Winter means an end to mowing, fertilizing and irrigation, but it doesn’t mean you can forget about lawn care. As temperatures drop, your lawn is susceptible to damage and mold, while your equipment can be damaged by improper storage. These tips will help you get through this season and be ready for spring.
Ground Contact and Turf Damage
Turf is fragile when it’s in hibernation, especially when it’s encased in ice, which makes the blades brittle. Keeping your driveway and sidewalk clear will encourage people and animals to stay off of the grass.
Never park a car or trailer on the grass in the winter. The weight of the tires will damage grass down to the root, creating bald spots come spring.
Snow plows should only be used on wide, paved surfaces: if they go off the edge of the pavement, they’ll pull up the grass and soil, leaving bald areas. A snow blower’s auger will only damage the grass on the surface, but it’s still a good idea to mark off paved areas before the first snowfall so you can keep the turf intact.
Snow mold infections become more likely the longer the snow contacts the ground. Try to set the pitch of the chute to send snow as far out as possible when starting and keep it there. As you work across your driveway, the line of snow deposited by the chute will work inward instead of ending up in the same spot, helping it melt faster.
Reducing Frost Damage
Gradual temperature changes will give your plants time to go into hibernation, but temporary drops at the start of winter and beginning of spring can cause major damage. While there isn’t much you can do for grass, there are preventative measures that can be taken to protect bushes, flowers and other plants around your lawn.
The greatest threat to plants comes in the early spring when warmer temperatures can trigger the growth of new leaves and blossoms. These parts of the plant are soft, causing them to burst when frozen. Several hours of temperatures below 28°F can do serious damage, but this can be prevented by moving the plant indoors or covering it with a tarp, pot or mulch. Remember to uncover the plant after the danger has passed.
If temperatures stay below 25°F for several hours, any plant that hasn’t gone completely into hibernation or is coming out of it can be damaged by desiccation: it’s not the cold itself that is damaging, but the extremely dry air which sucks the moisture out of the plant. Watering the plants beforehand acts as a buffer for both water loss and cold.
Store Your Equipment Correctly
As you shift from fall to winter lawn care, you need to prepare your equipment for storage so it can be put back into service next spring with minimal effort. Full instructions should be found in the owner’s manual and engine manual that came with each piece of equipment, but there are some preventative steps that apply to everything from mowers to string trimmers.
All surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned to prevent moisture retention that can lead to rust. Bare metal surfaces should be coated with light oil while scratched areas on paint should be fixed with touch up paint. Some manufacturers also recommend lubricating the control cables.
On some engines, the fuel system needs to be completely drained, while others need to be filled with fuel treated by a stabilizer. If the fuel isn’t being drained, the tank should be kept full to reduce the contact it has with air, reducing oxidation and aging. As long as it hasn’t been mixed with oil, drained fuel can be poured into your car’s fuel tank.
Batteries need to be charged periodically, either by running the equipment now and then or by hooking the battery up to a trickle charger.
Never put a tarp over your equipment: moisture can gather underneath, promoting rust. Instead, use either a purpose-built cover or keep your equipment inside. Even a drained tank may release some fuel vapors, so the equipment should be stored away from furnaces, power tools and other sources of ignition.
Getting Parts and Service for Your Equipment
Whether you need shear pins for your snowblower or found some damage when getting your lawn mower ready to store, you can get everything you need from Shank’s Lawn Equipment. We’re a certified dealer for most major brands of residential and commercial outdoor equipment as well as the engines that power them. Visit our shop at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA. That’s just off Route 11, or one mile east of I-81 via Exit 10/Marion.
Not in the area? We ship parts and accessories across the U.S. and Canada. To order, visit www.shankslawn.com.