Halfway through November and we have had our first dusting of snow for the season in the Wabash Valley. While this is not normal for this time of year for Central Indiana, we need to start thinking about preparing our lawns for winter. There are several tips that we like to share with everyone as our growing season comes to a close.
As colder temperatures begin to take hold, turf will begin to move from upward growth to nutrient storage in the roots. This change is very important as the turf is focusing its energy on survival for the winter months. Because of this, you will not have to mow your lawn as often as just a few weeks ago. Fight the temptation to mow your lawn if it truly does not need it. The turf is continuing to use every part of the leaf blade to produce energy and convert it for storage over the next few months. Take extra caution to follow our mowing recommendation of never mowing shorter than 3.5 inches. Mowing at this height ensures the plant can focus on nutrition storage.
Mowing short can help the lawn from winter turf diseases such as Snow Mold, however, the conditions for snow mold to become a problem in the Wabash Valley are very rare. Snow needs to cover the ground for at least 45 consecutive days before the disease can take hold.
Many cities and towns do a leaf collection. This may be of a benefit, however, be cautious when raking and piling leaves up by the road. These mounds of leaves, if left for a long period, can choke out the healthy grass beneath.
If you do decide to rake your leaves, be sure to limit your physical activity, take multiple breaks, and do not overwork yourself. Many of these outside chores use different muscle groups than what we use every day and it is very easy to hurt yourself.
We recommend taking the easy way out and simply mulching your leaf debris with your lawnmower. Leaf debris provides your lawn and soil with many microscopic benefits. This organic matter that goes back into your lawn will bring an added boost in nutrition that your turf will use as it continues its storage for the winter.
Mulching the leaf debris saves time and energy! Be sure that you do not lower your mowing height when mulching the leaf debris. This will only work against everything that you have done all year to maintain a healthy lawn. We also recommend that leaf debris is cleaned up as soon as possible. Do not let this debris collect on the lawn and build up as it will soon weigh down the turf and begin to cause the turf to deteriorate.
As plants begin to change their vascular movement, weed control becomes more effective in the fall. Plants will begin to move nutrients to the roots for storage for the winter. Using this information, we know that weeds also will translocate herbicide to the root system. For this reason, weeds can be easier to manage during this time of the year.
With the seasons changing, utilize a herbicide that is labeled for the turf you are treating, the target weeds you are trying to kill, and proper air and ground temperatures. Always read and follow all label instructions on any herbicide used. Wear proper personal protection equipment when mixing and making any application.
Proper fertilization during this time of year provides the turf with the necessary nutrients to boost the lawn to make it through the winter. Lawns that receive a winterizer application of fertilizer are quicker to come out of dormancy in the Spring and will show a deeper green color than lawns that are left alone. This fertilization is crucial for nutrient storage in the plant and will extend the health of the lawn from season to season.
For this section, please review to the manual for your lawn mower as it will give specific information regarding the care of your equipment. With that being said, as the season winds down, it is always good to make sure you store and maintain your lawn care tools properly as there is nothing more frustrating than having to start the next season with mechanical issues.
Gasoline can deteriorate over just a few months so be sure to utilize a fuel stabilizer. Gummed up fuel lines can damage an engine of any machine. Change the oil as recommended by the manufacturer. Sharpening the mower blades at the end of the season will ensure the first cut of next year is clean and precise. Wash all equipment and dry before storage. Clean any debris from under the deck of your lawn mower to prevent rusting. Grease all fittings and check any bearings.
Preparing your lawn for the winter does not have to be a difficult task. Continue to mow the lawn at 3.5 inches or higher. Apply fertilizer and herbicide as the timing allows to maintain health and color. Keep the lawn clean from leaf and stick debris as often as possible.
As we always say, be sure to read and follow all labels and manufacturer guidelines when applying products or working on equipment. If you are unsure, ask someone in the industry for help. Find a trusted professional and utilize services that are provided. Any company or individual that applies herbicides has to be licensed by the Office of Indiana State Chemist.