How to Prep Your Lawn for Winter

Oct 05, 2022
How to Prep Your Lawn for Winter

You can feel it through the new chill in the air. You can see its arrival in the not-to-distant future from the ominous turning of the falling leaves. You can sense its approach the turning days, months and pages of the calendar.

As Lord Ned Stark would say, “Winter is coming.”

But as you analyze your lawn, still green and vibrant, and wonder what it will take to enable to survive the forthcoming wrath of an Iowa winter that The Farmer’ Almanac predicts will be extra snowy and harsh, you may worry of what it will take to allow your grass to return to its current glory come spring.

“(Iowa’s Winter 2022) will be colder and drier than normal,” The Farmers’ Almanac Predicts.

The bad news: The Farmers’ Almanac’s winter forecasts are right on the money usually 80 percent of the time.

The good news: Getting your lawn Iowa winter ready is much easier than you may think.

Step One: Start now.

“The end of summer signals the best time to lay the groundwork for a lush field of grass come spring,” The Old House’s Roger Cook writes.

Soil Testing & Go

The work starts with giving your lawn fresh air. Pre-winter lawn care should include aerating the turf to reduce compaction. This will enable fertilizer and water to easily reach roots. You can also reinvigorate thin areas with compost and seed.

Testing your soil before you aerate will tell you which type and amount of amendments to add. Be sure to go over your turf twice in crisscrossing paths to avoid stripes when aerating, fertilizing or seeding.

From there:

  1. Mow Low: Trim your grass down to 2.5 to 3 inches. This will make it easier to aerate and judge how much compost to add.
  2. Aerate: This essential step of pre-winter lawn care should be performed on a day when the soil is moist, not soggy. A core aerator’s hollow tines can’t easily power through hard, dry ground. Take two passes around your lawn’s perimeter.
  3. Top-Dress: Prepare for seeding by spreading a half-inch layer of aged compost over sparse grass. Be sure to use cured, dry, crumbly and cool compost. Hot and smelly compost can harbor pathogens and burn lawns.
  4. Fertilize: With a rotary spreader as your assistant, allocate fertilizer and pelletized lime (if needed). High-phosphorus fertilizer stimulates root growth, but let the soil test decide the best mix for your conditions. Open or close the hopper only when the spreader is in motion to prevent it from dropping too much fertilizer in one spot.
  5. Overseed: This is as good as rain for hibernating grass during the cold heart of winter. Load your spreader with two-third of the bag’s recommendation and distribute the seed over the compost. This will account for overlapping passes. Again, keep your spreader in motion when opening or closing the hopper.

Remember, summer’s blistering heat put your lawn through the ringer and depleted it of the nutrients it will need to get through the winter. Now, it needs to eat.

“Over the summer months, the prolonged heat, wildlife, or general wear and tear will have damaged your lawn,” Greensleeves’ David Truby tells Homes & Gardens. “Knowing how to fertilize a lawn and using the correct fertilizers will help your lawn recover from the summer and stay thick and healthy during the cooler part of the year, as well as help keep away various pests that can harm your turf.”

  1. Rake and Water: Mix the speed into the compost with a rake and water lightly – five minutes at a time, two to three times a day – until seeds sprout. Follow up with watering and another mow, cutting grass back to 1.5 inches before sending your lawn to seep for its long winter nap.

No Time to Sleep on Lawn Care

Summer may be over, but it’s no time to sleep on the all-important TLC your lawn needs to be ready to weather and survive the forthcoming unpredictable Iowa winter. For with The Farmers’ Almanac forecasting Iowa will be a “hibernation zone, glacial and snow-filled” this winter, don’t dare send your lawn to fend for itself naked and unprepared.

“Fall lawn care is something that is often overlooked when the weather starts to change, making it less inviting to be outdoors,” Homes & Gardens’ Chiana Dickson writes, “but good practice can make a big difference over winter and particularly in early spring when you want to make your lawn green and thick.”