Frigid temperatures, blistering winds, and heavy snowfall are just as unpleasant for your lawn as they are for you. When temperatures drop during winter, lawns stop growing until the warmth of spring returns. As lawns come out of dormancy, they tend to need more careful and deliberate treatments in order to be restored to their former glory. If not tended to properly, your lawn could face any number of issues that prevent it from becoming healthy once again. The guidance below will help you revive your lawn this spring!
Snow mold is a fungal lawn disease that affects cool-season turf types. When snow melts and your lawn begins to thaw in early spring or late winter, it is not uncommon to find irregular, gray-colored patches expanding across your lawn. A heavy blanket of snow applies constant pressure and moisture on your turf, which can lead to snow mold developing on your snow-damaged lawn as soon as the ground thaws.
Unfortunately, fungicides will not work against snow mold in spring. If you find these gray patches as your lawn thaws out, the best treatment is raking the matted grass that has been smothered by snow all winter. By raking and loosening grass blades as soon as snow melts, you can improve airflow and dry out your lawn to deter the spread of snow mold. Once your lawn is raked and dried, normal lawn care treatments, such as fertilizing and seeding, will help restore your lawn.
Whether or not you find signs of snow mold, raking up dead grass and debris is hugely beneficial when reviving your lawn after winter. Dead, straw-like grass does not have attached roots, so it will come up relatively easily when raked. Aside from dead grass, fallen leaves and other tree debris that were not raked during the previous autumn should be removed immediately after the effects of winter thaw.
If obstructions are left sitting atop your lawn, they can quickly lead to issues, such as fungal infection, pest infestation, dead turf, and more. It is always best to make sure your lawn is cleared of debris before snow falls, but, at the very least, debris must be removed from your lawn as soon as possible after winter.
Heavy snow can cause your lawn’s soil to become compacted, which makes it very difficult for your turf to get adequate nutrients or develop healthy roots. Thatch buildup adds to soil compaction, but that can generally be taken care of by raking. To loosen your soil enough so that it can breathe and distribute nutrients to your lawn, core aeration is the best option. Core aerating, either by machine or with manual tools, creates tiny holes all over your lawn that will enable the soil to decompress and be ready for the new growing season.
It is common to find dead patches in your lawn after winter. Luckily, when you implement core aeration, you are creating the perfect environment for new seeds to be laid. The holes created during the aeration process will allow seeds to fall to an appropriate depth in order to germinate. Soon, those dead patches will be replaced with thriving turf. However, you will want to wait until temperatures are a bit warmer in spring to perform both of these tasks. Core aeration is not possible if the ground is still frozen, and seeds need warmth and sunlight to germinate.
Your lawn needs a little extra help repairing itself after the harsh weather conditions of winter. Lawns go dormant throughout the winter months, and applying too much fertilizer too early can severely damage or kill your grass. To properly revive your lawn after winter, make sure you are selecting an early-spring, slow-release fertilizer. These fertilizers have lower nitrogen levels to prevent your lawn from growing too quickly before it is ready. By the third fertilizer application of the year, your lawn will have been eased into treatments, and it will be able to tolerate stronger nitrogen levels. Early-spring fertilizers should also include beneficial micronutrients, such as iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium.
Any winter weeds that have emerged since your lawn’s last weed control treatment will need to be pulled, dug out, or otherwise treated so your lawn can thrive. Preventive pre-emergent control should be applied at this time, and pre-emergent products are often mixed with early-spring fertilizers. Applying pre-emergent to your lawn early in the season will help prevent weeds that compete with your turf for nutrients. Call Holmes for more information on the best pre-emergent weed control products, and check out our fertilization and weed control services.
It is recommended that your first mowing of the season (or even the first 2 or 3) be performed as delicately as possible in order to ease your lawn back into the moderate stress of a lawn mower. Turfgrass develops deeper roots as the grass gets higher, so it is important to make sure you are not mowing low to the ground, especially as your lawn recovers from winter. Try to set the blade height just high enough to clip the tips of your grass. This will allow your lawn to start regenerating and repairing itself slowly, which will soon lead to a stronger lawn.
Keeping your mower blades sharp is always important, but it is absolutely crucial when reviving your lawn after winter. Dull and dirty mower blades will mangle your grass, which prevents healthy growth, and they could potentially spread fungi that could ravage your lawn as it tries to restore itself. Especially before your very first mowing of the season, make sure you sharpen and thoroughly wipe your lawn mower’s blades.
Your lawn will always need water, but you can certainly water a bit less in early spring than in the heat of summer. You may not need to water your lawn until mid or late April, and you should always allow a heavy rainfall to replace a watering session. Ideally, you should wait until your lawn is consistently dry. Once watering begins, at first, water only about 15 minutes per zone, enough to only get the soil moist. Also, try to water as close to dawn as possible in order to prevent lawn disease and give your grass plenty of time to absorb the water.
Don’t stop maintaining your lawn! Following these guidelines is a great way to get your lawn started after winter, but lawn maintenance must be performed routinely throughout the year. Applying between 6-8 fertilization treatments per year, controlling weeds as often as needed, and mowing at a consistent height between 2.75-3.25 inches are just a few ways you can keep your lawn looking great and healthy! Remember—keeping your turf healthy all year long is the best way to prevent post-winter problems for your lawn.
Rake - Rake leaves and debris as soon as they fall in autumn rather than removing them after winter. This will reduce damage to your turf and prevent lawn disease in spring.
Aerate & Dethatch - Aeration is just as beneficial in fall as it is in spring. Loosening the soil and breaking up thatch will help prevent compaction issues caused by snowfall.
Mow - Mowing your lawn slightly shorter than normal just before the first snowfall can help reduce the possibility of snow mold.
Test Your Soil - Take your soil to be tested in fall to see if its pH levels are healthy. If needed, applying lime will slowly balance acidity levels during winter.
Apply Fungicide - While applying fungicides will not be effective against existing snow mold, preventive fungicides are effective when applied before snow/mold arrives.
Shovel Carefully - Do not pile snow up on your lawn when shoveling paved areas. Instead, disperse it evenly, or find a secluded corner of your yard where compaction isn’t an issue.
Call Holmes Lawn & Pest - Our lawn care experts are available to help revive your lawn after winter. Call us at (801) 616-5296 for all your lawn care questions and concerns!
Learn- If you've been wondering how often you should mow your lawn mow your lawn, then check out our last post. Our latest post is up and has all the information on the most common bugs and grubs bugs and grubs in Utah.