Shutterstock/ By Georgii Shipin
You’re wondering when and at what temperature the grass on your lawn goes into a dormant state. Maybe, it’s because you’re yearning to put your lawn mower away after the busy summer gardening season. Or it’s for the opposite reason, you find mowing therapeutic and keep asking yourself if it is still OK to cut your grass in the winter.
Then, read on because this post will explain what happens to your green plot during the colder months. You’ll learn if grass continues to grow in the winter period and get an insight on how best to take care of your lawn, in order to boost its revival in the spring.
When does turf stop growing + Understanding the factors
Grass growth rate depends on more than one factor. One needs to consider their grass variety, the air and soil temperature and the type of climate they live in. You can expect that your grass will stop growing when the following condition is met:
When the air and soil temperature is below 5°C. Cold weather will stall grass growth, even if the other necessary conditions are present. Grass tiller and leaf production are affected by four elements. To grow, grass requires optimal heat, plenty of light, sufficient water and the right quantity of nitrogen, with temperature being the most influential component out of the four.
When talking about the UK and what month of the year you’ll most likely give your mowing equipment a rest – the last grass cutting day will probably vary. For folks who reside in the West country’s mild winter conditions, the period between December and February will be the quiet time for lawn trimming. And for those who live somewhere up North, October – March will be the time to forget about the cutting chore.
Does grass grow at all in the winter months?
Let’s clear that one, too, as you will hear different opinions.
On one hand, grass never ceases to grow but it merely slows down. During winter, new grass leaves will still appear but at a very slow rate – about every 35-40 days (unless we have freezing cold conditions outside).
On the other hand, what type of grass you have also determines whether it will eventually stop growing. Perennial grasses are likely to become dormant or slow down, whereas annual ryegrass and annual meadow varieties will naturally die.
Whether your grass grows in the winter will depend on:
- What type of grass it is – annual or perennial;
- How mild the winter is – temperatures below 5°C may halt grass leaf growth.
So, if we focus on the first factor, UK-popular perennial grass varieties, such as common bentgrass, red fescue and dwarf perennial ryegrass will go dormant, once the temperatures plummet later in the year. Still, healthy grass will probably continue to be somewhat active in winter. We may see a definite slowdown on the surface, where grass growth is easing up. But grass puts all its energy where it matters – into its root system. Root growth is important for your grass to prepare well for the coming winter.
And when it comes to the growth cycle of fast establishing annual grass types, the change of colour of the grass leaves at the end of autumn and their zero growth will mean only one thing – the grass is dying rather going to sleep. So, you’ll be looking at reseeding your lawn in the early spring.
The second factor is often ruled by what area you live in and by the specific weather conditions in that particular winter season. So, the question here will be not so much whether the grass will keep growing in general in the winter months but whether your lawn mower will be much of use to you during this period. Depending on where you are and what the “cold” weather is going to be like that year, here is a list of what may stop you from trimming your turf once the winter sets in:
- It’s snowing – mowing the snow doesn’t make sense;
- There’s a ground frost – trimming frozen grass leaves will damage your lawn;
- It’s raining heavily – a sure thing for a bodge result;
- It’s been raining for days – wet grass and ground are far from ideal for cutting;
- The ground is waterlogged – keep off your lawn and investigate drainage issues;
- The lawn is overwhelmed with wet worm casts – they need to be dispersed with a stiff brush, first;
- Reduced daylight – the shorter days and the poor ratio between overcast weather and sunny days in the winter keep grass length in check.
Well, you may not need your mower that often but you shouldn’t ignore your lawn needs in the winter. If you want it to thrive during the spring and summer months, you have to do your homework.
How do you take care of your lawn before it goes dormant?
Your 5 most important winter lawn care tips:
Clear all debris before the cold sets in
Once the decaying fallen leaves have served their nutritious purpose, remove any remaining plant debris from your lawn surface. The grass will get smothered and damaged if covered during the colder months.
Scarify your lawn in late autumn
Any untreated thatch and moss on your lawn will have a similar stifling and harming effect on your lawn before it goes into dormancy. So, scarify your green plot well and clear all areas with moss and thatch buildup.
Aerate if necessary on a dry day
Aeration helps your lawn with drainage and air circulation. Commonly, the best time to aerate your lawn is late October and early November. Do not use a hollow tine fork aerator that late in the year as you may risk frost to set in the holes and damage your lawn. Use an ordinary garden fork, instead.
Give your lawn a winter feed
Winter lawn feeds that are high in iron are usually ideal for supplying your lawn with the necessary nutrients in the winter. The only rule, here, is to apply the product in cool, wet conditions, as iron may blacken the grass if used in dry weather. Again, October and November are suitable months for this job.
Cut the grass only if necessary
Cut the grass now and again (no more than once a month) on a high setting if you are enjoying a mild winter that year with temperatures higher than 7°C. Pick a dry and sunny day and keep heed not to cut your lawn too low (about 25% off the top of the grass leaf is ideal).
Extra tips: Get your lawn mower fully serviced or use a professional mowing team, so it doesn’t fail you when you most need it. Don’t ever walk on a frosty lawn because the brittle grass leaves will easily snap and may fail to fully recover.
Please, do tell us about your experience with winter mowing in the comments below.