What is Winter Kill, and how Does It Affect Your Lawn?

Here in Westchester County, New York, winters can be magical. When it snows, the streets are lined with a blanket of white-colored frost. Between ice skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and more, there is always something fun to do if you like winter activities. But the New York winters can be harsh on our lawns. It is not uncommon for one’s grass to look unsightly once spring returns. Winter kill is the term used to describe any winter lawn damage that lead’s to a plant’s death, including grass. There are a number of contributors that impact winter, kill but some of the most common include crown hydration, winter desiccation, and snow mold. Let’s dive deeper into each of these.

Crown Hydration?frozen grass blades

Considered the worst type of winter kill, crown hydration appears in late winter and early spring when extreme temperature fluctuations occur. During late February and March, temperatures often rise above freezing for a few days at a time. The grass then becomes tricked into coming out of dormancy. When the temperatures go back down and rapid freezing occurs, ice forms inside the crowns and causes the cells inside to burst. This causes the grass to die.

Prevention and Treatment of Crown Hydration

Crown hydration occurs more often on turfs with poorly drained soil. The best way to avoid crown hydration is by properly maintaining your lawn. A lawn fertilization program provided by Griffin Organics can help provide your lawn with the number of nutrients needed to help it stay strong throughout winter. Adequate watering without overwatering will help to ward off crown hydration as well. 

Winter Desiccation

While an abundance of snow can sometimes be an annoyance, it has its benefits when it comes to lawn care. Blankets of snow can help protect grass from being subjected to long periods of dry air. During winter with long dry spells, extreme dryness can occur. Without that covering of snow to hold moisture in, dry winter winds rip and tear at your grass and pull moisture out of its blades. Because the ground is frozen, the grass is unable to draw in water to replace the moisture. This can result in the death of your grass.

Treatment and Prevention of Winter Desiccation

Winter desiccation is most common on annual bluegrass and other cool-season grasses. Because the weather is so hard to predict, winter desiccation is hard to prevent. Preventive measures include using heavy sand topdressing applications in the late fall or utilizing windscreens.

Like with crown hydration, the best way to prevent winter desiccation is with a  lawn maintenance plan. By meeting your lawn’s seasonal needs, you’ll be boosting the health of your grass. Robust grass is much more difficult to damage and faster at recovering.snow mold

Snow Mold

This fungal disease begins to appear in early spring. There are two kinds of snow mold, grey, and pink. Both appear as water-soaked circular patches of grass. Pink snow mold is the more damaging of the two and will attack the crowns of your grass. This is what results in the displeasing look of your grass.

Prevention and Treatment of Snow Mold

Prevention happens throughout the year by properly maintaining your lawn. With regular fertilization, weed control, and proper irrigation techniques, you can create stronger and healthier grass. Your healthy turf will be more resistant to lawn fungi like snow mold. Reducing the amount of thatch on your grass with fall aeration services can also help prevent an outbreak of snow mold. Mow your lawn short at the end of the fall to prevent your grass from becoming matted.

If you do find snow mold in the spring, let the affected areas dry out. You can help by raking the areas and breaking up some of the thatch. If all else fails, use a fungicide.

Get Help From The Professionals at Griffin Organics

The best method of prevention for winter kill is a well-maintained lawn. Help your turf become healthier and stronger throughout the year with lawn care services from Griffin Organics. A yearly lawn care program containing fertilizer and weed control can go a long way to preventing winter disease. Call us today at 914-788-9622 or contact us here.

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