Lawn maintenance,

How to prepare your lawn for winter — a step-by-step plan 

There's not a lot to do once winter sets in. But there are 6 essential tasks that will help your lawn spring back strongly in spring.

7 MIN 25 Nov
Last update: 01 Feb 2023
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Winter means many things: shorter days and longer nights, sitting by the fire, sweaters, box sets, and — let’s face it — general cosiness. And, of course, there’s the run-up to Christmas and all that goes with it. But never forget: preparing your lawn for winter is a great way to sign off at the end of the year. 

Table of contents:
  • Preparing your lawn for winter: the checklist
  • The importance of preparing your lawn for winter
  • What is the best moment to prepare your lawn for winter?
  • How do I prepare my lawn for winter? 6 simple steps
  • Preparing your lawn for winter: step 1 – the final mow
  • Preparing your lawn for winter: step 2 — fertilise
  • Preparing your lawn for winter: step 3 — scarify or aerate
  • Preparing your lawn for winter: step 4 — overseed
  • Preparing your lawn for winter: step 5 — remove leaves and twigs
  • Preparing your lawn for winter: step 6 — garden furniture
  • FAQs

Once winter sets in, there’s not much to do until spring. But before you enjoy that well-earned rest, there are six essential tasks to complete for 

 a healthier turf come spring. 

This article is about preparing your lawn for winter, with a checklist of tasks that makes everything simple and straightforward. 

Ready?

Preparing your lawn for winter: the checklist

A writing pad and pen for a winter plan for your lawn.
Your winter lawn checklist – Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

These are the tasks to complete before winter. You might have already done some of these, so win-win. 😉

  1. The final cutting
  2. Fertilising
  3. Scarifying and/or aerating (if you haven’t already done it)
  4. Overseeding
  5. Remove fallen leaves and branches 
  6. Store your garden furniture

The importance of preparing your lawn for winter

Grass plants go dormant over the winter — this means the grass blades no longer grow, and the main functions of growth close down for the cold season. 

This puts an unhealthy lawn at risk of weeds, fungi, and moss, all of which rather enjoy the winter.

The big problems with a winter lawn 

A single mushroom growing on the forest floor
Winter can mean fungi – Photo by Vi Tran on Unsplash

If bald spots are left over from the heavy use of summer, weeds will take advantage of the clear earth. 

If the soil is compacted and soggy, moss and fungi will happily embed into your turf. 

And once these problems occur, they require some substantial solutions come spring. 

So, preparing your lawn for winter means your turf approaches the cold season with the best possible chance of emerging beautifully come spring.  

What is the best moment to prepare your lawn for winter?

It depends on the weather — it may already be too late for scarifying and overseeding. However, most regions of the UK have been fairly mild so far, so chances are, it’s OK to go ahead. 

Because:

Scarifying temporarily damages your grass plants. But this damage is beneficial because it triggers a growth hormone that makes your grass plants grow back more healthily than before. 

However: 

Your grass stops growing after the soil has dropped below 5ºC. Remember: air and soil temperatures differ — the earth holds heat much longer than the air. 

So, use a soil thermometer and gauge the soil temperature. If it’s nearing 5ºC, leave scarifying till spring when it’s warmed up again. 

How do I prepare my lawn for winter? 6 simple steps

You might not have to complete all of these tasks. Check through and see which ones are appropriate for your lawn.

Preparing your lawn for winter: step 1 – the final mow

Lawn mower on long grass
The final mow of the year – Photo by Daniel Watson on Unsplash

You can schedule the last mowing of the year when the weather is heading towards a constant 5ºC (or lower). If it’s still too warm, your grass will continue to grow, defeating the object of the final mow. 

When the time is right, mow your lawn to a minimum of 6 inches. If you leave it longer, the frozen stalks could snap if you tread on your frozen lawn. If you cut it too short, weeds, moss, and fungi will have a field day. 

Make sure you use your grass collector for this final mowing of the year — leaving clippings will keep the soil soggy and attract moss and weeds. 

Lawn doctor Louis says:

Clean your mower before you store it for the winter. Sharpen the blades and clean dried mud and grass from the underside. Then, store it in a dry place till spring.

Preparing your lawn for winter: step 2 — fertilise

After the final mow, sprinkle a high-potassium fertiliser, like MOOWY’s 2-in-1 moss killer and fertiliser. This increases the salt content of your grass plants, which lowers the freezing point and prevents damage from use when the ground is frozen.

Use a low-nitrogen fertiliser to avoid a last-minute growth spurt. 

The best low-nitrogen fertiliser for winter
Front image of the 2-in-1 Moss Killer and Fertiliser lawn feed product pouch with lawn feed in front of the pouch
The best low-nitrogen fertiliser for winter
Iron Sulphate Lawn Fertiliser
  • 12% potassium to lower your grass’s freezing point
  • Low nitrogen (3%) to avoid a winter growth spurt
  • Kills moss and feeds the soil
View Product

Lawn doctor Louis says:

Add lime in preparation for winter. This lowers soil acidity and helps your grass absorb more nutrients. But leave at least three weeks between liming and fertilising.

Preparing your lawn for winter: step 3 — scarify or aerate

Scarified lawn
A scarified lawn

Ideally, you scarified back in October, which is one of the first steps towards preparing your lawn for winter.

But passive aggression aside, not everyone has managed to scarify their lawns yet. 

Sound familiar?

Don’t panic; it’s not too late. 

But do keep an eye on the frost. If there’s none due for at least a month, you could scarify your lawn to remove the thatch and the moss. If frost is scheduled, then leave it till spring. 

Your lawn will overwinter better if you get rid of the moss first. Check out our expert guide to scarifying your lawn

And if your lawn soil is heavy clay, aerate your turf to improve drainage over the wet and cold winter. 

Preparing your lawn for winter: step 4 — overseed

Everything you need to overseed
Front image of Lawn Overseeding Kit
Everything you need to overseed
Lawn Overseeding Kit
  • Lawn starter fertiliser for a healthy boost
  • Sun & Shade lawn seed for a robust lawn
View Product

Overseeding is the process of filling in the gaps and bald spots that develop over time throughout your lawn. Essentially, bald earth is prime real estate for weeds, which will take advantage of the nutritious soil.

The effectiveness of overseeding depends on the weather because lawn seeds won’t germinate if the soil temperature is below 10ºC. 

Use a soil thermometer. If your soil is too cold, you’ll waste your grass seed. 

Lawn doctor Louis says:

Use a soil thermometer. Soil holds onto heat for longer than the air. If the air temperature is lower than 10ºC, the earth could still be warm enough for germination.

Read our article for expert tips on overseeding your lawn.

Preparing your lawn for winter: step 5 — remove leaves and twigs

A pile of fallen leaves and a rake
Rake your leaves – Photo by Wendell Shinn on Unsplash

Autumn is gorgeous, with its reds, yellows, oranges, and browns. But those leaves eventually land on your lawn, making raking a regular task during November (and even early December if it’s still warm). 

If you leave leaves on your lawn (try saying that with a gobstopper in your mouth), they’ll suffocate the soil and starve your turf of light, causing your grass plants to die. 

That lovely carpet of leaves also locks moisture between the grass and the soil surface, making it a prime location for fungi, which can stunt your lawn’s growth in spring. 

Make sure you rake several times a week at this time of year, and your lawn will survive into spring. 

Lawn Doctor Louis says:

Sweep fallen leaves into flower beds to create organic mulch for your bedding plants. 

Preparing your lawn for winter: step 6 — garden furniture

A deckchair on grass
Move your garden furniture off your grass – Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

It might be tempting to leave your garden furniture out all winter, but frost and rain can damage wood, glass, and plastic. 

And if your garden furniture sits on your lawn over the winter, it shields your grass from daylight and water, which can weaken your lawn’s vitality. 

So, store your garden furniture inside if you can. If you can’t, move it off your lawn and cover it with tarpaulin to protect it from the elements. 

Ready to prepare your lawn for winter? Or do you have questions?

I hope you’ve got all the tips you need for preparing your lawn for winter. But if you have questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch. 

We love hearing from you, and we’ll get back to you ASAP. 

Thanks for reading. 

FAQs

What should you do to grass for winter?

Prepare your lawn for winter by mowing (around 6 inches) and fertilising your turf. You could also scarify and aerate as long as you don’t have frost forecast for the next 4 weeks. Always remove fallen leaves, which can suffocate your lawn. 

Is it better to leave your lawn long or short for winter?

Cut your grass to around 6 inches in length. Too long, and you’ll damage your grass if you walk on it when frozen. Too short, and moss and weeds will have a field day. 

When should you last cut grass before winter?

Mow for the final time when the weather is due to drop below 5ºC consistently. At this point, your lawn goes dormant for the winter. It’ll start growing again once the soil has warmed up in spring. 

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  • What is your lawn care goal?
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    2. B. A more lush, dense lawn
    3. C. Bald spot repair
    4. D. Lawn restoration
    5. E. Laying out a new lawn
    6. F. Combating moss
  • For which season?
    1. A. Spring
    2. B. Summer
    3. C. Autumn
    4. D. Winter
  • Describe your lawn:
    1. A. My lawn has shaded areas
    2. B. My lawn is used intensively (e.g. by children & pets)
    3. C. I have a decorative lawn
    4. D. I have a standard lawn without special features
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    1. A. A lot, my lawn looks like a barren wasteland
    2. B. A few bald spots here and there
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    1. A. I want to completely renovate my lawn
    2. B. I want to overseed my existing lawn
  • Describe your lawn:
    1. A. My lawn is shaded
    2. B. My lawn will be used intensively (e.g. by children & pets)
    3. C. I would like to have a decorative lawn
    4. D. I would like to have a thick and strong lawn
  • How bad is the moss problem in your garden?
    1. A. Bad. My lawn is covered in moss.
    2. B. Just a few spots
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