Preparing the lawn for winter

I have received several calls in the office regarding preparing a lawn for winter. There are four considerations when it comes to lawns, regardless of the season:

  • Mowing
  • Irrigation
  • Fertilization
  • Cannabis control
  • Other — occasionally we also have to worry about compaction and thatch

Some of the recommendations will change as the fall season approaches.


Throughout the summer, we continually preach that lawns should be cut high. The longer the blade, the deeper the roots. For Kentucky bluegrass, the best height is 2.5 to 3.5 inches. This practice will save you money on your water bill and reduce weed pressure on your lawn. Continue to mow high, until the final mowing.

The final mowing should take place after the grass stops growing, likely from mid-October to mid-November in most of eastern Idaho. Every year is different, and Ashton is different from Pocatello. This last mow should be short – 2 to 2.5 inches long. This final mowing (which can also have a lot of tree leaves), should be bagged.


Good fall irrigation will save you a lot on your water bill. Water the same amount, just increase the number of days between waterings. You shouldn’t water more than once a week at this time. With cold temperatures, timing becomes an issue. The final irrigation should take place around the time of the final mowing (before the ground freezes so your sprinkler system can be winterized) so that there is enough moisture in the soil to pass through it. ‘winter.


Final fertilization is probably the most important for healthy lawn and spring greening. This final fertilization should be half a pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet and applied just before the final irrigation. Too much fall fertilizer will promote some winter diseases.

Cannabis control

Winter annuals are only young seedlings at this time and are easier to control at this young stage. Biennial and perennial weeds, such as musk thistle, male thistle, dandelion, Canada thistle, or field bindweed (morning glory) move nutrients to the roots as the days get shorter and cooler. Fall is a good time to apply systemic herbicides to perennial roots. Falling weed control will also reduce the number of weeds in early spring.


If you have compaction or thatch issues in your lawn, you may want to aerate it this fall.

Compaction occurs in high traffic areas. This prevents oxygen from reaching the roots and they die.

Thatch is made up of stems of grass with a high lignin content that do not break down very quickly. There can be several reasons for this, but it can mainly be attributed to poor soil health practices.

Aeration of the core will increase oxygen in the soil, helping to combat compaction and stubble situations. If you determine that aeration is necessary, be sure to use a core aerator, which leaves clogs on the surface of the soil. If all you are doing is pushing spikes into the soil, you will actually increase compaction.

By taking a few steps this fall, you can have an easier spring.

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