When the cold weather finally comes to an end and the foliage in your yard starts sprouting new green leaves, it can be frustrating if your grass doesn't follow suit. There are many reasons why grass may look dead after winter, and it often happens in a few patches (rather than affecting the entire lawn). This is commonly known as winter kill: It refers to any severe damage or death sustained by turfgrass lawns during the winter months.
If your lawn has experienced dead grass after winter ends, find tips and treatment here for a variety of conditions.
Most grasses can survive just about any temperature range if they are blanketed with snow because snow acts as an insulator. However, uncovered grasses in very cold conditions will continue to lose moisture and oxygen well after the ground is frozen solid. Frozen roots cannot replace the moisture sucked away by cold, dry winds, and the plants may suffer cell death and perhaps even death of the plant crowns.
• Wait until growing season. • Minor damage may recover or fill in. • Reseed or resod dead areas with widespread damage.
When heavy snow falls over ground that is not yet cold, the moist conditions may foster a variety of fungal diseases, known as snow mold. When the snow melts, you may notice pink or grey fuzzy or crusty patches. Snow mold usually dies as sun and breezes dry out the lawn, but if the turf has been infected for a long time, the grass may die—but in most cases, grasses will gradually recover on their own.
• Rake up debris from the previous year. • De-thatch or aerate your lawn regularly to prevent snow mold. • Avoid late-season fertilizing to prevent unabsorbed nutrients from fostering mold.
Annual aeration in the fall will open up your lawn's root zone and encourage new growth. When combined with overseeding, aeration can help the turf withstand winter conditions.
The crowns of turfgrass can be killed if warm, moist weather is followed by a sudden freeze. This is a common reason that some grass looks dead after winter, and it happens most at the end of the cold season or during early spring—especially when unexpected frost occurs in warm climates planted with warm-season grasses. The plant crowns absorb water, so when they suddenly freeze, the fast expansion can kill them.
• Reseed or resod areas with widespread damage. • Consider reseeding with a cool-season turfgrass blend for lawns that suffer crown freeze frequently.
A very identifiable type of winter kill is caused by voles—small rodents that leave narrow, meandering bands of dead grass on the lawn. The dead trails indicate the areas where voles have completely eaten away the grassroots.
• Vole trails typically fill in naturally as surrounding grasses grow and spread out. • Reseed areas with widespread damage. • Remove dead grass and fallen leaves to help prevent voles from using them as shelter materials. • Voles can be trapped and baited similarly to mice.
When it comes to enjoying a fresh, green lawn each spring, one of the most important factors comes down to keeping your grass healthy before winter begins. Here at American Gardens we develop your custom maintenance plan, schedule appropriate services and assign an Account Manager to your property.