In the Denver metro area, cool-season grasses make up the majority of residential lawns. The most common types of which are Kentucky Bluegrass. Tall Fescue, and Ryegrass.
Kentucky bluegrass is dense, durable, and luxurious. Tall fescue with its deep root system holds up better than any other cool-season grass during periods of drought.
Perennial Ryegrass requires less maintenance, stays a bright green through most of the year, and doesn’t mind poorly drained soil. Choose the one that best suits your needs, then learn how to prepare your lawn for winter to take it from fine to fabulous in the spring.
You should care for cool-season grasses the same way you care for warm-season grasses – aerate, overseed, fertilize, and water. What varies is the schedule and manner of completing these tasks. The guidelines below will allow you to fine-tune the way you prepare your cool-season grass for winter.
Aerating your lawn opens compacted soil so that grass roots have proper access to water, air, and nutrients to shore them up for the winter. It creates “pockets” for the grass seed to settle into and remain wet longer.
Water the lawn well a day or two before aerating it. With a core aerator (manual or motor-driven), punch cylindrical plugs out of the soil as you crisscross the lawn several times in different directions. You can also consider hiring a qualified lawn care service in Denver for aeration, as it’s a difficult task to complete without a mechanical core aerator – which can be pricy to rent.
After aerating, fill a drop spreader with new grass seed and spread in two different directions. Don’t skimp—you can’t sow too much seed. Kentucky Bluegrass will germinate in 10 to 14 days; Tall Fescue in 6 to 8 days; and Perennial Ryes in only 3 to 4 days. One thing you can be sure of: all of these types of grass germinate faster before winter than they do in the spring.
*If you have bare spots on the lawn, before overseeding, loosen the soil in those areas with a rake or garden fork, then cover with a thin layer of compost. After seeding, apply a loose, thin layer of straw to keep the seed protected and moist.
Be sure to fertilize the same day you overseed. After using the drop spreader to seed your lawn, go over it with the back side of a rake to make sure the seeds are firmly in the holes made by the aerator.
Late season application of nitrogen is recommended for cool-season grasses. You can give your lawn a head-start for spring by giving it the nutrients needed to get through the winter and green up beautifully in the spring.
Water your lawn immediately after fertilizing it and up to twice a day while the temperatures stay warm. You want the seeds to be moist but not waterlogged. Starting winter with dry roots is a sure road to damaged or dead grass in the spring.
During the winter, water at least once a month, more often if there is not much rain or snowfall. As “low-tech” as it may be, plunge a screwdriver into the soil to check how moist it is.
Also, if you have an irrigation system that isn’t winterized, you should either do it yourself or consult a local irrigation specialist. You don’t want your pipes freezing and bursting.
It’s true that raking leaves hasn’t been much fun since we became too old to jump into the piles. Regardless, it must be done! If your lawn is covered with leaves, branches, dead plants, toys, “runaway” lawn furniture, air-borne candy wrappers—anything, you need to remove it or else you’re going to have uneven growth and/or dead spots in the spring instead of that lush, green carpet you dreamed about all winter. Keeping the lawn free of debris is absolutely essential to its overall health.