As winter bears down, some of us look forward to waking up one morning to a fluffy blanket of velvety snow stretching off as far as the eye can see. No more mowing the lawn, no more watering, no more raking or pruning. What’s winter lawn care? That lawn, that’s so covered by snow, can leave your mind right?
Out of sight does not mean out of mind when it comes to winter lawn care. Winter lawn damage may not be easy to see right now but, come spring it will be. You and your lawn could be in a world of trouble when that fluffy snow melts away.
Let’s take a look at some of the common causes of winter lawn damage and what you can do:
After a long winter, we’re all looking forward to blissful spring. The snow will melt, the flowers will bloom, and the birds will return. Of course, it doesn’t always happen that way. Near the end of winter, there may be spring-like days with higher temperatures followed by more freezing temperatures. Not only is this a cruel joke that nature plays on us, it’s also damaging to our lawns.
Crown hydration is one of the most damaging forms of winter kill that can happen to a lawn, and it’s almost impossible to prevent. It happens in the late winter when the days are getting warmer but the nights remain freezing. During the day, as the snow melts, the grass crown will absorb water. The crown is the part where the blade of grass meets the roots, it’s the control center of the plant. It becomes saturated throughout the day until, when the night comes, the plunging temperatures cause the water to freeze. This quick freeze ruptures cells in the grass causing plant death.
Crown hydration is difficult to prevent and can cause lots of headaches when spring rolls around. It could do very little damage or it could kill off large parts of your turf, but we do have a couple tips:
This may be the best way to reduce the effects of crown hydration. Try to eliminate any area on your lawn that’s prone to collecting water. The less water building up on your lawn, the less likely to get crown hydration.
If the damage is already done, there are ways to help your lawn. Using a combination of overseeding, aeration, and slice seeding will help to repair the damage to your lawn.
Another culprit of winter lawn damage is snow mold. This fungus grows when there’s too much moisture on your lawn and not enough airflow or sunlight. You may see it in late fall or early spring after the snow melts away. There are two types of snow mold: gray and pink. Both types will appear on your lawn as circular patterns of matted down straw-colored grass. These circular patches will continue to grow if conditions are right.
While gray snow mold is not very serious and will usually clear up on its own, pink snow mold is a different story. Pink snow mold is notoriously difficult to get rid of. It can damage the roots of your grass, effectively killing off parts of your lawn. Here are some measures you can take to protect your lawn:
Trust us, don’t leave the leaves for later. Make sure there aren’t any piles of leaves on your lawn when the snow starts to fly. The leaves will trap moisture and block airflow and sunlight from reaching the grass. Snow mold heaven.
Keep mowing your lawn throughout the fall, until the grass stops growing. On your final cut of the year make sure to mow your lawn a half inch shorter than usual.
Don’t let snow pile up this winter. When you shovel or plow your walkways and driveway, make sure to avoid making big piles. This is essential to your winter lawn care! Spread the snow out to allow for quick melting when spring comes.
If the snow melts, revealing a nasty case of snow mold, don’t panic! Use a rake on the affected grass to promote quick drying. Once it dries out the mold typically disappears.
With that snow comes sheets of ice. Walkways become treacherous, roads perilous, and our savior on these slippery surfaces? Salt. Sodium chloride is the stuff commonly used to melt away that layer of ice. We use it on roads and walkways, on commercial and residential properties alike. However, there’s a problem… It’s devastating to our lawns, plants, and trees.
Salt burn is just one type of salt damage that lawns can suffer over the winter. After an application of rock salt, the ice will melt as advertised. The salt will then dissolve into the water and runoff into the surrounding area i.e., your lawn. Once the salt makes its way into the soil, the damage begins.
High levels of salt will burn grass and leaves on contact. Not only that but, salt in the soil will be absorbed into the root systems. It blocks essential nutrients like potassium and phosphorous from being absorbed into the grass. Salt also pulls moisture away from the roots, dehydrating the grass, and resulting in drought-like conditions. Your grass isn’t the only thing in danger, plants and trees are at risk as well. Salt spray from cars on the road can travel up to 150 feet, coating trees and plants. This salt spray will cause burns to leaves and pine needles alike.
The bottom line? Salt is bad! Don’t worry though, there are a few winter lawn care tips to avoid and repair salt damage:
Use burlap screens, plastic fencing, or snow fencing to keep your lawn protected from salt runoff.
Good alternatives are calcium magnesium acetate or potassium chloride. Sawdust, sand, and kitty litter are also cheap, effective, and easy on your lawn.
If the damage is already done then a flush out the affected areas. Come spring, soak the grass with water for a couple hours a day to wash away any salt residue.
The gypsum will replace the salt in the soil with calcium and sulfur. The grass will heal from the damage and be able to grow again. It will also aid in water retention and reduce soil erosion.
Now you know the dangers that winter poses to your lawn. Make sure to take the winter lawn care steps necessary to prepare and protect your lawn this season. If the snowmelt this spring reveals damage done to your lawn Alliance Landscaping can help. We have a 7-Step Lawn Care Program to make sure your lawn is healthy year round. Alliance Landscaping also offers Aeration and Seeding Services to revitalize your lawn if needed.