Care for Your Winter Lawn

December 31, 2015


Once winter weather arrives, you lawn will mostly rest until spring returns. Mowing, fertilizing and aerification are no longer needed, except perhaps for cool-season lawns that are still growing. However, weed control and periodic irrigation may be required. Follow the tips below to help keep your lawn healthy as the temperatures continue to drop.

  • Tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass, which continues to grow until freezing weather arrives, should be at least 3” tall after mowing. Mow before the grass gets taller than 5”, and do not remove more than 1/3 the blades’ height at one time. Remember grasscycling — leave the clippings on the lawn to recycle nutrients.
  • Dormant warm-season lawns (bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, St. Augustinegrass and centipedegrass) do not need to be mowed in winter months. However, do be sure to remove debris (leaves, tree branches, etc.) from the lawn, to reduce shelter for overwintering of turf insects and/or diseases.
  • To control winter annual and perennial broadleaf weeds such as chickweed and henbit, apply preemergence herbicides as needed. Remember that preemergence herbicides will not control existing perennial weeds.
  • Apply postemergence herbicides to control broadleaf weeds that have already emerged, if necessary. To control annual bluegrass (Poa annua) and several winter annual broadleaf weeds, selective herbicides can be applied in November or December to warm-season lawns that have not been overseeded. Read the herbicide label, and follow the directions carefully.
  • In winter months, grass continues to need water, even after it has gone dormant (the roots are still very much alive). Irrigate, if needed, to prevent excessive dehydration, especially when warm, windy weather prevails. Watering is particularly important for warm-season lawns that have been overseeded with ryegrass for winter color. About 1” of water per application each week is adequate.
  • Do not apply fertilizer to warm-season lawns until next spring, and do not apply fertilizer to cool-season lawns after the first frost.
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