Protecting Lawns from Frost Damage

frozen grass

The winter months have arrived, and with them have come colder temperatures and frosts that can damage both gardens and lawns! So, what can you do to ensure that next spring your yard will be green and lush? Here are a few helpful hints.

Prevention

  • Water your lawn regularly. While proper watering is vital throughout the year, it is especially important in the weeks before cold season begins. Watering less frequently but more thoroughly trains the roots to reach down to the remaining water in the soil before the next watering.  Shortly before a frost, water especially thoroughly. This warms the soil, and provides the needed amount of water so that the grass can self-regulate the water it takes up.  Never water or run equipment on a lawn that is frozen or covered with frost.
  • Provide your lawn with plenty of  nutrients. Nutrients play a key role in keeping lawns healthy throughout the year. Winterize your lawn by providing it with a higher than normal amount of pot ash to aid in root health and growth, so that grasses become more hearty and able to withstand the cold. Failure to  do so can result in heavy damage under frost or freeze.

Recovery

If your lawn has already been damaged by a frost, it can still revive! It only needs water, time, and nutrients.

  • Maintain a good watering program. Watering your lawn can not only prevent it from experiencing frost damage, it can also aid in the recovery process. Most lawns require 3/4 inches of water per application, so you will want to set the timer on your irrigation system accordingly. To do so, set up a catch basin, such as a large cup, in the lawn. Keep track of the time that it takes for the cup to fill up with 3/4 inch of water. Now set the timer on your sprinkler for that same amount of time. Keep in mind that different zones of your lawn may require different times.
  • Give your lawn time to recover. Remember that it will not recover immediately. Unless severe damage including dead roots and turf has occurred, your lawn should show signs of revival within the first 2-4 weeks following the return of moderate temperatures.
  • Apply nutrients.  After a damaging frost the turf is highly stressed and needs fertilizer, just as your body needs vitamins after a flu. Always use low nitrogen or none at all in the lawn during the cold parts of the year, as nitrogen will only encourage top growth, which will in turn “burn” and turn brown in the next cold snap.  Wait use to fertilizer containing nitrogen until the weather becomes warmer.

Repair in cases of severe damage

What if the damage goes beyond what you would normally expect from chilly weather? Even then, there are steps that you can take to repair your lawn.

  • Consider re-sodding. If severe damage has occurred with dead areas present you may need to re-sod in the effected areas.  St. Augustine, which is by no means capable of withstanding the cold with ease, can be plugged or sod.  Again, for best results, spring weather conditions are best.  Bahia, on the other hand, is a much heartier turf , and can generally be leftgrassbeforeandafter alone as it often recovers by itself.  If it does not recover, however, consider over-seeding some or all of the lawn. If you decide to over-seed, wait until May or even June when the average night time temperatures are at 60 degrees Fahrenheit or above, as higher temperatures encourage germination. With varieties such as Zoysia, Centipede, severe winter injury is seldom as bad as it is with St. Augustine and fewer problems should occur.
  • Completely cover the ground after repairs are completed. Covering the ground decreases the chances of later problems with weeds. Because this is true, you may prefer to sod, rather than plug, when effecting repairs.

While frosts and freezing temperatures may cause temporary damage, that damage doesn’t have to be lasting. With a little work, your lawn can be green again!

 

 

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