As the air cools and summer fades into piles of colored leaves, your lawn beckons attention before the snow covers it with a blanket of white. Some lawn projects can be simple like raking on a regular basis or mowing with a vacuum bag style tractor system. Raking, or specifically a lack of leaves allows your lawn to capture more sunlight as the deciduous trees lose their green canopy. Increased sunlight can really help shaded and weak areas capture additional energy to help prepare for the winter. In some cases, this vital time period could be a month or more of growing before slowing to the point of near dormancy with the onset of freezing weather. Any leaves left on the lawn can cause a mulching action by inhibiting sunlight from reaching the leaf blades below. Don’t allow piles of leaves to sit for weeks on end, or the grass underneath will suffer the consequences possibly even leading to damage. Keeping your lawn clean in the fall can really improve the chances of winter survival and minimize damage. Turf that is left covered with leaves or lots of pine needles face a lack of air, light, and often succumb to ice damage in a weakened state. As simple as raking or leaf removal is, it is very important to all lawns to approach winter clear as opposed to buried out of sight under leaf litter.
Autumn is also a great time harden your lawn off for winter. A wonderful mowing height during the growing season is 3″ as a standard. Your mowing height can be lowered as October fades into November. Drop your mowing deck a half-inch a week starting in late October with the final cut in mid November being around 1 to 1.5 inches in height. The slow drop in mowing height helps harden your lawn off and slows growth in addition to falling temperatures. Many folks put their mowers away much too early in October when the lawn continues to grow well into November in many years sometimes to the Thanksgiving holiday break in southern areas of NH or VT. Some of the most simple cultural things like mowing and raking can make or break some turf grass areas between not only looking great, but awesome. The preventative care in raking and mowing can yield big dividends over a harsh winter- aiding in survival and spring recovery. Turf that goes into the winter long and by that I mean a normal height of 3″ or more- will be predisposed to snow mold and ice damage, even more so with leaf or needle debris.
Plan ahead now and rest easy this winter knowing you did all you could to help your lawn make it into a new year!