When it comes to having a manicured lawn and healthy grass, regular care is essential.
One key element of lawn care is establishing a regular mowing schedule.
Mowing your grass to the proper height allows for dense growth and creates a lush, thick lawn.
But is it safe to keep mowing your lawn during winter?
As a rule of thumb, never mow your lawn when outdoor temperatures are consistently below 40° degrees Fahrenheit (4° C), or your grass is frozen. Your lawn will grow much slower in cold temperatures, and cutting frozen grass blades causes them to weaken or die.
Due to its slowed growth, it will be difficult for your lawn to recover from stress or damage in cold weather conditions.
Keep reading to learn how to care for your grass in the winter months to ensure you have a healthy lawn in the spring.
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When To Stop Mowing Your Lawn
While there is no definitive date on when to stop mowing your lawn in the cooler seasons, there are several factors to consider, including:
- Grass Type
- Soil condition
- Rainfall amount
Depending on where you live, seasonal temperature changes indicate when it is time to stop cutting your grass.
Grass growth will significantly slow down when daytime air temperatures are lower than 40° degrees Fahrenheit (4° C) for a prolonged period.
For northern and middle areas of the United States, temperatures will get this low around October or November.
Cold temperatures may not arrive until as late as December in regions with milder winters.
Weather conditions may be more unpredictable if you live in a transitional growing zone.
It is recommended to pay attention to weather forecasts and be aware of early frost or freeze warnings.
Aside from knowing the ambient air temperatures, it is also vital to regularly check soil temperatures as cold weather sets in.
Ground temperatures may be several degrees higher than air temperatures under ideal conditions.
The type of grass growing on your lawn also determines when to stop mowing.
Cool-season grasses tend to go dormant when soil temperatures are 45° degrees Fahrenheit (7° C).
Warm-season grasses have a harder time dealing with colder temperatures and will go dormant when the soil is consistently below 55° degrees Fahrenheit (13° C).
Knowing when to put the lawn mower away may be more challenging if your lawn has a mixture of cool- and warm-season grasses.
Your cool-season grasses may continue to grow long after your warm-season grasses have gone dormant, leaving you with a patchy lawn.
Fertilizing your lawn before the first freeze of winter is highly recommended.
This final fertilization of the season replaces essential nutrients to keep your grass healthy and encourage grass roots to grow throughout winter.
Do not mow your lawn after fertilizing it for the last time in the season, as this will disrupt root growth.
For areas with clay soils, it is recommended to aerate your lawn in the fall to prevent compaction and improve ground conditions.
Compacted soil prohibits fertilizers from working properly and prevents strong root growth during colder temperatures.
During long periods of dry weather combined with cool temperatures of less than 50° degrees Fahrenheit (10° C), it is safe to stop mowing your lawn.
Without sufficient moisture and warmth, grass growth will slow down significantly.
Likewise, do not mow your lawn immediately after rainy weather.
Cutting wet grass not only causes damage to your lawn but will also dull your mower blades.
Leaving wet clippings on your lawn creates an ideal breeding ground for diseases and fungus during cool weather.
Using a heavy mower on wet soil will create ruts in your lawn and increases the potential to disturb delicate roots.
Should Grass Be Long or Short in the Winter?
Leaving your grass too long in the winter prevents snow from reaching the soil, creating a haven for voles and other rodent pests.
If the snow becomes matted on the grass, it may also lead to snow mold and other fungal diseases.
Cutting your grass too short makes it prone to cold weather stress, making it more difficult for your lawn to recover in the spring.
Winter’s ideal grass blade height is between 2-2.5” inches.
At this shorter height, your lawn is more protected from pests and diseases and is less likely to become stressed in freezing temperatures.
How To Care for Your Lawn During Cold Weather
Proper grass maintenance in the winter creates ideal spring lawn recovery conditions.
Taking care of your grass in the winter prevents your lawn from succumbing to cold weather stress.
There are several ways to keep your lawn healthy and ensure healthy growth next season.
Keep Your Lawn Clean
The first step in protecting your grass is to remove any lawn debris before the first frost.
Rake away excess leaf coverage to prevent lawn fungus like snow mold and keep tunneling rodents from digging up your yard.
A thick layer of leaves also blocks sunlight and prevents nutrients from reaching the soil for healthy root growth.
Mulching your leaves is the best option but requires frequent mowing in the fall.
Using a leaf blower to remove leaves without damaging the brittle grass blades if you have not raked your lawn before the first frost.
Mow Your Lawn Before the First Frost
Give your lawn a final mow before the first frost of winter.
This final mow of the season ensures your grass can withstand harsh weather and allows it to recover more easily in the spring.
Do not be tempted to mow your lawn during a warm spell in the winter months.
Your grass is not likely to come out of dormancy or grow very much during a few days of warmer temperatures, and mowing during this time will only cause damage to your lawn.
Fertilize Before the First Freeze
Apply fertilizer to your entire lawn before the first freeze of the winter season.
The fertilizer will replace any nutrients your grass lost during hot weather and encourage healthy root growth.
Avoid Heavy Lawn Traffic
Dormant grass will have more difficulty recovering from heavy foot traffic, so avoid walking on your lawn in the winter whenever possible.
Walking on your lawn or placing heavy objects on it when covered in heavy frost also causes severe damage to the brittle grass blades.
To prevent a dead lawn, remove furniture or equipment from your yard before frigid temperatures set in.
Maintain Lawn Equipment
Maintaining and properly storing your lawn mower and other equipment will benefit you and your grass when it is time to mow again.
Thoroughly clean your mower of any dirt, grass clippings, or other debris, and sharpen the blades so you will be ready for mowing in the spring.
Remove the gas from the mower or add a fuel stabilizer to a full tank to prevent rust, condensation, and residues from building up in the fuel system.
Store your mower in a dry place like a shed or garage, and keep it away from heat sources such as water heaters or furnaces.