How to Winterize Your Sod

Written By Peter Honeycutt

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Keep your turf in tip-top shape by preparing it properly for winters in Alabama & Georgia. This process, known as winterizing the lawn, involves simple steps that don’t require lots of time or money. When you winterize a lawn, you’re paving the way for lush, healthy spring turf. The first step in winterizing a lawn is knowing what type of grass you have. Warm-season turf includes Bermuda, centipede, St. Augustine and zoysia. Cool-season turf includes fescue. Both warm- and cool-season grasses benefit from specific actions in fall to prepare them for winter.

Cool-season grasses grow most strongly in fall. Many lawn care experts recommend that if you choose to fertilize your cool-season lawn only once each year that you should do so in fall. The lawn fertilizer typically available in fall is called winterizer fertilizer. In Alabama and Georgia, you should aim to apply winterizer fertilizer in October or November.

The reason that fall fertilizing is so effective is because plants respond to external triggers in fall to start the process of preparing for winter. These triggers are things like daylength and temperature changes. As days shorten and air becomes cool, plants—including turf grass—respond by slowing growth and shifting food reserves from leaves to roots. Although air temperature continues to fall, plant roots remain active in soil. This is true of many kinds of plants, including grass.

Shifting excess nutrients to roots is the secret to plants’ return each spring. Those stored food reserves fuel the spring wake-up. The same is true of your lawn. By fertilizing grass in fall, you’re feeding the active roots and giving them even more nutrients to store for winter.

When spring arrives with longer days and warmer air, grass blades sense the seasonal change and respond by kicking into growth gear, drawing upon those food reserves. Grass that is fed in fall greens up quickly in spring, growing thick and lush. A thick lawn crowds out weeds.

When winterizing a lawn, fertilizing is most critical for cool-season grasses. Treat warm-season lawns differently. In the Atlanta & Birmingham metro areas, warm-season turf grass typically goes dormant in winter. In these areas, do not fertilize warm-season grasses after September 1, or you risk fueling new growth that will be damaged by freezes. This type of damage makes roots more susceptible to stress and damage.