How Short to Cut Grass Before Winter?

As winter approaches, lawn care needs shift to preparing the grass for dormancy. One of the most critical factors in ensuring your lawn’s ability to survive winter is the height you cut the grass. In this comprehensive guide, we will cover essential steps to take in fall to help your lawn thrive through the winter months.

Cut grass to 2-3 inches tall before the first frost

  • Cutting your grass to a height of 2-3 inches before the first frost of the season provides several benefits for your lawn:
    • It allows enough leaf surface area for photosynthesis to continue, ensuring that the grass produces essential nutrients.
    • It limits moisture loss from taller growth that can be detrimental during the colder months.
    • Leaving grass longer provides better insulation for the roots, protecting them from freezing and thawing damage.

Leave grass clippings on the lawn after mowing

  • Grass clippings left on the lawn after mowing can be beneficial for your lawn as it prepares for winter:
    • The clippings decompose over winter, providing nutrients back to the soil and grass.
    • This process helps to avoid removing essential nutrients that the grass needs to thrive.
    • It is only necessary to collect clippings if they are unusually heavy or create a mat on the lawn.

Avoid fertilizing lawn in late fall

  • Fertilizing your lawn in late fall can do more harm than good:
    • Lawn fertilizer promotes new growth in fall, which requires more moisture and nutrients to survive winter.
    • It is best to avoid feeding the lawn 6-8 weeks before the first expected hard freeze to prevent unnecessary stress on the grass.

Consider over-seeding thin or bare spots

  • Overseeding can help thicken lawns before winter and provide more coverage for soil and roots:
    • Use a winter-hardy grass seed mix in late summer or early fall to overseed thin or bare spots.
    • The new grass may not grow long, but it will help protect the underlying lawn and give it a better chance of surviving the winter months.

Do not cut grass shorter than recommended height

  • The proper fall height for grass is critical to its success over winter:
    • Cutting grass too short exposes roots and soil to extreme cold damage.
    • While the recommended height of 2-3 inches may seem lengthy, it is warranted to have a healthy lawn after winter.
    • Grass can always be cut shorter in spring, but damage from winter may take longer to recover from, so it’s essential to follow the recommended guidelines in fall.


Preparing your lawn for winter dormancy is an essential part of maintaining a healthy and vibrant lawn year-round. By following the steps outlined in this guide, including cutting your grass to the recommended height, leaving grass clippings on the lawn, avoiding late fall fertilization, overseeding thin or bare spots, and not cutting grass shorter than recommended, you’ll give your lawn the best chance of surviving the winter months and thriving in the spring. By taking the time to properly care for your lawn in the fall, you’re investing in the long-term health and beauty of your outdoor space.


  • Nathan Collins

    Having spent years working in the landscaping industry, Nathan Collins has cultivated a wealth of knowledge about the natural world. He is committed to helping others appreciate the beauty in their backyards, whether it's through identifying rare rocks and minerals or crafting the perfect landscape.

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