Living in Phoenix is a true joy, offering warm weather patterns that extend into the seventies all the way into November. While the leaves may not turn until late in the season, and winter might not be anything but a distant thought, it’s important to take steps now to prepare your lawn for winter. While our temperatures here tend to be higher than average, you still need to prepare your lawn for whatever lies in wait this winter.
7 steps to prepare your lawn for winter
1. Scalp the lawn
To make sure your lawn survives the winter, you need to first scalp it back. This will help reduce the thatch that has appeared over the summer months, and will also eliminate any competition from weeds or warm-season grasses. Scalping helps remove leaves and thatch to ensure that any new seed you spread can reach the soil.
To do this, drop your mowing height to about half an inch. Collect and then dispose of the clippings, even if you normally leave them on the lawn to act as natural fertilizers.
If you have a warm-season grass, like Zoysia or Bermuda, it will likely begin to turn brown as the winter months approach. If you want your lawn to remain green throughout the winter, you will need to overseed with a cold-season species, such as Rye. Overseeding in the fall will help the lawn keep its color while warm-weather species go dormant.
When you’re ready to seed, make sure you apply evenly, avoiding the distribution of all of your seed in one location or isolating other areas altogether. Make sure you water well after doing so.
3. Fertilize cold season grasses
While you should never fertilize warm-season grasses in the fall or winter – this can cause them to rapidly put on new growth, which will then be more susceptible to cold temperatures – late fall is a good time to fertilize any cold season grasses. This includes newly planted varieties, too. Consider conducting a test of your soil to determine in which nutrients it is deficient, and then use an organic or synthetic fertilizer to feed your grass’ hungry roots.
4. Lower your mowing height
Do this gradually. Each mowing cycle, lower your height just a bit until you reach ¾ of an inch with a rotary mower or ½ inch with a reel mower. Consider cutting your lawn more often – even two or three times a week – to help remove dormant grasses and make it easier for new grass seed to germinate. Remember to never cut more than a third off the grass length at any given time. According to Wikilawn, cutting too much of the grass blade off at once “will dry out your grass and prevent roots from developing well”.
5. Continue your regular irrigation schedule
It’s not uncommon for Phoenix homeowners to experience hot, dry conditions even well into the late fall months. As a result, you should not eschew your regular irrigation schedule in favor of a more lackadaisical watering approach. Continue to water your lawn every three to five days for about half an hour each time, depending on temperatures and natural rainfall.
Mulching isn’t mandatory, but it’s a good idea, particularly if you expect harsh conditions this winter. Mulching can help reduce the frequency with which you need to water your lawn., and will also protect your lawn and plants against extreme temperatures. A composted mulch can help your lawn both retain moisture and moderate its temperatures while new seed is germinating or other grass types have gone into dormancy.
7. Know your grass type
Most importantly, don’t take any steps toward growing or maintaining your lawn this winter until you know exactly what kind of grass you have. Phoenix offers a hospitable growing environment for many types of grass species, but if you don’t know the basics about your grass type -such as whether it is a cool- or warm- season variety, as well as its preferences in regard to watering and mowing height – you will be ill-equipped to care for your lawn. Do some research to make sure your lawn doesn’t only make it through the Phoenix winter, but stays beautiful throughout the process.