Winter Lawn Care Tips

Although we tend not to think about grass when winter knocks on our doors, there’s a lot to know about winter lawn care, whether it snows in your region or not. Grass plants may enter dormancy to survive the season’s cold, but dormant turf is hardly immune to winter hardships.

At Lawn Pride®, we know winter lawn care. Our tips will help you maintain a healthy lawn throughout the coldest season of the year.

Preparing for Winter Lawn Maintenance

Even when it’s too cool for grass blades to grow, it is important to know that roots can still grow in soil temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This means grass plants continue collecting and processing nutrients even when the blades aren’t growing. Like a bear preparing for hibernation, lawns must store plenty of nutrients to get through the lean winter months. Lawns that do not get enough nutrients can weaken and diminish with constantly changing winter temperatures.

Winterize Your Lawn

Winterizing your lawn gets it ready to ride out the cold season and minimize damage. Applying a winterizing application to the lawn will not only supply it with plenty of nutrients to keep it fed throughout the winter but also help strengthen the root system and give you a quicker green-up in the spring.

Typically, you should apply winter lawn fertilizer when focusing on fall lawn care. Using a fertilizer high in nitrogen during winter would stimulate tender new green shoots just in time to kill them with frost, stressing the lawn and risking greater damage.

Aerate and Reseed Your Lawn in Winter?

The best time to aerate your lawn is during active growth, as the lawn can recover rapidly. For cool-season grasses planted in northern climates, lawn aeration is best performed in early spring or fall. For warm-season grasses grown in the south, late spring or summer is best. Aeration is not recommended for either type of lawn while the grass is dormant in winter. The open divots in the lawn would allow weeds unchecked access to the lawn’s root zone.

Likewise, we do not recommend that you reseed a lawn in winter. Overseeding the lawn should be done when the grass is actively growing. This is when the seeds have the ideal conditions to germinate. In fact, the best time to reseed grass is immediately following aeration. Removing grass plugs affords the new seed direct contact with the soil for best germination.

Skip aeration and reseeding for winter lawn care.

Winter Lawn Challenges and Solutions

Winter weather poses several challenges for grass and winter lawn care:

Frost on Lawns

Winter can bring great beauty, with crystal-like frost blanketing the grass, shrubs, and trees. But this frost makes grass blades very brittle. When your grass is covered in frost or frozen, it loses elasticity, making the grass blades susceptible to breakage. Walking or driving over frozen lawns can kill the grass. It can crush and break the delicate blades, resulting in damage and making it harder for your lawn to recover in the spring.

Dealing with Snow Coverage: Protection and Recovery

Snow is your lawn's winter blanket. Snow protects your lawn from the freezing winter elements. It is critical to avoid walking on the snow covering your lawn. Walking on snow-covered lawns can cause all sorts of damage. During warm spells, when some of that snow begins to melt, compacted snow from heavy boots often remains behind in the shape of “reverse” footprints. While the exposed grass is soaking up the sun, the blades under these snowy tracks stay hidden. In cases like this, once the growing season returns, those uneven patches of grass will still be easily visible. Likewise, snow compacted by footsteps can turn into ice. Snowfall provides an element of protection for the grass underneath, but ice can wreak havoc on it.

Another big reason to avoid walking on your snowed-in grass is what you unknowingly carry with you. Salt or other ice-melting products can be tracked onto your grass from sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots. These harmful products can damage and possibly even kill the grass.

Ice Melting Products

Snow and ice on walkways and driveways can threaten your family’s safety, but some ice-melting products can damage the health of your lawn. Sodium found in rock salt and other products draws the liquid out of the grass plants, causing them to turn brown and die. Calcium chloride or a magnesium mix is just as effective at melting ice without damaging your lawn.

What Is Snow Mold?

Snow mold is a fungal lawn disease that strikes during the cold months of the year, particularly during extended snow cover. Snow mold prevention is a critical component of winter lawn care. Snowed-under lawns are susceptible to two types of snow molds: gray snow mold (Typhula blight) and pink snow mold (Microdochium patch). Snow mold is the turf disease responsible for whitish-gray or pink lawn patches that are revealed when the snow melts. Although grass may not grow in the winter cold, that’s when snow mold spores become active.

When conditions are freezing, or near freezing, snow mold thrives. Snow cover is required for gray snow mold to grow, but pink snow mold may form with or without snow cover. Both typically form radiating circular patterns of damage ranging from 3” to 12” in diameter. These small patterns may merge into larger areas of damage. You may notice an outer ring of white mycelium resembling cobwebs, which is the early growth stage of these molds. The inner circle will appear pink with pink snow mold and remain whitish-gray with gray snow mold. You may also find tiny black sclerotia masses in cases of gray snow mold.

Gray and Pink Smow Mold

Preventing Snow Mold

Follow these winter lawn care steps to protect your beautiful grass from snow mold damage:

  • Choose Resistant Species of Grasses: Although all turfgrasses are susceptible to pink and gray snow molds, Turf Type Tall Fescue is the most resistant to turf diseases.
  • Follow a Balanced Fertilization Program: Excessive nitrogen fertilizer application in the fall can create a favorable environment for snow mold to thrive.
  • Winterize Your Lawn: Don’t skip that final treatment of the year! During the late fall, keep mowing the lawn until it enters a state of dormancy. Also, mulch or remove leaves, clumps of mown grass, or any other materials like hay or mulch from the lawn before snowfall. These materials retain moisture on the turf and provide insulation, which is precisely what snow mold needs to thrive while it feeds on your lawn.
  • Prevent Snowdrifts or Large Piles of Snow on the Lawn: Areas where large amounts of snow accumulate on the grass become much more vulnerable to snow mold. These slow-thawing piles set the stage with the right moisture and insulation for snow mold.
  • How to Keep Snow Piles off the Lawn:
  • When shoveling snow, don’t pile it on the lawn.
  • Use a rake or snowblower to move mounded snow without walking on the lawn.
  • Lay a plank or plywood sheet across the snow.

Repairing Snow Mold Damage

When snow mold attacks, homeowners must know how to minimize the damage and treat the affected areas. Instead of using fungicide, take these steps to stop the growth of snow mold and hasten the lawn’s healing process:

  1. Groom your lawn by raking through the affected patches to loosen matted grass. Mowing may also help to get more air circulating through the matted grass plants.
  2. Resume fertilization treatments to help restore the health of your turf.
  3. In severe cases, snow mold may permanently damage grass plants, in which case reseeding may be necessary. If you have snow mold on your lawn, we can help you assess the damage and chart the right recovery plan.

Lawn Equipment Maintenance

Winter lawn care includes protecting your lawn and garden tools and preparing them for the coming year. To protect your tools from rust and ensure they are ready for use in the spring:

  • Rinse all mud and grime off your tools.
  • Sharpen any dull metal edges on hand tools, rakes, and shovels.
  • File down nicks and wipe down the blades.
  • Replace any broken handles. Use protective gloves and eyewear when removing the head from a garden tool. Use a ball-peen hammer — not a regular nail hammer — to strike the tool head to loosen it from the handle.
  • Sand wooden handles lightly until they are smooth.
  • Rub wooden handles with linseed oil.
  • Apply a thin coat of WD-40 or similar lubricant to the metal parts of your tools.
  • Store tools by hanging them in the garage or inserting the metal heads of the tools into a bucket of sand to prevent rust.

How to Winterize a Lawn Mower

Winterizing your lawn mower protects your investment in this essential tool. Read your machine’s manual for specific winterizing care. All types of mowers last longer and perform better when you:

  • Drain the fuel from gas-powered mowers or add a fuel protector or stabilizer if you have a full tank.
  • Disconnect the spark plugs and the battery to prevent accidental starts.
  • Drain the oil or oil-fuel mixture and change it according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Lay the mower on its side to hose down the undercarriage.
  • Clean, sharpen, and replace the mower blades.
  • Wipe down the frame.
  • Replace the fuel and filters.
  • When the mower is clean and dry, replace the spark plugs.
  • Cover the mower and store it well away from the water heater or any pilot light.
  • In spring, replace the battery before your first use.

Protect Your Lawn This Winter with Lawn Pride

Winter lawn care protects the health of your grass during the long, cold season, helping ensure it will grow lush and lovely in the spring. Trust the pros at Lawn Pride to nurture your grass and provide a lawn you’ll be proud of.

Why Choose Lawn Pride?

Our service professionals have provided comprehensive lawn care services for clients in various climates for over forty years. As you would imagine, lawn care in Indiana or Michigan is vastly different from that in Florida or Texas. Our pros in your area are experts in the local climate and growing conditions. Call on Lawn Pride for local lawn care expertise.

The Neighborly Done Right PromiseTM backs all our services, ensuring your satisfaction.

Schedule Your Winter Lawn Care Consultation

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Let’s make your lawn the pride of the neighborhood.