Care for Grass in Winter

Grass needs to be regularly maintained to look neat and attractive by cutting, fertilising and watering it. Winter can cause these lush green summer lawns to either turn muddy or threadbare, depending on where you live. Winter in South Africa can be broadly separated in two types of climate – cold and wet, and cold and dry.

The interior regions generally have dry, cold weather, the Western Cape has wet and more moderate winters, and other coastal regions have a moderate climate and regular rainfall.

There are many varieties of grass, but the most common ones South African gardeners tend to use are one of these five varieties – Kikuyu, Buffalo, LM Berea, Bermuda and Gulf Green.

Different types of grass suit different types of residential lawns, so make sure you choose the best one for your lawn. These lawn types suit gardens that receive full sun, but some tolerate shade much better than others.

Care for Grass in Winter – Most Popular Lawn Grass Varieties:

KIKUYU (Pennisetum Clandestinum):
More affordable than other grass types.
Fast growing, vigorous grass which needs good soil, plenty of fertilizing and water.
Plant in sunny positions.
It is not doing well in shade, although it can grow in light shade.
Tend to invade flower beds and paved or tarred areas.
Not a Waterwise grass.

BUFFALO (Stenotaphrum secondatum):
More expensive than Kikuyu.
Slower growing grass, flatter in habit with deep green-grey blades.
Will grow in either full sun or part shade (will grow in up to 60% shade).
Waterwise – does not require much watering, fertilizing or cutting, and the soil can be light, heavy, damp or dry.

BERMUDA (Cynodon Dactylon):
Fast growing grass (grows vigorously in summer and slower in winter).
Best suited for sunny positions and light sandy soils (can also grow on heavier textured soils).
Does not require as much feeding, watering or cutting as Kikuyu (unless one is using it or one of the other varieties of Cynodons for golf tees, putting greens and bowling greens).

LM BEREA (Dactylocenium australe):
More shade tolerant than Buffalo grass, and recommended for a lawn in a shady area (can tolerate up to 80% shade).
Set your lawn mower to the maximum height setting when cutting grass in the shady areas of your lawn.

GULF GREEN (Cynodan Transvaalensis):
Gulf Green or Golf Green is an indigenous, quick growing species, ideal for manicured areas of lawn.
Best suited for the wet Western Cape winter, as it keeps its colour and soft texture throughout the cold months.
This lawn loves water, and responds well to traffic.
Not for the dryer interior regions in the winter, and does not grow well in frost areas.

That spot in your garden that consistently suffers in winter, can be replaced by flower beds or a paved path. Or you can invest in artificial lawn or fake grass to keep that trouble spot looking lush and green.

Care for Grass in Winter – Common Problems with Winter Lawn:
  • Dehydration & Over-Hydration:
    It is difficult to keep up a lush, green lawn in dry areas during winter. Even in the winter, grass needs moisture, and cold weather can damage your grass and soil and dry it out. If your area experiences regular frost, make sure you choose a more frost tolerant grass. Lawn can also easily become over-hydrated in winter by giving it too much water.
  • Fertilizing:
    Fertilize your lawn according to the seasons. Use a fertilizer high in phosphate (a 2:3:2 fertilizer) in winter, which will encourage root development. During warmer months, a nitrogen-rich fertilizer will encourage leaf development. Remember to water your lawn thoroughly after fertilizing.
  • Irrigation:
    A well-irrigated garden is important if you live in an area with a high winter rainfall. When excess water is allowed to pool around the roots it will cause them to rot.
  • Wintergrass (Poa Annua)
    Wintergrass is a common lawn pest during winter. It is an effective invader that grows healthily, particularly in shady areas or where it is damp. It is a light green, finely leafed grass that spreads and causes damage if left unattended. Wintergrass has a web-like, shallow root system that chokes the root system of a lawn.


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