Having a great looking lawn in Calgary comes with a price, both in terms of financial commitment as well as a large amount of time and effort. The main reason for this is that you have to fit in a year’s worth of lawn maintenance into 8 or 9 months (depending on how heavy the snowfall is), as well as having to treat and prepare your lawn for a variety of different seasons. The trickiest season of all has to be fall, when many lawn owners make the mistake of letting their fall maintenance procedures lapse after a busy summer of watering and mowing. While the allure of winter is that you don’t (can’t!) have to do any lawn maintenance, you still have to learn how to take care of your lawn to prepare for winter. This step by step process will help you realize a lush and green lawn once the snow melts next spring.
Step 1: Clean Up
It may sound obvious, but the first step in helping your lawn prepare for a good growing next year is to completely clear your yard of any fallen debris. It’s during this process that you understand the true meaning of “fall” as you’ll need to keep up on clearing fallen leaves and branches throughout the season until the snow starts to fall. Your fall maintenance clean checklist should include:
- Clearing debris – to truly prepare your lawn for winter, you have to think about what your lawn needs to survive: sunlight, air, and water. If your lawn is covered up by fallen leaves and branches, you’re blocking access to all three of those key ingredients. You can get more bang for your buck by investing in an affordable electric powered wood chipper for your larger branches, as these wood chips make for excellent mulch for your trees and shrubs. Smaller debris should go on your compost pile to bring some brown material for a richer mix.
- Mowing it low – while it can feel tempting to let your grass grow long to let the roots fully develop, leaving your grass more than a few centimetres high causes delay in water seepage and drying out of the ground once the snow has departed. If you’ve got long grass, make sure you mow it down in one or two centimetre increments so that you’re not stressing the plants out, and be sure to compost those grass clippings ready for your plant beds next year.
- Mulching the leaves – finally, it can be hard to know what to do with all the fallen leaves in your yard. If your mower is up to it, or you have a fine tooth wood chipper, you should consider leaving them on the grass as a topsoil dressing. However, you should only consider this option if you can get them down to half centimetre or smaller pieces. Otherwise, you need to step up your leaf cleanup game and create compost piles ready for use in your raised beds.
Step 2: Aeration
Once your lawn is clear and your grass stands less than 5 centimetres high, it’s time for some aeration. This simple process involves breaking up the top soil either by hand with a hard rake or with an aerating attachment on your lawn mower. In either case, you need to wait for the ground to be soft but not soggy so that the aerator can mix up the soil without destroying the root culture below. You should also avoid the temptation to move through your yard in vertical lines as you won’t fully aerate the lawn only going in one direction. Instead, aim for a criss cross style pattern that will fully open your top soil.
Step 3: Seeding
Adding new seeds to your lawn is the most important of your fall maintenance work, but it’s also the one that is easiest to get wrong which will spoil your lawn for next year. It’s important to avoid the “easy” route of throwing down a grass and straw mix and hoping for the best. To get a lush green lawn next year, you need to follow these seeding pro tips:
- Dress the topsoil – once you’ve done all the hard work of aerating the top layer of soil in your lawn, don’t let it go to waste by leaving it exposed to the elements all winter long. A few centimetres of dry, aged compost in any bare areas will help give your seeds the best chance of germination as well as providing some much needed coverage and minerals to the bare soil.
- Fertilise – you should aim to fertilise your ground before you seed, rather than the other way. This makes sense if you think about fertiliser as a growing bed for your grass seeds rather than a cover to keep it warm. Look for lawn specific fertiliser that has high levels of phosphorus, though you should get a soil test so you know what other minerals you need to add.
- Watering – once you’ve seeded (overseeding is preferable, where you pass each piece of lawn twice to improve your germination chances), setting up a water schedule is essential. You’ll need to water 2 – 3 times a day for 5 minutes per section until you start to see seed growth, and then 30 minutes every day until your new grass reaches 10 centimetres. Finally, you’ll mow it down to 5 centimetres ready for winter.
Get Professional Help
This entire process will take a lot of time and effort, and while the days are cooler than the summer, you might have “lawn fatigue” or be back at work after your summer travels. In these cases, you need to call the experts at Scoop Cut n Shovel for help with your winter lawn preparation. Our team of experts will come to your house, devise an affordable project with you and then come to your home to complete the work. You’ll thank yourself next summer as you sit on a beautiful green lawn.