Cooling temperatures during the fall slow grass growth, but you may want to cut your lawn one last time before winter arrives. It can be difficult to judge when the last mowing of the season is right, because you don’t want to ultimately damage the health of your lawn.
Getting the timing and height of the final cut before winter can be important as part of any lawn care regimen. Leaving the lawn a little longer can protect the roots from the winter cold and see them emerge healthy again next spring.
If you have a final pre-winter mowing on your fall gardening checklist, it’s important to monitor temperatures and definitely get out with the mower before the first hard frost of the year hits your garden.
When should you do the final cutting of the lawn before winter?
The exact timing of any final pre-winter mowing depends on your location and the hardiness zone in the United States, which will directly affect when the grass enters dormancy. We hear from some experts about the signs to look for and get some tips for getting your lawn finished before winter.
How to determine the final mowing time before winter
Most types of grass tend to go dormant for the winter when temperatures are consistently below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Growth of warm-season grasses slows when temperatures reach the 60s, while cool-season grasses begin to slow in the 50s.
Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love, recommends monitoring your local weather forecast and planning a final mowing when temperatures appear to be below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Once temperatures drop below this mark, most types of grass naturally become dormant and therefore no longer need to be mowed,” he says. “In areas like the Midwest where winter comes early, this usually happens around early to mid-October, and in other areas Like the Southwest, this can happen in late November or early December.
Sarah Jameson, founder and owner of Lawn Chick, agrees that lower temperatures and slower growth are “nature’s way of signaling to prepare the lawn for dormancy” and a signal that it is time for the final mowing before winter arrives.
“Another clear sign is the forecast for the first hard frost,” she adds. “Although it’s normal to see frost on your lawn on a regular basis during cool fall mornings, the first hard frost is different.
“It is best to have the final mowing done before the first hard frost.” This ensures that the grass remains resilient throughout the winter. In my garden, I do the last mowing as part of clearing out my leaves, usually in November.’
Jeremy Yamaguchi is the CEO of Lawn Love, which helps homeowners find homes
High quality and reliable lawn care. Specializing in technology and industrial use
Experience, Jeremy intends to revolutionize the lawn care industry.
Tips for mowing the last lawn before winter
“The transition from fall to winter is a critical period for turf,” says Sarah Jameson, and the work done at this time can affect how healthy the turf grows again in the spring. Your approach to lawn care in the fall and how you make your last mowing of the year can affect the long-term health of your lawn.
This includes avoiding mowing the grass too short in the winter, with Sarah adding that “maintaining a height of 2.5 to 3 inches is optimal for most lawns.” Raising the height of the mower during the last few cuts of the year means that taller grass blades can provide some extra insulation during the colder winter months.
Using a mulching mower will also be beneficial, as it will chop up leaves and grass clippings to provide nutrients to the lawn as they decompose. However, leaving a thick mat of whole leaves on the lawn all winter is a lawn care mistake as it can kill the grass underneath. Remove leaves regularly and make use of fallen leaves by adding them to your compost or using them to mulch your garden.
Mow only when the grass is dry, which may be more difficult during the fall months but will ultimately be beneficial to the lawn. Mowing wet grass results in uneven cuts and often clogs up your mower. This could damage the machine or result in large piles of wet grass lying around your lawn.
Sarah Jameson is the founder and owner of LawnChick.com, a trusted lawn care blog that educates millions of homeowners each year to help them have a greener, healthier lawn. Sarah’s blog is read by over 2 million homeowners each year and is regularly cited as an expert source of lawn care knowledge by major publications.
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Should you mow your lawn before winter?
It is not recommended to mow your lawn too short for the winter. The last few cuts of the year should be higher than you cut during the summer. Leaving your lawn a little longer for the winter plays a role in promoting its health when it comes to starting mowing again in the spring.
Mark Tappan, an agronomist with Simple Lawn Solutions, explains that grass transports nutrients to its roots in preparation for dormancy to help boost its winter hardiness. Raising the surface during the last few cuts to leave the grass a little longer can help provide more insulation for the roots during the colder months.
“Reducing the mowing height will reduce potential nutrient transfer, can stress the grass before dormancy, and can promote weed seed germination by allowing the sun greater access to the soil,” he adds.
In addition to mowing, there are other important fall gardening jobs that can help boost the health of your lawn. This includes removing leaves, aerating your lawn, and scratching somewhere. It is important to take the weather into consideration, and not expose your lawn to too many feet when it is wet or frozen.