Prep your lawn and outdoor areas for the coming cold months to ensure your grass is healthy, green and enjoyable come spring.
Step 1: Keep Raking and Mowing
Clean up fallen leaves before winter sets in. When left on your lawn, leaves can smother and kill the grass. Rake them into piles and bag them for disposal. Keep mowing your lawn right up until the first frost, but keep it longer than 2-1/2". You can also use a mulching mower instead of a rake. The mulch will keep nitrogen in the soil over the winter and into the spring. Don't forget to check your lawn for weeds. Use a dandelion digger to remove dandelions from the soil, and they won't return in the spring.
Step 2: Dethatch Your Lawn
Thatch builds up when grass clippings are not removed after cutting. To prevent thatch, rake your lawn after mowing, especially at the end of the growing season. Or, use a mower with a bag attachment or grass catcher throughout the summer.
If you have thatch more than ½" thick on your lawn, use an iron rake or a thatch rake (also known as a "scrake") to cut through and rake off built-up clippings. For large lawns, consider renting a walk-behind dethatching machine.
Never dethatch in mid- to late spring or during your lawn's active growing season. Because it exposes the soil, dethatching can give weeds a chance to take over your yard. Instead, dethatch your lawn once the growing season has ended.
Step 3: Aerate Your Lawn
Over time, soil can become too compacted for water and air to penetrate. Brown grass can be a sign of compaction. Test for compaction by watering your lawn or waiting for a good rain and then observe how quickly the water is absorbed. If it isn't absorbed quickly, the soil is compacted.
Provide air for roots by aerating the soil with a spading or digging fork. Poke holes 2" to 3" apart and 1" to 2" deep. If you want to make the task easier, you can rent or purchase a push spike aerator. Some look like a push mower with spikes or star-shaped wheels instead of blades. Others are designed as attachments that fit behind a power mower.
Aerating is generally easier to do when the soil is moist, but not wet. Although aerating can be done any time of year, it's best to do it in the fall after dethatching or after a thorough raking.
Step 4: Fertilize Your Grass
Fall fertilizing keeps your lawn healthy and strong over the winter months. Choose a fertilizer consistent with your grass type. The experts at True Value can help you find the right fertilizer for your geographic area.
If you're using a spreader, fill it with fertilizer on a sidewalk or driveway to prevent spills that can damage your grass. Apply fertilizer evenly over the entire lawn.
Step 5: Trim Trees and Remove Debris
Remove dead growth or branches. Use a handsaw to saw off branches that are dead, infested with termites or that have grown too close to power lines. Two-handed loppers work well for smaller branches. Always cut away from yourself so the branch does not fall toward you.
Make sure to wear safety goggles when working with a handsaw or lopper.
Well done! You’re ready for whatever the weather has in store.
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