How To Get Your Lawn Ready For Winter In Indianapolis!
Although we tend not to think about grass during snowy Indiana winters, there’s still a lot to know about cold weather lawn care. Grass plants may enter dormancy to survive the winter, but dormant turf is hardly immune to winter hardships.
Winterizing the Lawn
Even when it’s too cool for grass blades to grow, it is important to know that roots can still grow in temperatures below 50℉. This means grass plants are collecting and processing nutrients when the blades aren’t growing. Like a bear preparing for hibernation, lawns need to store plenty of nutrients to get through the winter months. Lawns that do not get enough nutrients can weaken and diminish with Indiana’s constantly changing winter temperatures. Having a winterizing application applied to the lawn will not only supply it with plenty of nutrients to keep it fed through-out the winter but also help strengthen the root system and give you a quicker green-up in the spring.
Frost on Lawns
During the cold Central Indiana winter, grass blades become very brittle. This time of the year can look so beautiful when everything is blanketed with crystal-like frost. However, when your grass is covered in frost or frozen, it loses elasticity and the blades are susceptible to breakage. Walking or driving over frozen lawns can kill the grass. It can crush and break these delicate blades, resulting in damage and making it harder for your lawn to recover in the spring.
Snow Covered Lawns
Snow is your lawns winter blanket. Snow protects your lawn from the freezing winter elements. 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 not to spend a lot of time stepping around your snowy yard is due to what you unknowingly carry with you. Salt or other ice-melting products can easily be tracked onto your grass from sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots. These harmful products can damage and possibly even killing the grass.
Snow and ice on walkways and driveways can be a threat to your family’s safety, but some ice melting products can threaten the health of your lawn. Sodium found in rock salt and other products draws the liquid out of the grass plants and can cause it to turn brown and die. Consider calcium chloride or a magnesium mix to melt the ice instead.
Snow mold is a fungal lawn disease that strikes during the cold months of the year, particularly during times of extended snow cover. Indiana 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 these whitish-gray or pink patches in the lawn that are revealed under the melting snow. Although grass may not be growing in the cold of winter, that’s when snow mold becomes active.
When conditions are freezing or near freezing, that’s when 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 that range from 3”-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.
Here are some of the steps you can take to protect your beautiful lawn from snow mold damage.
Consider Resistant Species of Grasses
Although all types of 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
Particularly, excessive over-application of nitrogen fertilizer 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, be sure to mulch or remove leaves, clumps of mown grass, or any other materials like hay or mulch from the yard before snowfall. These materials retain moisture on the turf and provide insulation, which is exactly 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 are allowed to accumulate on the grass, will become much more vulnerable to snow mold. These slow-thawing piles set the stage with the right moisture and insulation for snow mold.
- When snow mold attacks, homeowners need to know the steps to take to minimize the damage and treat the affected areas. Immediate steps can be taken to stop the growth of snow mold and hasten the lawn’s healing process instead of fungicides. If you find snow mold in your lawn as it emerges from winter, take the “Groom & Resume” approach.
- Groom your lawn by raking through the affected patches to loosen grass that has become matted. A mowing may also help to get more air circulating through the matted grass plants.
- Resume fertilization treatments to help restore the health of your turf.
- In severe cases, snow mold may permanently damage grass plants—in which case the establishment of new growth from seed may be necessary. If you’re unsure about the severity of a case of snow mold in your lawn, we can help you assess the damage and chart the right recovery plan.
Tame Tunnelling Turf Rodents
Chipmunks and moles aren’t the only critters that wreak havoc on your lawn; Voles are rodents that tunnel under the snow cover but above ground in winter, leaving an indented trail behind. The best line of defense in preventing rodent damage to your turf is to eliminate the areas like brush piles and overgrown shrubs where they find a safe-haven in the winter. These pests continue to do damage until treated, so call us for vole control if you notice the telltale tracks.
Check out our guide for Central Indiana Lawn Maintenance tips.
If you’re worried about the health of your lawn at any time, give our Central Indiana experts a call at 317-251-6800 or request an estimate. We’re happy to answer any questions and get damaged turf on the road to recovery!