A little bit of work now can save you a whole lot of work later. This is true in many aspects of life, not least your lawn. And the lead-up to winter is a more pivotal time than most in minimising any damage and work down the track.
Most Australian lawns are warm season varieties, and so don’t particularly enjoy the cooler times of the year. They will generally go dormant, waiting for the warmer weather to spring to life again, and as such can be relatively defenseless against frosts and cold snaps.
So how do you best help your lawn to make it unharmed through the winter? Well, with the help of some basic lawn maintenance practices which aim to prevent any potential trouble before it even starts, you’ll be doing all that you can to prep your lawn for the coming winter.
Step 1: Clearing away leaves and debris
Warm season lawns – particularly the Australian favourites of Couch, Buffalo and Kikuyu – love the sun. The more UV these lawns get the better, so prepping your lawn for the winter means ensuring that there’s no barrier between the turf and daylight.
With plants dropping leaves and a variety of other debris floating around, a good lawn owner will be quick to clear away any leaves and waste, being sure to not let piles collect on the grass. And instead of tossing this debris away, the fallen leaves can actually be reconstituted into a nice mulch for the rest of your garden.
Step 2: Weeding
Weeds – broad leaf varieties in particular – will seek to take advantage of your lawn’s weakness over winter. If not dealt with quickly they can become a major menace, covering large swathes of your grass and denying it nutrients, water and sunlight. In preparation for winter, be diligent in removing weeds in quick fashion, ideally by hand. If you allow a weed problem to get out of hand and need to use a herbicide you can end up damaging the surrounding turf.
Step 3: Aerating the lawn
If your lawn experiences heavy rain, heavy traffic or is planted in a particularly clay based soil, it may experience compaction. A compact soil will deny your lawn’s roots air, water and nutrients, all of which are fairly vital in maintaining its health. The solution? Aeration.
In the lead up to winter you should allow air, water and nutrients access to your lawn’s roots by poking holes in the soil. This can be done with a purpose-built rolling aerator, or for smaller patches of turf simply by using a garden fork. Aim to form holes that are around 5cm deep and are spaced 5-10cm apart.
Step 4: Spreading a slow release fertiliser
Autumn is a great time to fertilise your lawn, as it will help the turf to gain all the strength it can in the lead-up to winter. A slow release fertiliser is wise, as it will work to strengthen the roots over weeks rather than just days.
Step 5: Top-dressing
An oft-ignored aspect of good lawn maintenance, top dressing your lawn pre-winter brings with it a wealth of benefits. It’s the process of spreading fertile soil on top of your lawn, and can help to level out your lawn after a long summer of foot traffic and the occasional storm. It also serves to improve the drainage of your lawn (when combined with aeration).
Using a shovel, spread the top dressing soil over the lawn, focusing on dips and hollows. Then use a garden broom or the back of a rake to even the top dressing out.
Once you’ve completed these five steps you’ll have put your lawn in the best possible position to attack the winter months. Winter can be a tricky time of year for Australian lawns, but a little bit of work now can make the season a whole lot easier.
If you’ve got any questions or queries regarding winter lawn prep, don’t hesitate to contact the friendly team at McKays.