While the winter months is not a normal time to think about lawn care, there are a few things everyone can do to keep lawns in the best condition possible for greening up when spring arrives.
Ice-melt and Salt Damage:
Icy walks are treacherous and some salt or other ice-melt products are needed to prevent slips and falls. As fate has it, it tends to be walks bordering snow covered grass that needs this since it is in a shady or north facing area. Unfortunately, these products can damage the lawn as well. To lessen the impact of salt or other ice-melt products, use them only when needed. It is a good idea to shovel the areas first so there is less runoff going into the grass. Do not over-apply the de-icing products.
Avoid Heavy Lawn Traffic:
When grass is dormant it can be easy for people to forget that it shouldn’t be walked on as much. Try to prevent too much foot traffic on your winter lawn. Turf is relatively resilient, but it will have a difficult time recovering if paths become established in the lawn. Not only does it compact the soil making it harder for roots to breathe, it damages the crowns of the plants at a time when there is little to no recovery growth. Another tip to preventing traffic across the lawn is to keep sidewalks free of snow and ice to encourage guests and pedestrians to use walks instead of walking across the lawn. If possible, dogs should be encouraged to move around and not stick to one or two areas of the lawn as well.
Never allow anyone to park a vehicle on lawn areas. Even the smallest vehicle will leave impressions in the soil and kill off the grass that is underneath the tires. Using the lawn as a parking lot is a sure fire way to kill the good grass and leave patches open for unwanted grasses and weeds to creep in the following spring and summer.
Winter Watering and Lawn Mites:
Watering the lawn a few times a month during warmer weather is very helpful during long dry spans. Water when the temperatures are above 40º F. Watering should end in time for the water to soak in before the temperatures fall below freezing.
Also keep in mind winter watering helps replenish moisture taken by lawn mites. Mites, especially during dry winters, can do significant damage to lawns. Mountain High does offer winter mite sprays which drastically cut mite populations, but winter watering is still needed to prevent damage.
Voles have become more active in lawns after the heavy December snow. These mouse-like creatures feed on plants and the roots of the lawn are tempting targets since many of the wild plants voles use for food have dried up or died off. The trails left in the lawn by voles are only part of the damage they do. They also chew on evergreens and other plants, particularly Junipers, girdling them, and thus causing major dieback and in some cases even death of the plants they are feeding on.
Keep Lawn Areas Clean:
It is not uncommon for items to be left out and forgotten about once the snow starts to fall. This year we had a late fall and a very fast cool down so many lawns now have leaves and other debris on them that is normally cleaned up before the harsh cold hits. During periods of milder weather it is good idea to do what you can to get leaves and other debris off the lawn. Also keep your eye out for larger items: Stray chunks of fire wood, dog toys, rakes, and even lawn furniture can leave dead spots on the lawn if left sitting in the same place all winter long.
It is more difficult to pick up pet waste, but when the snow clears, making an effort to pick up after pets will prevent heavy spotting and prevent the need to do seeding or even replacing areas of the lawn.
The best way to make sure your lawn stays clear of foreign objects is to do an occasional sweep of the lawn every couple of weeks during the winter.