States like Maine, Michigan and Montana boast some of the harshest weather in the United States, but for some reason, people still live there. Northern states endure an unacceptable amount of biting wind and snow for much of the year; in Alaska, snow is on the ground for more than five months, and the weeks surrounding those aren’t exactly warm and sunny. While all that cold can make for all sorts of trouble for homeowners, it is most acutely felt by the grass surrounding homeowners’ properties.
Most grass varieties aren’t native to colder climes, so it takes a careful hand to keep lawns looking green and lush. Here are some tricks and tips for lawn care in the cold north.
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Choose the Right Variety of Lawn
As mentioned above, grass isn’t native to regions where ice is a common occurrence. Most grasses come from lands with temperate or arid climates, like Zoysia grass which comes from Asia and Australia or Bermuda grass which originated in Africa. At the first sign of frost, grasses like these tend to shrivel up and turn brown, and it’s anyone’s guess whether they’ll come back to life in spring (usually, no).
Fortunately, grass isn’t a homeowner’s only option. Most lawns in colder northern regions aren’t grass but fescue, which is a hardier green groundcover that enjoys shade, withstands compaction well and will spring back once the weather warms. Fescue grows on every continent, even Antarctica, so homeowners in the relatively chilly areas of the United States can be confident in a fescue lawn.
Have a Strategy for Mowing and Watering
There are two things a lawn needs more than anything else: mowing and watering. While elements like sunlight and fertilizer are important, they don’t affect the health and appearance of a lawn quite like mowing and water. Unfortunately, while they might seem simple, mowing and watering can drive homeowners in the North absolutely nuts. That’s because there is a delicate balance between the right amount of mowing and watering and too much or too little, and veering over the line will harm a lawn in some way or another.
The goal with mowing is to prevent the lawn from overgrowing. When fescue is allowed to grow tall, it tends to become thin and delicate, and it requires more work to get back to a normal, healthy, beautiful-looking lawn. Homeowners are advised not to remove more than one-third of the height at one time, which means that overgrown grass must be mowed down to a better height over the course of weeks. In northern cities like Chi., IL and Det., MI lawn mowing services can be relied on to provide the perfect clip every time.
Prepare the Lawn for Cold Winter
A lawn shouldn’t die as soon as the cold season hits; rather, it should go dormant. However, lawns don’t go dormant successfully without the right preparation. Beginning early in fall, northern homeowners need to begin mowing, watering, fertilizing and performing other yard and lawn care chores to settle their lawns in for the season ahead.
Some critical steps include:
- Continue to mow until all the leaves have fallen. This will help grind up the leaves, so they don’t smother the lawn. Once all the leaves are off the trees, the lawn is likely fully dormant, so it is okay to stop mowing.
- Reduce water slowly. It’s not good when irrigation freezes in the ground, but it’s also not good to shock your lawn with a dry spell too early in the season. Homeowners should stop watering completely around the same time they stop mowing.
- Apply the right kind of fertilizer. In fall, the lawn needs a NPK ratio of 3:1:2 or 4:1:2, which will promote root growth. Other types of fertilizer could wake up the lawn and put it in danger of dying, or worse.
Watch out for Weeds and Pests
Because of the excessive moisture in northern regions, lawns up north are particularly susceptible to growing unsightly and irritating issues, like weeds, moss, mosquitoes, moths and other pests. While it’s all but impossible to eradicate weeds and pests entirely, there are steps homeowners can take to reduce the frequency of these annoyances. For instance, keeping up a mowing schedule is wise because it forces fescue to grow thick, which prevents weeds from taking root and thriving. Mulch is also helpful because it guards the soil from intrusion by invasive seed or pests. Homeowners should strive to attack weeds and pests as soon as the crop up because the longer they are allowed to persist, the more difficult they will be to eradicate.
Plenty of plants grow well in northern climates — just not grass. However, by replacing grass with a hardier substitute, being diligent about lawn care tasks and forward-thinking with regards to the seasons, homeowners in the frigid north can enjoy a lush lawn.