Dying grass in a lawn.

Winter Damage Assessment: Identifying and Addressing Lawn Issues

When the snow starts melting in spring, one of the outdoor activities you should include on your to-do list is assessing your lawn for winter damage. In this article, we’ll discuss how to diagnose lawn problems after winter and ways to address them.

How to Identify and Care For Lawn Issues

Inspect Your Lawn for Winter Damage

Bitterly cold winters can do a number on your beautiful, green lawn. The brutal temperatures, chilling winds, and intense snow can cause various issues, from snow mold and crown hydration to desiccation.

You’ll be able to see general indications of winter lawn damage once the snow melts and the surroundings start greening up. So, when the temperature begins warming up, take a stroll in your backyard and look for the following:

  • Circular patches of matted, dead-looking grass blades with web-like pinkish or white mold
  • Straw-colored grass next to sidewalks, driveways, and other hardscapes
  • Large patches of discolored grass
  • Signs of insect or pest infestation, like thin and long patches of dead grass
  • Brown, dull grass in areas where the soil stays moist or collects excess rainwater

Some types of grass turn brown in winter as they go dormant. They will naturally become green once the weather warms up and conditions improve. But since dead grass also turns brown, it’s best to perform a test to confirm whether your lawn has just entered dormancy or died. Find a section of brown grass and give it a fast tug. You’ll feel a resistance when pulling out the blades if the grass is dormant. Conversely, it will be very easy to pull out dead grass.

Identify Winter Lawn Issues

The next step in restoring a winter-damaged lawn is identifying the issue. You must understand the problem to find a solution that works. Some winter damage, like snow mold, is easy to fix. Other issues, like crown hydration, can kill your lawn and often require reseeding or resodding. You may also need to call in an expert in lawn care near you to solve the problem.

Snow Mold

If you see matted and crusty circular patches of grass in your lawn, there’s a chance you’re dealing with snow mold. It’s a fungal disease that develops when your lawn is covered in snow or wet leaves for too long, trapping moisture underneath. Inspect the patches for gray or pink fungal growth; their presence will verify the disease. Gray mold doesn’t kill the roots, so the grass will likely bounce back after the soil dries and you loosen up the matted blades.

Crown Hydration

If grasses in low-lying, poorly drained areas do not green up in spring, they may have died due to crown hydration. Crown hydration is one of the most destructive wintertime threats to grass. It usually happens in late winter following periods of freezing and thawing. As the temperatures warm up, the grass starts to wake up and take in water. When the temperature drops, the water in the grass crown freezes, crystallizes, and bursts. When this happens, your lawn will require reseeding or resodding.

Winter Desiccation

Winter desiccation typically affects unprotected grass, causing thinning and browning of the lawn. In the worst-case scenario, desiccation can lead to dead grass. Grass acquires this winter injury when exposed to dry, frigid winds for an extended period. The cold winds pull moisture out of the grass blade. And since the soil is frozen, the grass cannot replenish the lost moisture fast enough to survive. The solution often involves reseeding or resodding.

Salt Damage

If grass beside a driveway, sidewalk, or other hardscape looks dull or dead, then the culprit is likely de-icing salt. Fortunately, you can easily reverse the damage by flushing the salt in the soil. But if the grass does not bounce back after some time, you may have to reseed the damaged area.

Evaluate Soil Composition and pH Levels

Soil composition and pH levels can impact how fast your lawn recovers from winter damage. Whatever lawn injury you’re dealing with, perform a soil test to determine what your soil contains and lacks. However, if you’ve already performed a soil test within the last year, you may skip this process.

However, if you want to be vigilant, you can still test the soil’s pH because it changes in winter. Keeping the pH at a desirable level for the grass you’re growing is critical. Nutrients can get tied up when the soil pH gets too alkaline or acidic. This means no matter how much fertilizer you apply, the nutrients won’t be available to the grass. A soil test result typically includes information about soil pH levels, but you should also measure it separately using pH test strips.

Improve Soil Quality by Applying Compost, Fertilizers, and Other Natural Solutions

Healthy lawns begin with healthy soil. When you want to improve your soil’s quality to boost lawn recovery, you’ll never go wrong with natural solutions. Organic matter, such as compost, binds mineral soil particles together to create aggregates, resulting in better soil structure optimal for root growth. It also creates better pore space among the aggregates, improving the soil’s drainage, water-holding capacity, and aeration.

Natural solutions are better for the environment and your health. If you want to switch to organic lawn care in Toronto, companies like LawnMart can help. LawnMart can help you achieve a beautiful lawn the natural way.

Resod or Reseed Using a Suitable Grass Variety

Depending on the extent of your lawn’s winter damage, you may be looking at reseeding or resodding. If there are only a few bare patches, reseeding will be the easiest way to restore your lawn to its lush glory. But if more than 50 percent of your lawn has died, resodding will be faster and easier.

Choosing which grass variety to use is a critical step in reseeding or resodding. You may select seeds of the grass variety you already have on your lawn. You may also use other varieties, but consider the lawn’s purpose, maintenance requirements, and other factors when picking seeds.

Water Your Lawn Properly

Proper watering is a critical part of lawn care after winter. Your turfgrass is waking up from sleep and needs enough water and nutrients to thrive. Keeping the soil moist but not waterlogged is also crucial after laying down grass seeds on bare spots of your lawn. Proper watering will promote healthy seed germination and growth.

When watering your lawn, the timing is critical. Give your lawn a sip in the evening, and you risk fungal growth. Water on a sunny afternoon, and you’ll likely waste water. The best time is usually in the morning because water won’t evaporate quickly nor keep the blades moist for a long time. Proper watering techniques are also necessary to prevent problems like soil erosion and pest infestation.

Bring a Professional in for an Inspection

Not everyone has the time or knowledge to assess the lawn for winter injury. In this case, bringing in a lawn care professional is the best solution. You can trust them to diagnose the problem accurately. They also have the knowledge, skills, and proper equipment to fix damaged lawns so you can achieve lush, green carpets after winter.

Protect Your Lawn Next Winter

While winter lawn injuries are often manageable, fixing them takes time and effort. The good news is there are ways to protect your lawn from winter damage. Consult your trusted lawn care professional for tips on preparing your lawn for winter.

For now, focus on turning your turf from brown to green again by following the tips in this article. For more information on how to revive your lawn after winter, feel free to talk to LawnMart’s experts.