How to Winterize Your Lawn

With fall around the corner, home maintenance isn’t just about cleaning the gutters or repairing the siding. Fall is a crucial time of year for yard work. Preparing your landscaping for cooler weather strengthens the roots of grasses, making it easier for your lawn to bounce back in the spring. Here are some simple steps for winterizing your lawn this fall.

Prepare the Soil

Rake the lawn to remove autumn leaves, twigs, etc. When using a mulching lawnmower, mulch the leaves so they are small enough to rest gently in amongst the blades of grass. If mulched material sits in large clumps on the surface of the lawn, remove them or break them up by thinning them out with a rake – piles of debris “choke” the grass, defeating the winterizing process.

Aerate the Lawn

Aerating the lawn is a procedure that allows water, nutrients, air, and light to quickly reach the roots, stimulating growth. It also helps prevent the soil from becoming compacted or too hard. Depending on the size of the area to be winterized, there are several methods to aerate grass, either manually or with a machine. A small lawn can be aerated with specially designed aerating shoes. Use aerating shoes or a manual push aerator for medium-sized stretches of grass. Rent a motorized or large push aerator for expansive lawns.

Choose the Right Seed and Fertilizer

Grass species fall into two general categories – cool-season and warm-season. Do you know what type of grass is growing on your lawn? If you don’t, take a picture of the lawn to a nursery; they should be able to help you identify the species of grass or grasses (lawns can be made up of different types of grass species). To properly winterize your lawn, choose grass seed and fertilizer meant for your specific lawn type. Cool-season grasses such as fescue, bluegrass, and ryegrass are popular choices for Vancouver’s climate. However, if Bermuda, zoysia or St. Augustine grass is growing on your property, you will need warm-season grass seed and fertilizer.

When to Fertilize the Lawn

If you have cool-season grass, for best results, apply the cool-season fertilizer twice – once in early fall and then again in late fall (end of November or early December). If you plan to feed your lawn only once, choose late fall to properly winterize your lawn.

When winterizing a warm-season lawn, lightly fertilize with a warm-grass fertilizer. Warm-season grasses benefit more from the deep feeding fertilizer process when it’s done in the spring.

Apply fertilizer with a hand-held, manual push, or motorized spreader. You can use the same machine when overseeding.

Overseeding the Lawn

Overseeding is the term for applying grass seed to a lawn that already has grass. It is great for fixing bald spots, improving turf density, and enhancing the overall colour of the lawn. Scatter the seed over the area with the same spreader used to apply the fertilizer. To avoid clumps of grass sticking up from the lawn, make sure the seed is evenly distributed.

Water the Lawn

After fertilizing and seeding the lawn, lightly rake the surface to break up any clumps and to spread soil over the grass seed. Don’t overwater or let the soil dry out. Use a hose or sprinkler that distributes the water like a light rain shower.

Mowing the Lawn

At the beginning of the fall season, before preparing the soil to winterize your lawn, start mowing the grass shorter than you have been during the summer. This will allow more light and air into the soil, especially after aerating. After the lawn has been overseeded, don’t mow for three weeks. Use a setting that will raise the grass – you want it taller for the winter months than it grew in the summer.