can hinder the growth and health of your grass.
Fall is the perfect time to aerate your grass because the soil is still warm from the summer months, but the cooler temperatures make it easier for the grass to recover from the process.
Additionally, fall is typically a drier season, which means the soil is not as waterlogged and is easier to penetrate with an aerator. This makes it an ideal time to address any underlying soil issues and improve the overall health and appearance of your lawn.
Aeration has many benefits for your lawn, including improved root growth, increased nutrient absorption, and reduced water runoff. It can also help decrease the likelihood of disease and pest infestations, as well as improve the overall appearance of your grass. A well-aerated lawn will have a lush, green appearance, and will be more resistant to drought and other environmental stressors.
4. Apply a Fall Fertilizer
Fall fertilizer is specifically designed to help grass roots grow deeper and stronger, which in turn helps the grass better withstand the colder temperatures and potential drought conditions that may occur during the winter months.
When applying a fall fertilizer, it’s important to consider the type of grass you have and the specific needs of your lawn. Different grasses require different nutrients, so it’s important to choose a fertilizer that is specifically formulated for your type of grass.
I also make sure to apply the fertilizer evenly and at the correct rate (per manufacturer’s guidance) to avoid burning or damaging your lawn.
One of the biggest benefits of applying a fall fertilizer is that it helps to build up the soil’s nutrient reserves. Over time, this can lead to a healthier and more vibrant lawn overall.
Fall fertilizer also helps to promote healthy growth and root development, which can help to prevent diseases and pests from taking hold in your lawn.
5. Raise Mower Blade Height
During the summer months, it is common for homeowners to keep their grass at a shorter length to ensure a neat and tidy appearance. However, as temperatures begin to drop, it is important to allow your grass to grow a bit longer.
Raising the blade height on your mower by just a few inches can help your grass to retain moisture, which is crucial during the drier fall months. Longer grass also helps to protect the roots from the harsh winter weather, which can lead to dead or damaged grass in the spring.
Additionally, longer grass blades provide more surface area for photosynthesis to occur. This means that your grass will continue to produce energy and stay green for longer, even as the days get shorter and cooler.
6. Water Frequently
It might seem counter-intuitive to water during cooler months. After all, beating the Summer heat is generally the goal. That said, in many climates the Winter months are actually much drier. Particularly for the Southwestern United States, cool and dry is the common theme.
A good watering routine for new seedlings is 3 short waters (10-15 minutes) about 3 times per day. Since there may be less “sun time” to soak up excess water, avoid any standing puddles or soggy areas.
7. Remove Ice & Frost
For the truly dedicated lawn owners who experience some icing or frost, you can attempt to chip away (or otherwise thaw out) your grass. The one thing that quickly yellows out lawns is prolonged periods of frost or ice.
That said, if you are trying to thaw out your grass in Upstate New York in mid January… it might be time to admit defeat. Hope Springs eternal.
Final Note on Maintaining Green Grass in Winter
In some climates this is clearly a losing battle, but in many moderate zones (Mid Atlantic, Upper South, Midwest, and Southwest), keeping your lawn green isn’t difficult if you follow these steps.
Best case scenario, your lawn stays green year round. Worst case scenario, you’ve prepared your lawn to thrive in Spring and have a healthier lawn (even if the grass browns a bit with a frost, etc…).