Don’t ignore your lawn in winter

Don’t ignore your lawn in winter

A little love through the dormant months reaps big rewards.

Many amateur gardeners think of winter as a time to take a welcome break from the intense lawn maintenance required in the fast-growing summer months.

But even though your lawn is one of the most resilient parts of your garden, proper maintenance from fertilising to mowing is vital to keep it healthy through winter.

Winter Lawn Maintenance Tips from Rusty Garton at Australian Lawn Fanatics

Starting out right

 If you are planning a new lawn you can offset a lot of heartache in years to come by making sure you have the right grass to begin with. Given Australia’s intense summer temperatures and extended periods of low rainfall it is worth choosing a drought tolerant grass that only needs watering three times a week in the morning, twice moderately for 15 minutes and once intensely for 45 minutes.

 Steve Burt from My Home Turf (www.myhometurf.com.au) says Zoysia grasses like Native Nara and Empire thrive in Australia and many people are turning to these turfs as a way to combat drought conditions.

Applying winter lawn fertiliser

Getting ready for winter starts in mid-Autumn before the lawn enters dormancy.

“Winter fertilisers are just a little different to other lawn fertilisers as they contain higher levels of iron and potassium which help strengthen and green up lawns over the colder months,” says Rusty Garton, from Australian Lawn Fanatics.

The first application of winter fertiliser in May prepares a lawn by increasing its iron and potassium levels and general health. Otherwise the lawn enters the cold season in a weakened condition.

The second application should be eight weeks later in July. This second feed of iron and nutrients help sustain it for the rest of the cold months.

“Most lawns will lose some colour in the colder months,” Rusty says. “However, a few simple and cost-effective steps will give it enough support to ensure it returns to a glorious green as soon as the temperatures start to rise.”

It’s important to use a high-quality fertiliser from a well-known brand. The difference in outcome for your lawn can often be dramatic.

Path care tip – Winter fertilisers are high in iron and potassium and may leave rust stains on paths and driveways if the fertiliser isn’t applied carefully. You can prevent this by ensuring paths are thoroughly clean before you water the fertiliser into the lawn.

Mowing

Given winter is a time when there will be less wear and tear on your lawn you can mow it a little shorter and less often. Check your turf variety for recommended frequency of mowing but remember never mow more than one third of the grass height at any one time.

Keep your mower blades sharp. Winter is a good time to conduct maintenance on gardening tools or replace those that aren’t up to scratch.

Watering

While the colder months usually mean your lawn will require less water, you do need to keep an eye on it.

Try the Footprint Test by walking along the grass. If your footprints stay, it’s time to bring out the hose. Lawn will only have footprints when there are low levels of water in the blades.

Generally, as the temperatures decrease so does the lawn’s need for regular watering but don’t ignore it completely! If there hasn’t been much rainfall or morning dew, plan on giving your lawn a good soaking twice a month so it can maintain its water reserves. It is vital that the moisture is maintained in the soil to keep the grass alive.

Check pH Levels

Winter is a great time to check your lawn’s pH levels. The ideal level is between 6 and 8,” says Rusty. “If the soil is out of balance it will show up as a lack of colour beyond what you might expect to see even in winter.”

Home pH test kits are available at most nurseries at a very reasonable cost, usually under $10.

Manage expectations!

Depending on the coldness of the winter, and the actual temperature of the soil, results can vary when fertilising in winter. If a lawn is in poor health to begin with, an application of winter fertiliser generally won’t turn the problem around. Correct year-round fertilising and lawn care is essential to thriving through the cold months.

Now that the dry spell is coming to an end it is a great time to consider replacing or installing new lawn – look at the detailed Quick Reference Guide to make your ideal choice.

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