Winter is almost here! It won’t be long before we have to light the fire and turn on the heat. Here in the South, we are pretty lucky that we rarely see snow. But that doesn’t mean we have it easy when it comes to maintaining our yards. We still have to take very cautious measures to ensure our grass comes back long and lush in the spring. Here are a few tips to keep your grass alive during one of the most critical times of the year. Start preparing in the fall. One of the most common misconceptions about winter lawn maintenance is that it starts in the winter. Truly, the best way to prepare your lawn for winter is to begin in the fall. As soon as the weather starts getting colder, your grass is already changing and, if not properly maintained, is starting to die. If you neglect your lawn in the fall, it surely won’t make it past the first week of winter. Rake the leaves. You must remove all the leaves from your lawn as soon as possible. If you wait to rake and let the leaves sit too long, eventually a rainstorm will hit and create a mess of your yard. When leaves become wet, they will take a very long time to dry after. They become soggy and heavy on top of the soil, preventing any oxygen from entering. This will kill the grass underneath and serve as a breeding group for mold, insects, and other small animals. Pro tip: If you have a big lawn, consider buying a vacuum system and collection bags for your mower to save you time and energy. Fertilize your lawn twice a year. As a rule of thumb, we recommend you fertilize your lawn every spring and fall. That is because your lawn is doing the most growing during these seasons. If you only manage to get around to it once a year, fall fertilization takes priority. Mow on the lowest setting. During the winter, the sun’s UV rays are not as strong. This makes it harder for sunlight to reach the soil through the grass. By mowing on the lowest setting, you are making the grass shorter than usual and allowing more sunlight to infiltrate the soil. While mowing low is dangerous every other time of year, as you could end up burning your lawn to a crisp, this is conversely one of the best ways to maintain a thriving lawn all winter long. Aerate if needed. The soil aeration process consists of perforating the soil with small holes. This allows for water and nutrients to soak their way into the soil and get absorbed into the roots of the grass. In addition, aeration activates the fertilization process in conjunction with the oxygen and water. Similar to fertilization, the best time to aerate is during your lawn’s peak growing seasons. Use Overseed. If your lawn is looking sparse or dull, overseed can reinvigorate it. Overseeding is the process of planting grass seeds directly on top of existing turf without breaking any ground. It results in greater grass thickness and coverage, which is especially great if your lawn has a lot of bare spots. It is best so overseed in the mid to late summer months in order to give the lawn enough time to regenerate before winter comes. When selecting an overseed product, make sure you buy the right kind that matches your lawn. Most likely, if you live in the south, you will have a “southern grass”, such as bahiagrass, bermudagrass, centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass, or zoysiagrass. Continue to water. Any temperature above freezing allows for growth. That being said, watering your lawn is still important, especially during the fall and winter when it may not be getting as much water from precipitation. The best time of day to water is in the morning when the air is cooler and less likely to cause evaporation. There is also less wind in the morning, so droplets have a better chance of staying put and getting absorbed into the soil. Control weed growth. The best way to keep your lawn weed-free is by allowing it to grow thick and full. If weeds are a problem in non-grass areas of your yard, such as flower beds, consider applying mulch. You can remove the weeds by hand, making sure you get the full root, or you can use a weed-killing spray. Getting rid of weeds in the winter is the best time to prevent them from coming back in the spring. If you follow these simple tips, you will be able to keep your lawn looking great all year long. It may take some time and energy, but it will end up saving you in the long run because you won’t have to replace your entire yard with new grass. Lawn care really depends on your area, so it is always best to seek professional help to avoid mistakes and receive the best guidance.