January: Your Lawn has Slowed Down and Needs to Rest
During the month of January your lawn is semi-dormant (think hibernating). Due to the slower metabolism and less photosynthesis, it is easily damaged by cold weather and drought, and it will be late spring before it recovers – if at all. The two best things you can do for your lawn in January is “Keep it Tall and Keep it Wet”.
Why a 4” Canopy is Mandatory
St Augustine, Zoysia, and Bermuda grasses are tropical plants that are damaged by cold weather. A tall canopy of 4” or higher acts like a warm insulating blanket protecting the stems and roots from cold weather. A short canopy exposes stems and roots to the cold, causing permanent damage or even death.
Your Lawn Is Already Stressed by Cold Short Days
Shorter days and colder temps of the winter slow down photosynthesis. You can increase photosynthesis by keeping the lawn tall. A tall canopy increases leaf area to photosynthesize, producing more energy for sustaining and maintaining the basic needs of the semi-dormant plant. A short canopy reduces photosynthesis, starving the plant of basic life-sustaining energy.
Water is Basic
Without water, your lawn dies – this is true any time of the year. It does not become hardier or grow deeper roots if you are stingy with water – it dies. You can improve your lawn simply by keeping it wet all winter long.
While it is true that grass uses less water in the winter, sandy soils dry out at the same rate all year long. A wet sandy soil will become a dry sandy soil in 72 hours every season of the year. Therefore, to keep a lawn healthy, regardless of the time of the year, a lawn must be watered every 72 hours by rain or irrigation.
Myth: Mowing Lower means Less Mowing
Your lawn will grow at the same rate regardless of mowing height. In the winter a lawn grows about 1” per week. After a couple of weeks, the lawn will look shaggy and needs mowing to look better. This is true for a 2” tall lawn or a 4” tall lawn – it still requires the same amount of mowing. Therefore, if a tall lawn is better lawn, keep the canopy at 4” all year long.