In the Garden
Get down and dirty in the garden

5 Winter Lawn Care Tips

Once winter shows up, especially in the cold states, your lawn isn’t used much. So, worrying about winter lawn care isn't something which may be on your mind. But, there are some things you can be doing for your lawn even in the winter. Taking care of your yard in the winter, allows your grass to stay healthy year-round.

frost on grass in lawn
Photo by Pixabay/renarde_d

Feed Your Lawn

Feed your grass in the winter. Even though it's winter, your grass can still reap benefits from fertilizer. Although grass doesn't grow in the winter months, if you've fertilized your grass in the fall, it will feed on this fertilization through the cold. Plus, if you've aerated in the fall, then this will give your grass the chance to use the nitrogen, nutrients, and oxygen needed for growth in the spring.

You can also fertilize your trees and shrubs to help them make it through the winter. They will need a good deal of nitrogen to help to survive the cold months. Soil rich in nitrogen won't promote growth in your trees and bushes but give them nourishment while being covered under a blanket of snow. When fertilizer is sprinkled around the base of the shrubs and trees, it will seep into the roots below the soil and nourish them during the winter months. Then when spring comes, it will help them with new growth.

Overseed

Another option is overseeding before the snow falls. Since fertilizing won't help the bald spots in your grass, overseeding will. By overseeding those places before the first snowfall, then the seeds are ready to sprout when spring finally arrives. Water the seeds every other day until either frost or the first snow and you’ll have green grass where the spots were.

You also want to limit the amount of foot traffic on your lawn in the winter months. Be sure to keep your sidewalks and driveway clear of slippery ice and snow. This way, guests and family members won't walk all over your lawn. Repeated foot traffic in the area can wear a path where there wasn't one before. This will cause you to have to reseed in the spring to cover it.

Aerate

Another thing which needs to be done for your lawn before the first snow or frost is aeration. The reason for aeration is because your lawn becomes thirsty and hardened in the hot summer. So, when the cold weather shows up, the soil in your lawn can’t breathe. Then snow falls and smothers it further. By aerating you can prevent this.

Aeration is when you pull a plug of soil out of your grass to create pores. These pores allow the root system to breathe and take in any nutrients it needs when you add fertilizer or if you're seeding. When you create a pore, you're creating a new root-shoot for food and water.

Take Care of Weeds

You should also weed your yard in the fall before the onset of winter. It's essential to remove any weeds leftover from the summer. You want to get rid of anything which can kill your lawn. Since weeds are aggressive and will smother your lawn any chance they get, removing them is the best thing to do. If you don't, then the combination of weeds in the lawn, bitter frost and heavy snow, the odds for a healthy lawn isn't good. Weeds will ingest any nutrients you put on for the grass, and you'll have a yard that's brown and healthy weeds.

Plus, you want to clean up your lawn right before the first snow. Say you left something lying on the grass, like a dog toy, and you plan on picking it up in the spring. If you leave it lying there, then the snow piles on top of the toy and when you move it in the spring, you have dead grass. So, pick up any toys, piles of dead leaves, sticks or anything that will kill your grass.

Even though taking care of your lawn in the winter is less work, it’s still necessary for a lush green spring!

How to Garden All Year Long

Whether some of us like to admit it or not, we do tend to relax into the idea that winter renders gardening off limits. Now on some level, we may know there’s still something we could be doing, but did you know how much you’re missing out on?

Continuing your green-fingered magic over fall and winter, through those first winter frosts, will replenish your barren vegetable larder with lots of produce. Fruits, berries, sweet corn, beans, potatoes, summer and winter squashes, beetroots, parsnips, chard, peas, radishes, lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, turnips, celery, peppers, pumpkins and watermelons will all be there for the picking.

frosty cabbage leaves
Photo by Adobe Stock/Koirill

The point is, gardening in winter and fall does require a different way of doing things. By not doing it, you are depriving yourself of an abundant harvest to take you into spring. Here are some tips to get you started on your year-long hobby.

1. Embrace the Frost

You really can have a beautiful, healthful garden with flavorful fruits and vegetables during October, November and even December. You many have thought those first fall frosts are insurmountable. Not true!

What the more adventurous among us have discovered is that frost is beneficial. When the temperature dips down to 32 degrees, insects are nowhere to be seen, leaving your winter garden to flourish unburdened by certain pests. Also, the ripe produce you’ve already grown will essentially be refrigerated out there for a far longer time before you decide to harvest.

This is a major relief for some, as many of us can be seen scurrying around the garden picking off all the tomatoes before the dreaded first frosts, only to realize a few weeks later that they all rotted on our shelves before we could get to them. So, leave the tomatoes where they belong — on the vines.

2. Take Precautions

To ensure your vegetables and fruits are in prime condition to manage to the frosts, you might want to plant your winter garden in mid to late summer. This way, your plants will be robust, healthful and resilient as the first frost approaches. Even sowing seeds after early frost can see radishes, turnips, lettuces and other greens flourish.

There will be some aesthetic damage from the frost, but this will mostly be confined to the upper foliage of your fruits and vegetable bushes, trees and leaves. Your harvest will not be affected by this superficial frosting. However, there are some tricks to the knack of producing such a luscious collection in these colder months:

• Choose to grow tomatoes that sprawl as opposed to staking the rising and tall ones
• Grow your cucumbers on the ground, not on trellises
• Go for bush peas and beans, not climbing options
• Encourage a protective ecosystem to develop by planting a closely packed garden
• Stop pulling weeds from your veggie patch to allow further shelter from the leaves
• Plant your more vulnerable crops on the south side of your house — the property should fend off damaging northern winds
• Schedule sprinklers to come on at night to aid your plants through frosty temperatures
• At the worst of temperatures, cover your plants with boxes, newspapers or straw

3. Don’t Expect a Miracle

Occasionally, we do have harsh and damaging winter weather. If the frost is relentless and protection hasn’t sufficed, then it’s OK to start harvesting everything. Green tomatoes should be wrapped in newspapers by themselves, one at a time. Stack them in boxes and keep in a cool room to reduce moisture and allow them to ripen naturally.

Radishes can be steamed and frozen to use in stews, and so can turnips. Carrots, on the other hand, should be left in the ground and covered with the thickest mulch you can get your hands on. The roots won’t freeze, and you’ll be looking at the sweetest carrots going mid-winter.

Gardening all year-round is like a new lease of life. The results are as impressive and rewarding — if not more so — than your spring and summer harvests.