Most lawns become semi-dormant during the Winter, most noticeably they will slow dramatically in their growth, lose some of their dark green colour and repair from damage will also be slowed during the colder months. However it's still possible to keep lawns looking their best even during coldest times.
Knowing that the growth of lawns has slowed due to a state of semi-dormancy, it can be difficult to imagine how a lawn can continue looking good if it cannot actively grow and improve itself. This is true, so good Winter Lawn Care must begin prior to the onset of Winter.
As Summer begins to wind down we can start to notice that our lawns are requiring less mowing as their growth rates also begin to slow. Hopefully throughout the entire growing season we've managed to keep our lawns in good condition, so it's just a process of continuing that same lawn care with a couple of exceptions.
Watering should be adjusted as the weather cools so the lawn isn't receiving too much water for it's requirements, and lawn mowing should continue regularly to promote green leaf growth.
The key is to get the lawn in the best condition possible prior to Winter arriving and while the lawn is still actively growing.
Lawn mowing should continue in Winter, even though it will become less frequent, this keeps the lawn looking clean and well maintained, and continues to promote the tillering effect which encourages green leaf growth. Most lawns in Australia will continue to grow in Winter, however the slowed growth can often be deceiving, many lawn types such as Couch can build up a substantial thatch layer over Winter if they are not continued to be mowed regularly. When Spring arrives the thatch layer is easily cut into leaving a rather scalped and brown lawn once mowing resumes.
Most of Australia can switch off their lawn reticulation for Winter, but once again, Winter can be a deceiving time, many soil types can drain away their water reserves over Winter if rain isn't frequent enough. The grass can stay green looking because there is no great need for water during semi-hibernation and the lawn can usually and easily receive it's modest requirements from dew and infrequent rainfall. The problem arises when that first warm day of Spring arrives and our lawns suddenly go into shock and turn brown, so water levels in the soil should continue to be monitored throughout Winter, and a watering given when required.
One month prior to the onset of Winter is the best time to begin a Winter fertilising regime. Winter fertiliser, which has a higher Iron content and adjusted ratios of other nutrients, is applied now to begin strengthening the lawn with the nutrients and minerals it most needs for cold weather. Because the lawn is still moderately growing, the grass can absorb these products very easily and make the most use of them.
The next dose of Winter fertiliser should be 2 months later, in the middle of Winter, the lawn can only make minor use of these nutrients at this time of year, but it still does help the lawn considerably to receive this feeding. 2 months later again, and at the beginning of Spring, a regular lawn fertiliser can be used once more.
Lawns can be given more frequent applications of fertiliser throughout the Winter providing the fertiliser is put down in far smaller quantities. Fertilising every 4 weeks will give far better results from consistent feeding, but each application must be put down in half recommended quantities, so if the recommended application rate is 50 gram m2, then this should be adjusted to around 20-25 grams per m2. Applying full doses of fertiliser so close together will only waste the fertiliser, damage the lawn from over-fertilising, and damage the environment when the excess nutrients are washed away in our water systems.