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Tips to Prepare and Care for Your Yard in the Winter

Posted by Susanna Haynie on December 10, 2012
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frozen grass

When should I winter fertilize my lawn in Colorado?

Plan to apply your winter fertilization in the fall after the first hard frost but before the ground freezes. The grass will still be actively growing and able to absorb nutrients from the fertilizer. This will help your lawn survive the winter and come back strong in the spring.

  • Check the forecast in your area and look for a stretch of mild, dry weather. Applying fertilizer during this window will give the fertilizer time to settle in and work before the winter weather takes hold. 
  • Select a winter fertilizer that is specifically formulated for use in the fall. These fertilizers contain a higher ratio of essential nutrients like phosphorus and potassium that encourage healthy root growth and winter survival.
  • Remember to follow the application instructions on the fertilizer label and water the lawn deeply after applying the fertilizer to help it absorb the nutrients.

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Should I water my grass in the winter in Colorado?

Your lawn does stop actively growing and goes dormant during winter months. But according to local nursery Heidrich’s Tree Farm, “it is very important that you keep some moisture in the ground” during colder months after your irrigation system is winterized. 

Here are some tips for winter watering:

  • Be sure to winterize your irrigation system in October to avoid costly pipe damage from freezing temperatures.
  • Use a hose-end sprinkler or watering wand since automatic sprinkler systems are off during the winter.
  • Water early in the morning on a warmer day (40+ degrees) so that the moisture has time to soak into the ground before freezing temperatures overnight.
  • Water about once a month from November-April depending on how much snow we receive. 
  • It is especially important to water newly-planted lawns, trees, shrubs and flowers.
  • Established lawn and trees, especially those in sunny, wind, or exposed areas should also be high priority
  • Water slowly so it can soak in.
  • Remove the hose from the spigot after watering to prevent freezing damage.
  • To figure out how long to water, put out cups to catch some of the water. Water until you can measure 0.5 – 1′ deep in the cups.

Related Reading: Winter Home Maintenance

Should I water other plants, shrubs and trees in my yard during winter months?

Most shrubs, plants and trees go dormant in the winter and do not significant watering, unless they are newly planted or container plants.

If you have recently planted trees or shrubs, they’ll need enough moisture during winter months to help them establish their root systems. Water them deeply once a week during dry spells with enough water to soak the soil to a depth of about 12 inches.

Plants growing in containers will also need to be watered during the winter because the soil in containers tends to dry out quickly. Water container plants when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch with enough water to soak the soil to a depth of about 6 inches.

Related Reading: Fall Home Maintenance 

Is it better to leave the lawn short or long over winter in Colorado?

This is a bit of a Goldilocks situation as you don’t want your lawn too short or too long over the winter months. Either one could cause damage to your turf. 

Aim to leave the grass about 2-3 inches tall when mowing for the last time before winter. This is slightly longer than the recommended summer mowing height of 1-3 inches, but it will still allow the grass to photosynthesize and generate energy through the winter. The longer grass will provide insulation for the roots and help protect them from the cold. A longer lawn will also help retain moisture, which can be beneficial if you experience dry conditions during the winter.

It’s also important to remove any leaves or debris from the lawn before winter  because a thick layer of debris can suffocate the grass and lead to fungal diseases. Raking the leaves off the lawn will help ensure that the grass has access to sunlight and air which will help it survive the winter.

The key to maintaining a healthy lawn over the winter is to provide it with the right combination of sunlight, moisture, and insulation. By following these steps, you can help ensure that your lawn is well-prepared for the winter and ready to thrive in the spring.

Related Reading: Tips for Maintaining Your Home

Should I aerate my lawn before winter?

Fall and spring are the best times to aerate your lawn in Colorado. Aeration uses special tools to essentially poke holes in your turf to allow air to reach soil and roots. It also allows fertilizer and water to reach the root area more easily. It’s ideal to aerate your lawn just before your last fall fertilization and soak. You can purchase an aeration tool to do this by hand, or have it professional aerated by a landscaping company. Many companies in Colorado Springs offer sprinkler winterization services and aeration together.

Should I bag my grass clippings before winter?

It’s generally not necessary to bag your grass clippings before winter. If fact, they can provide a number of benefits to your lawn. Grass clippings contain nutrients that can help fertilize the lawn and retain moisture to promote healthy growth through the winter months.

If you have an excessive amount of grass clippings, it may be necessary to remove some of them to prevent them from smothering the grass. In this case, it’s best to compost the clippings rather than throwing them away.  They will break down over time and provide a rich source of nutrients for your soil.

Monitoring the amount of clippings on your lawn will help ensure that your lawn stays healthy and strong throughout the winter.

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