Preparing your lawn for winter

Author: Stefan Palm   Date Posted: 5 May 2021 

With April being fairly dry, Adelaide’s Autumn weather has been more than unusual this year. With these dry and now cooler months ahead, what does it mean for your lawn?

Months of dry weather have left soils around the Adelaide metropolitan area dry and water repelant. This represents a challenging time for lawns as they begin to slow down into Winter dormancy.  With soil temperatures rapidly decreasing, most lawns including couch, kikuyu and buffalo are not as active as they would have been a few weeks ago and as they continue this trend, they potentially won't be going into Winter as healthy as they might have been had there been some Autumn rains.

One of the most important things to recognise is that once temperatures consistently fall into the teens, there is very little you can to to improve the appearance or performance of your lawn. This means you have a small window now to not only improve your lawns appearance and health, but also to make sure you don't do anything to degrade it. Of course one of the most important outcomes for people maintaining a lawn is to make sure it stays as green and weed free as possible both now and into Winter. Given the circumstances we find ourselves in, what are some things that you can do now to ensure this is the case?

Watering:

Until it rains, keep the water up. It seems strange at this time of year to be watering, but I'd still be recommending to water at least fourtnightly with 25mm of irrigation until the Winter sets in. This could mean a water this weekend and another one or two if the dry weather persists. It is cool and most grasses will have already slowed down however the last thing you want is for your grass to loose colour because it dried out. 

Weed control:

 Because it's been so dry, weed germination activity hasn't been as big a deal as it has in past years. Weeds are still germinating - just not as prolifically. Ironically, there are people still applying their first application of pre-emergent herbicide as late as last week which is virtually unheard of at this time of year. If you have weeks like Winter Grass germinating, then it is too late for pre-emergent control however you might still consider it if you've only had a light germination as it will stop a bigger flush of weeds once it finally does rain. I'd recommend a new pre emergent herbicide called Spartan. For all other post emergent selective control for broadleaf weeds, try Yates Buffalo Pro. Its safe for most lawns including buffalo. 

Mower height

One thing you should do now is raise your mower height – by one notch. This will leave more blades present on your lawn which will add to its overall greenness. It will also make it a lot less likely for you to scalp your lawn. Scalping is where you cut your lawn too low, effectively removing all the blades and leaving those familiar brown swirl marks . During the warm weather, your lawn will quickly recover from this because it is actively growing but because your lawn will virtually stop growing during the Winter, it won’t be able to grow back any new blades till spring.  My advice is to raise your mower height by one notch and keep it on this setting till the end of September. As soon as Spring starts, take it down to where it was prior to Winter.

Fertilise

It's not too late to fertilise. You won't get much of a greening effect now but you will still get some results. Fertilising in Autumn helps your lawn stay greener in winter but it also gives your lawn some extra nutrient to store up during the Winter months which gives it something to get started on when it comes out of dormancy.  This really makes a difference in the spring. Use a mineral fertiliser high in potassium such as Paul Munns Emerald Green

Rake off the Autumn Leaves

If your lawn is under a deciduous tree, rake up the leaves regularly. Excessive amounts of leaves can shade out your lawn but they can also encourage mosses and algaes to grow which isn't ideal for your lawn.  

On a side note, one other question we get asked a lot at this time of year is, "Is it too late in the Autumn to roll out instant turf?"  The short answer is - no it's not too late! I'll cover the question much more comprehensively in next weeks blog.


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