The number one secret to a great looking lawn this winter is to ensure that your lawn is as healthy as possible before the temperatures cool and the days shorten.
A beautiful winter lawn requires a bit of preparation but it’s completely doable.
With the shortening of daylight hours in winter, lawns have less time to photosynthesise – the process through which they obtain their food and energy. But, you can combat this by increasing mowing heights so that there is more green leaf to increase the food supply to the grass.
As a general rule, it’s wise to not cut your grass lower than 2.5cm remembering that during the cooler months, grass grows more slowly so it’s important to not ‘scalp’ your lawn. Scalping your lawn will make it brown and weaken the grass, allowing more weeds and diseases to take hold.
Top secret tips to a great looking winter lawn:
A tune up
Now is a great time to check all your lawncare equipment is in good working order. Check that the mower blades are sharp and that all your equipment is serviced with fresh spark plugs, new oil, clean air filters and fresh fuel. Your mower and your lawn will thank you
Let in light
During autumn and winter, your lawn needs as much sunlight as possible. You can easily maximise the sunlight exposure by collecting lawn clippings, fallen leaves and sticks dropped by deciduous trees, and any other debris to ensure the grass is not starved of air and sunlight. Trim overhanging branches and shrubs to let even more light reached the lawn.
How often to mow
In winter, lawn growth typically decreases substantially. As a guide, your lawn should only need to be mown around once every three to four weeks. Growing rates can vary between popular grasses such as Couch and Kikuyu, but it’s important not to cut lower than 2.5cm as your lawn may become ‘stalky’ and less aesthetically pleasing.
With lawns generally in a weakened state during winter, weeds can get a foothold and start to become a problem. Broadleaf weeds can be fairly easily controlled with selective herbicides which target unwanted invaders, but not the grass itself. Always make sure to use a herbicide specifically designed for the variety of lawn you have – your local lawncare supplier or nursery can help with identification of your lawn variety and advise on appropriate products.
Typical examples of broadleaf weeds are dandelions, lawn daisies, clover, cudweed and thistles. To treat them, apply herbicides directly to the weeds or you can spray over the entire lawn by connecting the liquid herbicide to your hose attachment. If applying by watering can, to reduce the risk of accidental contamination, it’s advisable to use a separate watering can for herbicide use.
Feed your lawn
Winter fertilisers contain higher levels of iron which maintains the lawn’s health throughout the colder months and help strengthen and green up lawns over this period. The second application of fertiliser should be done late in July (eight weeks after your initial application in May). The next fertilising is due in September, using a standard lawn fertiliser. To prevent rust stains from the iron, be careful in your application and keep paths clean after fertilising and before watering.
Aerating your lawn
Winter is the perfect time to aerate your lawn to reduce soil compaction. Aerating loosens the soil and allows nutrients, oxygen and moisture to reach the roots. The simplest method is to use an ordinary garden fork, pushing it firmly into the ground, wiggling it around and then repeating the process every 15 centimetres or so.
Alternatively you can hire an aerator from your local hardware or machinery hire centre which will certainly get the job done a lot faster.
A mulching mower
Mowers that mulch and return the grass clippings to your lawn are a form of organic fertilising since they effectively mow and mulch at the same time. You can return 15% more nutrients back into your soil simply by mowing your lawn with a mulching mower.
Testing pH levels
To optimise your lawn, it helps to know how acidic or alkaline your soil is. This will help to determine the condition of your soil and what your soil may require to nourish and sustain a healthy lawn. You can purchase a pH kit from your local garden or hardware store and ask your local nursery or garden supplier about the recommended pH levels in your area.
A good soak
Before the harsh effects of winter kick in, it’s a good idea to give your lawn a good last drink. This will help to activate lawn fertilisers. As always – the watering advice is to water infrequently but deeply – aim for 2.5cms of water across the entire lawn per week and watch out for predicted rainfall that will do the job for you.