It’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing color, the air is getting colder, and winter is on its way. Applying a winter fertilizer is one of the most important things you can do for your lawn. If you are unfamiliar with the benefits of winterizing your lawn, this is the article for you!
Keep reading for the best tips and information on how to keep your lawn healthy through winter and into spring!
The Importance Of Fall Lawn Care
The average joe may not necessarily agree, but any hardcore lawn care enthusiast will tell you that fall is the most important time of year for lawn care! For many reasons, tending to your lawn before winter is crucial for maintaining healthy, green grass come spring. If lawn care becomes neglected as winter draws near, you will likely find yourself with dead and thin patches everywhere. This is due to the fact that grass enters into a state of dormancy during winter, meaning it stops growing and becomes more susceptible to damage.
Fall is the time of year when your lawn needs the most protection. Weather conditions around this time of year are often cold and damp, two conditions that are perfect for the growth of fungi. Fungi thrive in these types of conditions, and they can quickly kill your grass if they go undetected. Applying a winterizing fertilizer before winter will help to prevent this from happening. Below are a few more issues that often plague lawns in fall:
- Pests – As the temperature cools down, many pests will begin to look for a warm place to spend the winter, like your lawn and home!
- Diseases – Fungal and bacterial diseases love cold and damp conditions, especially clumps of wet and sickly leaves.
- Weeds – Certain invasive weeds perform well in colder temperatures, especially if you have let your guard down!
- Compaction – After being compressed by foot traffic all summer, colder soil temperatures will cause your lawn to become hard and compacted.
What Is A Winterizing Fertilizer?
Now, let’s talk about one of the best things you can do for your lawn before winter! A winterizing fertilizer is a type of fertilizer that is specifically designed to be applied in fall, before the first frost. These fertilizers more or less contain the same ingredients and nutrients as regular fertilizers, but the ratio has been altered to better suit the needs of your lawn during the colder months. These specially designed fertilizers are made to sustain your grass throughout dormancy and the damaging effects of low temperatures, snow, ice, and more.
The NPK ratio (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) on the front of every commercial fertilizer indicates the level of nutrients present in the mixture. For example, a fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 10-10-10 contains 10% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus, and 10% potassium. When dealing with a winterizing fertilizer, the kind of ratio you should look for depends on the type of lawn you have.
- Warm-season lawns benefit from increased levels of potassium for winterization. Potassium helps protect grass against cold temperatures, and it helps strengthen roots. Since warm-season lawns struggle more in the cold, increased potassium is crucial to your lawn’s survival through winter.
- Cool-season lawns need more nitrogen for winterization treatments. Nitrogen enhances your lawn’s color and texture, and it improves the rate of growth. Lawns that perform well in colder temperatures will store any nitrogen applied in late fall and use it to burst to life in early spring.
How Does A Winterizing Fertilizer Work?
The main objective of any winterizing fertilizer is to prepare lawns for winter so that they can emerge again in spring, healthy as ever! Winterizing fertilizers accomplish this in two ways: increasing nutrient reserves and strengthening grass blades.
When your lawn wakes up from its winter slumber, the first thing it’s going to need is a good meal. By increasing the nutrient reserves in your lawn before winter, you are essentially giving it a head start on the growing season. A winterizing fertilizer that is high in nitrogen will give your lawn what it needs heading into winter. When spring arrives, all that stored nitrogen will get absorbed so your lawn can start the year out as healthy as possible!
The second objective of a winterizing fertilizer is to strengthen grass blades. When grass enters into dormancy, its blades turn brown and become weak. If these blades are not strong enough to withstand the rigors of winter (snowfall, ice, etc.), they will break and die, or they may fall victim to disease. A winterizing fertilizer has increased potassium to fortify blades so that they can better survive the winter months. Potassium will even help improve the root system of your lawn, which means even more health and nutrition!
When To Apply Winterizing Fertilizer
It probably comes as a shock to no one reading this, but you want to apply winterizing fertilizer to your lawn before winter weather arrives. Here in Kansas, that time of year is typically from late October to late November. If you follow a strict fertilizing schedule, a winterizing fertilizer should be applied roughly a month after the application of fall fertilizers.
The goal should be to apply winter fertilizer before the first frost of the year, or you can apply it when soil temperatures dip down to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This will allow just enough time for new roots to develop and store nutrients before the ground completely freezes and your lawn enters into dormancy. Without this crucial application, your lawn may be depleted and nutrient-deficient by the following spring, which would make for a very difficult growing season.
Other Winterizing Lawn Care Tips
Remember that a winterizing fertilizer is just one method available to you for winterproofing your lawn. Though these steps are not taken by homeowners nearly as often as they should be, adjusting all your lawn care routines to accommodate the effects of winter is the best way to make sure your lawn thrives in spring!
- Mowing – As the growing season comes to an end, you should gradually lower your mower blade. Mowing about an inch lower than normal for your final cut of the season will actually help preserve the quality of grass blades throughout winter.
- Watering – Deep, infrequent watering sessions (roughly once a week) will encourage deeper root growth through the year. After the first frost of the season, cut watering by 50 percent until growth completely stops.
- Aerating – Core and liquid aeration both offer methods of decompressing your lawn and enabling it to absorb more nutrients, which is exactly what your lawn needs to be doing as it prepares for winter.
- Overseeding – Finally, overseeding typically goes hand-in-hand with fall aeration because it is the optimal time for seeds to germinate. Put down new seed after you aerate, and your lawn will be lush and green in spring!
If you really want to make sure your lawn stays protected through winter and comes alive in spring, Heartland Turf & Landscape has you covered! Our unique fertilization program will have your lawn nourished and healthy all year, and we never forget the final winterizing application! Get your free quote today, and we’ll get your lawn ready for winter!