In the fall the cutting height of your mower should be gradually lowered in order to begin the winter with no tender young grass that will be susceptible to disease. In addition young grass will be vulnerable to drying out in the cold winter winds leaving you with a brown lawn. Lower the cutting height in steps so that the grass is gradually cut shorter or you may damage the turf by removing all the green growth.
Fertilize the Lawn
It is a good idea to give your lawn a final dose of slow release nitrogen fertilizer in the fall. The nutrients will not be used immediately as the grass is becoming dormant but they will be stored ready for use in the spring.
Aerate the Lawn
Give your lawn a final aerating before the winter sets in. This will discourage thatch growth and prepare the lawn for good growth in the spring.
Watch Out For Weed Growth
During the winter the grass is growing more slowly but weeds will be growing much faster. Remove any weed growth regularly to prevent damage to your lawn. Weeds growing unchecked all winter can kill all your grass before the spring.
Water the Lawn
Grass in your lawn will need watering a lot less often than in the summer months. As long as the ground is not frozen the lawn should be watered about once a month. Take care of areas that are exposed including slopes, south or west facing areas and place where grass is growing on shallow soil.
Remove the Fallen Leaves
Removing leaves from your lawn is essential at this time as they can cause damage to your lawn if left through the winter. The grass can be smothered by the leaves and die and the leaves can decompose under a layer of snow and cause damage to the grass. The leaves can be used later in the year for composting or mulching so before you rake the leaves decide how you will be using them as this makes a difference in how they are treated.
Composting the Leaves
In composting organic material is completely broken down to release nutrients into the soil. Composting is not an easy task, the leaves cannot just be tossed into a container and left! for good compost start by shredding the leaves with a garden shredder or by running them over with a lawn mower. Place the shredded leaves in the bin and add water. The materials need to be mixed well and turned regularly. After the decomposition of the leaves is complete the compost still needs to be protected from the elements to prevent loss of all the nutrients.
Mulching the Leaves
A mulch is used to act as a protection for soil of the lawn and has to act as a barrier to the elements. Leaves and other organic material therefore do not need to be decomposed as decomposed material will not make a good barrier. Mulches are usually finely chopped grass or leaves. After shredding place the mulch in a bin to protect it from the elements. You are aiming to preserve the integrity of the leaves or grass rather than encouraging decomposition. Shredded leaves will pack down less than whole leaves. No water should be added as this will encourage the leaves to decompose and the leaves do not need turning as the leaves in the compost bin need.
With good care your lawn will weather the winter and in the spring you will have a lawn to be proud of.
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