How to Winterize Lawn: 10 Important Steps

Winter is coming!

The cold temperatures can do a number on both us and our lawns if we’re not appropriately prepared.

Are you wondering how to winterize your lawn? Or even what winterizing your lawn is?

You’re in the right place.

I’m going to explain what winterizing grass involves, when and why to do it.


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Key Takeaways

Winterizing your lawn helps it to survive the winter so that it is healthy and ready to grow when spring comes.

lawn in winter

The main lawn winterizing tasks include fertilizing, aerating, clearing fall leaves and mowing nice and short.

What is Winterizing?

Winterizing is a phrase used to describe tasks you might do in your yard in the fall to prepare your lawn and garden for winter.

Carrying out winterizing tasks helps to ensure that your lawn and garden are in the best shape to survive winter and be ready to thrive as soon as spring arrives.

Common winterizing tasks include:

  • Fertilizing
  • Aerating
  • Overseeding and patch repair
  • Weeding
  • Turning off and putting away any irrigation systems
  • Adjusting mowing heights
  • Removing fall leaves
  • Mulching
  • Getting your mower ready for winter storage
  • Sowing cover crops
  • Covering fragile shrubs with frost cloth
  • Preparing for snow

Why Should You Winterize Your Lawn?

Winterizing the lawn and garden is a good idea for multiple reasons.

But what it boils down to is that taking a few steps to keep your garden (and equipment) healthy during the winter will mean that it can thrive come spring.

You don’t necessarily have to do everything on this list. For example, you may decide the fertilizing isn’t really necessary (if you already gave your lawn a good feed at the start of the growing season then that is likely the case).

Or maybe you live somewhere where snow isn’t really an issue. Regardless, carrying out some winterizing tasks will only benefit your yard and hopefully, reduce your workload in the spring.

When Should You Winterize Your Lawn?

When do you winterize your lawn? This depends on which winterizing tasks you’re carrying out, as they’ll vary in timing a bit.

Generally speaking, the most common winterizing tasks are carried out through fall in preparation for winter.

You ideally want to have all of your planned winterizing tasks completed by the time winter arrives.

new lawn growing

Start thinking about what you’re going to do at the beginning of fall to give yourself a good amount of time.

How to Winterize: 10 Tasks


One of the more common winterizing tasks that people think of is fertilizing.

Fertilizer for winter generally includes higher levels of potassium in order to promote root health. It is also slow release to provide nutrients slowly over the course of the whole winter.

However, it pays to remember that only plants that are actively growing through winter, such as cool season grasses, should be fertilized. If you have warm season grasses, fertilizing while they are dormant will do more harm than good.

If your lawn is healthy and has already been fertilized in early fall, it likely won’t need another feed before winter, as even cool season grasses slow down their growth during the coldest months.

Are you up with the difference between granular and liquid fertilizer? Have you been wondering whether fertilizer goes bad? Be sure to check out my other handy guides if you have any more questions.


Aerating is probably the most important winterizing job you can do for your lawn.

Aerating during the fall will help your lawn to survive winter without getting bogged down by all the rain, allowing for adequate movement of water, oxygen and nutrients.

Read about how to aerate in this guide and about the different types of lawn aerators.

Dethatching at the same time is also a good idea if its needed.

lawn aerator in action

Overseed and Patch Repair

For cool season grasses, fall is a great time to overseed your lawn and carry out patch repairs on any dead or dying patches.

Overseeding can help to thicken up your lawn, reducing the space available for weeds to get comfortable. Overseeding in fall means that by the time spring arrives, your lawn should be lush and healthy.

First up, make sure you’re choosing the right type of grass seed for the job. Annual rye grass is a great option for keeping your lawn green through the winter if you live somewhere that doesn’t get snow and usually have warm season grasses that will go dormant.


Even though weeds don’t tend to grow much during winter, you still want to hand pull any of the really big, problematic ones before they release their seeds and create more problems for the future.

You’ll be reducing your spring work load a lot by weeding in the fall, and continuing to stay on top of any that might appear during winter too.

While hand pulling is always the best option, if you decide to use herbicides, be sure to use the right kind.

Put Away Irrigation Systems

Unless you live in a hot, dry climate, you likely won’t be irrigating during the winter.

Emptying and putting away your irrigation systems can help prevent damage from weather and freezing temperatures.

Adjust Mowing Height

Thinking about how you mow your lawn in the fall will definitely help to keep it healthy through the winter.

It’s best practice to raise the height of the mower blades a little higher than your summer mowing height for fall.

However, the last mow that you do before winter sets in should actually be much shorter, especially if you’re expecting snow to hang around for a while on your lawn. Cutting really short will help protect from winter diseases and rot.

If you’re going to be in the market for a new mower, I have a range of articles with different mowers to recommend, including commercial zero turn mowers.

mowing a green lawn

Remove Fall Leaves

While fall leaves make amazing mulch once they’re shredded up, un-shredded leaves can stick together and form a mat that can suffocate your lawn (this is true of moss lawns too).

Top tip – run over them with your lawn mower catcher on and then use the shredded leaves and grass clippings on your garden beds!

Mulch/Sew Cover Crops

Mulching or sewing cover crops are great ways of keeping your garden beds happy for the winter. Mulching helps to regulate temperature and moisture levels while cover crops prevent weed growth.

Cover crops, known as green manure, or green crop, are actually designed to be tilled into the ground at the end of the season as a way of naturally fertilizing the ground.

Prepare Mower for Storage

If you live somewhere where your lawn will be under snow, or its cold enough that you’re going to be experiencing little to no grass growth, your mower is going to be out of action for a little while.

Key things to remember are to empty out the fuel tank (including the fuel lines), give the whole thing a clean, add some lube, an oil change, and possibly a filter change too.

If you have a battery powered lawnmower, make sure the battery is fully charged before storing it for winter.

You ideally want to store your lawn mower under cover in a garden shed or garage. But, if you don’t have space you use a custom made cover or simply wrap a durable, waterproof tarp over the mower with bungee cords.

Fall is also  great time to give your mower a once over and check for any repairs or maintenance work that might need to be carried out.

If you’re not sure where to start, have a read of this checklist.

Mark Out Pathways before Snow Arrives

Once your yard is covered in snow, you may not remember exactly where your lawn is, where the garden beds are and where your pathways are. This could cause you to be inadvertently walking across the lawn or garden beds, or worse, shoveling into them, causing damage.

Mapping out where your paths are with stakes and string makes clearing pathways easy and saves your grass from turning into a slushy mess of mud and melted snow.


All clear on how to winterize lawn?

It might seem like a lot of work, but the benefits of winterizing lawn work in the fall definitely pay off in the spring.

If you only choose one winterizing lawn task, choose aerating.

Do you agree? I’d love to know what you do to winterize the lawn in your yard. Please share your experience in the comments below!

Andy Gibson

My name's Gibson. Andy Gibson. I like to think of myself as the Bond of the backyard, that is if yard work ever became sexy. I write about everything about indoor and outdoor gardening and the dread-it-but-still-need-to-do-it chores around the yard, like cleaning out the gutter guards.

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