Preparing your lawn for winter

Author: Stefan Palm   Date Posted: 5 May 2021 

With Summer and early Autumn being fairly dry, Adelaide’s weather has been more than unusual this year. As your lawn transitions from Autumn to Winter, there are some things that you can do to keep it as green as possible.

Months of dry weather have left soils around the Adelaide metropolitan area dry and water repellent. This represents a challenging time for lawns as they begin to slow down into Winter dormancy.  Last week alone, soil temperatures across Adelaide dropped an average of seven degrees which means most lawns, including couch, kikuyu, and buffalo, are rapidly slowing down. Thankfully, early May rain has delivered some relief! That, combined with slightly warmer temperatures this week will give your its last moments of activity before going to sleep for the Winter. 

So what does this mean for your lawn?

Firstly, some lawns potentially won't be going into Winter as healthy as they might have been had there been some good and early Autumn rains. The good thing about couch, Kikuyu and buffalo is that they are resilient and will respond to some TLC once they become active again in the Spring, so don't be too concerned. 

Secondly, once temperatures consistently fall into the teens, there is very little you can do to improve the appearance or performance of your lawn.  Over the course of this week, while temperatures hang in the low 20s, you have a small window to do a few things to ensure your lawn stays as good as it can now, and through the winter months. My biggest tips are as follows: 

Fertilise

One of the best things you can do for your lawn in Autumn is to fertilise it. It's best done during April, but there is still something to be gained from doing it now, this week. You won't get much of a greening effect now, but you will still get some results. Your lawn will store some of the nutrients you apply, giving it something to get started on when it comes out of dormancy.  This really makes a difference in Spring. Use a mineral fertiliser high in potassium such as Paul Munns Emerald Green

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 over the next few weeks, 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 the warm weather arrives, take it down to where it was prior to Winter.

Watering:

The forecast for May is for the metro area to receive average rainfall (maybe slightly less) which is better than we got for Summer and early Autumn. If this eventuates, you'd be pretty safe in turning off your irrigation system until Spring. Over watering can cause waterlogging that lawns really don't appreciate! 

Weed control:

Because it's been so dry, weed 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 light germination as it will stop a bigger flush of weeds later on in Winter. I'd recommend a new pre-emergent herbicide called Spartan. For broadleaf weeds, use  Amgrow Bin-Die but get onto spraying as soon as you see weeds emerge. It's much easier to control young weeds than it is to control them when they are mature. 

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 algae 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 week's blog.


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