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Winter Lawn Damage and How To Avoid It

Posted on December 23rd, 2019

Winters here in Massachusetts can be brutal. By the time spring finally rolls around, some of us may be looking at some pretty significant lawn damage. Knowing winter threats that face our lawns can help us avoid extensive damage. Here are a few of the most common causes of winter lawn damage and how to avoid or prevent them.

Snow Mold

One of the best-known forms of winter lawn damage here in Massachusetts is snow mold. Snow mold is a fungal disease that forms and spreads under the snow. When snow piles up in the lawn, it can prevent the soil from freezing and increase humidity in the turf. The snow causes the grass to become matted and wet, the perfect environment for snow mold to grow. When the snow finally melts in the early spring, snow mold appears as 6 – 8 inch patches of water-soaked turf. These spots may be covered in a fluffy white, gray, or pink mold, depending on the type of snow mold that has been growing.

To avoid snow mold infections, make sure you perform proper fall lawn care before the snow hits. Rake the leaves and lawn debris away before the snow can cover it and avoid using nitrogen-heavy fertilizers in the late fall. Mow your lawn a little shorter at the end of the fall to prevent excessive matting. It’s also a great idea to invest in a core aeration service in the fall as this will dethatch the lawn and aid in air circulation.

Voles

One of the biggest causes of winter lawn damage are voles here in Hudson, MA.
The small rodent that can cause big damage to a lawn in the winter is the vole. In the winter, voles travel through the grass, just under the snow. When the snow melts in the early spring, you’ll see the long, sprawling runways that they create through the grass. Hungry voles feed on grass during the winter, but they don’t feed on the crown of the grass. This means the grass should be able to make a full recovery.

You can reduce the likelihood of a vole infestation by making sure you mow your lawn a little shorter than usual at the end of the fall. This creates less cover for them throughout the winter.

Crown Hydration

A devastating form of winter lawn damage is called crown hydration. Crown hydration occurs when the winter weather warms up for a short time and is suddenly followed by freezing temperatures. When the weather warms up, grass “wakes up” and begins taking in water. The sudden onset of freezing temperatures causes the water inside the grass to freeze. This quick-freeze causes water to crystalize in the crown, where it ruptures and kills the crown.

Crown hydration is impossible to prevent or avoid as it is dependent on the weather. When the snow melts in the spring, assess the damage to see how much lawn repair needs to be done.

Winter Desiccation

Another devastating form of winter lawn damage is winter desiccation. Winter desiccation happens when there is no snow cover to protect grass from the cold-dry winds of winter. Winter winds and freezing temperatures suck the moisture right out of the grass, causing damage and death.

Like crown hydration, winter desiccation is nearly impossible to prevent. Putting up a windscreen around exposed areas can help, but ultimately it comes down to snow cover protecting the grass.

Turf Unlimited Can Help

This winter, keep an eye on your lawn. Do what you can to prevent damage but know that if you find winter lawn damage in the spring, the pros at Turf Unlimited can help. Year-round lawn care programs, overseeding services, and core aeration can all help a lawn recover from the brutal Massachusetts winter. Consider a lawn care program for a gift this holiday season!

For more info, call us at (888) 649-9919 or contact us here. For more helpful lawn care tips, check out the Turf Unlimited blog. For the latest news, deals, and information, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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