Is it better to leave your lawn long or short for winter?

More often than not when we transition from autumn into winter we are recommended to cut our lawns one last time. Some people cut the lawn a little bit shorter than normal but in some cases and situations it may be appropriate to leave them longer for winter.

So let’s mow into the question – Is it better to leave your lawn long or short for winter?

It is best to leave your grass at a medium height of 2.5 – 3 inches (6 -7 cm) long. Cutting the grass too short makes it difficult for the plant to absorb sun rays, and can damage the grass plant’s crown. Leaving it longer makes the grass susceptible to winter kill, especially if there is frost and snow. Snow can fold long grass blades over causing fungal disease and rot.

Let’s swing through points above and cultivate a central solution.

How grass grows on its own?

The grass blade is basically like the “food producing” part of the grass plant. It is in contact with energy from the sun and thus it is the factory in which photosynthesis takes place allowing the plant to produce necessary food (energy) for good root and shoot growth. 

The shorter it is, the less food that will be produced by the plant. However, in winter it’s not that simple, the lawn may be covered by snow and frost from time to time.

What happens to the grass in Winter?

As a perennial plant, grass stores food for winter as the climate cools in Autumn. It essentially stores carbohydrates in its roots and crown, the part of the grass plant right above the soil right where the leaf blades emerge.

Think about it this way, fungi flourishes on damp organic matter with poor aeration. If debris, like leaves, are spread throughout a lawn thinly enough to allow air to properly flow, they will decompose quickly. This doesn’t give fungus a chance to spawn and wreak havoc on our beautiful lawn!

Turf studies such as the three conducted by Michigan State University have shown that the best time to prepare for that perfect lawn next spring is not in the Winter, but actually in Autumn.

Their research has demonstrated that about 50 kilograms of coin-sized leaves will break down more easily than that of anything larger in a space as little as 100 square metres.

Therefore, as most lawn enthusiasts can agree with, it would be more rational to mow the grass down lower in the Autumn. This means that if your lawn mower setting was at three inches in Summer, it is time to reduce it to two inches. In this instance, the difference in inches does matter, folks…

But then how do we prevent the grass from scalping with the cold change in temperature? A recommended practice would be to reduce the lawn height at a gradual rate. By reducing it over time in the last couple of mows, it will give the grass a chance to adapt to the shorter height. This new height will lower the risk of matting and allow for better aeration. Therefore, decreasing mold growth and preventing the lawn from rotting in the warmer springtime.

How does grass survive in Winter?

The grass blade is basically like the “food producing” part of the grass plant. It is in contact with energy from the sun and thus it is the factory in which photosynthesis takes place allowing the plant to produce necessary food (energy) for good root and shoot growth. 

The shorter it is, the less food that will be produced by the plant. However, in winter it’s not that simple, the lawn may be covered by snow and frost from time to time.

When we answer the question, “HOW DOES GRASS SURVIVE?” above, we didn’t mention that there was an exception for winter because it has its own variations.

Remember, the long length is beneficial for food security.

Since we may generally agree that nothing in an ecosystem totally is independent, in considering if we should cut grass long or short for winter, we should consider all other seasons.

One of the main reasons for leaving some length on your lawn is so it can absorb enough sun rays for food to sustain it for winter. So in effect your lawn is storing carbohydrates for when it needs them. It is the equivalent of saving for a rainy day except that in this instance it’s literally “saving for a snowy day.”

Even humans do this. We have reserves of surplus to sustain us through certain seasons. There is no differentiation when it comes to yard maintenance and ensuring it’s done neatly.

We must mention that some mammals also store food and hibernate, and it will make sense when you get to the next point where we further expand on how to make sure that you can keep your grass safe in the winter whilst balancing the polar opposites of what makes it survive.

Is it worth fertilising grass in winter?

It is not enough to know how long or not you should cut your grass for winter if you do not have a backup plan. The best solution for any problem defends us from the multi-variant threats. We have cut the grass a bit shorter than usual, how does it survive?

See a lot of animals hibernate, likewise many plants lay low for a long winter sabbatical while their metabolism slows down as they enter more dormant states.

Similar to the different seasonal preferences of animals, certain plants continue to thrive in the cold climate. Have a look at the deciduous family of oak and maple trees for example. These species restock their energy reserves in the previous growing season to utilize when the cold front hits. Therefore, despite losing their leaves in autumn and going into shut down mode, these plants are still able to avoid a winter famine.

But what does all this have to do with your lawn? Many would have just thought that the grass would put an instant halt to their growth during the winter. However, in reality, the grass roots will continue to grow during these colder months if allowed to do so. By providing your grass roots with a healthy supply of nutrients during winter to encourage growth, you will be rewarded with a flourishing lawn in the spring. It is highly recommended that you stick to a singular fertilizer brand or type throughout the season as a best practice. Since fertilizers come in different shapes and forms it would be wise to consult an expert before acting on the matter from a place of ignorance.

It will save you a lot of stress, trouble and money in the future.

Winter is not the same everwhere

All knowledge is meant to be adjusted to the specific situation of the recipients. Around the globe or even in the same country, people may experience different winters. Therefore, lawn maintenance best practices will depend on the climate of the location.

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