Winter Lawn Tips

In most parts of the country, lawn grass goes dormant in the winter. Lawn care doesn’t quite end in the winter though. There are still some considerations and concerns that one should be aware of even in the winter.
Snow covered lawn (Manors of Deerwood, Clarkston, MI, Lot 400)

  • Clean it up. It is extremely important not to leave debris, leaves or toys out on the lawn. These things can smother the grass, create disease conditions, and invite insects, mice and other damaging pests.
  • Lower the height of your mower by a notch or two (0.5”– 1.0”) the last couple of times that you mow. Excessively long grass can smother itself, cause disease and is at risk of damage from freezing and thawing conditions. However, do not cut the grass too short as you will scalp it thus exposing the crown of the plant to extreme conditions.
  • Be aware of traffic. Under snow cover, or exposed to the elements, dormant grass will tolerate a moderate amount of traffic, but a heavily worn path will be slower to green up in the spring and cause compaction.
  • Monitor weather conditions. Turf is very resilient and can tolerate an extreme winter, but certain conditions can be harmful in the long term. It might be worthwhile to chip away exposed ice in a low spot if you know a winter storm or deep freeze is approaching.

Winter kill on lawns

Winter kill with regards to lawn, refers to any severe damage or death sustained by the turf during the winter months. For the most part, well cared for turf is resilient and strong, but winter weather can be unforgiving to even the best lawns. Winter kill can occur under a variety of conditions.

  • Grass + Snow (doctor_bob | morgueFile.com)

    Photo credit: doctor_bob | morgueFile.com

    Ice cover – periods of snow followed by warm temperatures, then freezing temperatures, can create a thick layer of ice on a lawn. Most cool grasses can handle these conditions, but if ice persists for more than 30 days, damaged or killed turf can result.

  • Snow cover – a persistent snow cover can create warmer, insulated conditions near the soil surface. Gray or pink snow mold may break out in these conditions. Mouse activity may also occur and leave noticeable trails in the grass in the spring.
  • Bare dormant grass – can become desiccated or dried out when exposed to winter winds and extreme temperatures over long periods of time. Foot traffic over bare dormant grass is less desirable than snow cover.

Ice, wind and scalping can inflict the most serious damage by injuring the sensitive crown of the plant. Extreme temperatures, wind and freeze/thaw conditions can inflict the worst damage. If winter kill occurs from these conditions, recovery may take longer than expected.

Winters can often be unpredictable and may put your lawn through any of all of these conditions during the course of a winter. The best thing to do is make sure the grass has hardened off, you’ve put the lawn to bed properly, monitor the weather, and deal with conditions as they occur.

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