Posted on October 4th, 2022
How snow affects your lawn. For many areas, the winter season is synonymous with snowfall, leaving many homeowners concerned about how their lawns will fare during the icy months ahead.
Although snow can be problematic for your lawns in some cases, it can also be beneficial in the long term, especially with proper preparation and lawn care. But it often goes overlooked that how you approach treating grass before and during the winter season makes all the difference.
If you’re wondering if snow is good for your grass, this quick guide should help you understand the effects of snow on your lawn, its benefits and disadvantages. We will also share some valuable tips on protecting your lawn during harsh winter conditions.
When it comes to the effects of snow on your grass, the benefits outweigh the risks of damage with proper lawn care.
Snow is a natural insulator.
Snow is a natural protective covering for your garden beds, shielding them from icy winter winds and retaining moisture and nutrients. The R-value, or the measure of thermal resistance, is based on the thickness of the snow, much like with residential insulation.
While an inch or two of sparse snow covering has little insulating impact, a generous amount of uncompressed and freshly fallen snow makes for excellent insulation.
Snow is nature’s mulch alternative.
Unusually mild and sunny days appear in the middle of winter, and then another frost arrives. In severe temperature swings, your grass and other lawn plants can suffer from being uprooted due to frost heave.
Snow serves as a natural mulch that helps to control subsurface temperature swings. However, with a layer of snow, the wintertime freeze and thaw phases can help prevent disastrous effects on the grass’s roots and bulbs.
Snow is a climate change regulator.
As a result of climate change, you can expect more irregular wintertime temperature shifts. As a result, when a warm day arrives in winter, your plants can get confused and think spring has arrived. This can lead your perennials and bulbs to sprout, only to get snuffed out by the returning cold air.
Woody plants can detect the increased air temperature inside their canopy on abnormally warm winter days and attempt to draw moisture from the frozen ground. But your grass, expensive trees and shrubs on your lawn can be shielded from the significant harm caused by frozen ground if there is snow cover to protect them.
Snow is a source of water and nitrogen.
Like natural mulch, a layer of snow aids in winter soil moisture retention. Snow is sometimes referred to as “poor man’s fertilizer” because nitrogen binds to the snowflakes and gives your lawn a little natural fertilizer boost when it descends through the atmosphere. Additionally, once the snow melts in the spring, it provides lawn plants with even more water.
Snow is a seeding method.
Snow can provide the natural moist cooling period many native seeds require to germinate. Scatter grass seed at the top of the snow surface if a thaw is expected soon. The melting snow will draw the grass seed into the soil, combining seeding and watering. When snow seeding, pay close attention to patchy areas on your lawn.
Snow is an infestation reducer.
Severely low temperatures accompanied by heavy snowfall will likely reduce the insect population. As a result, you should have less of an issue with insects in the lawn and garden during the season. While snow reduces infestation, it does not mean you should forgo pest control during the fall or before winter arrives.
Snow causes frosty or frozen grass.
Your grass blades are frozen when a lawn is frosted. When the grass is frozen, any activity on it, such as stepping on it or cutting it, will “break” the grass blades and harm the turf.
Your grass will develop new grass blades as the soil warms up and becomes moist since most of its energy is stored in the root system. However, if you walk over your yard in the cold snow, your tracks will stay there for a while and fracture the grass. Therefore, as you enjoy the snow outside, exercise additional caution.
Snow can cause snow mold.
Snow mold may develop when the snow on your grass thaws. Although the Northeast and cool-season grasses are where this disease would be most prevalent, you can occasionally find snow mold in the south during snowy winters. When your grass attempts to sprout in the early spring, gray-colored circles will start to show up on your lawn.
Snow mold frequently develops in places where snow is piled up. This is why it’s vital to pay close attention to the grass in those areas after the snow melts. In addition, a properly cleaned and fertilized lawn before the winter season can effectively resist snow mold.
There are two varieties of snow mold, and it’s crucial to understand that they differ significantly from one another.
Some property owners are only concerned about their soil or ground without grass or any foliage, wondering if snow is good for the ground. Below, we tackle that.
Soils freeze more deeply without snow cover and experience severe freeze and thaw cycles. Water expands when it freezes; groundwater in frost cover undergoes the same thing. When liquid underground solidifies, it expands and compresses soil components.
The ground heaves as a result of the soil being pushed upward by ice. Frost heaving adds to the deterioration of other infrastructures, such as pipelines, walkways, and roadways. However, freeze-thaw cycles do have advantages since they improve soil structure and lessen reduction.
On the other hand, bare soils are vulnerable due to their lack of protection from gusts, rain, and washout. Snow serves as a shield against water and wind-driven erosion of the ground. Erosion affects soil systems and is a severe and pervasive environmental issue.
Additionally, it adds to water and air pollution. When soil particles are broken apart by wind and water, soil erosion occurs. As a result, the soil’s fertility declines, making it less favorable for soil-dwelling creatures.
A thick layer of snow covering your ground becomes well-insulated soil that typically thaws more quickly than bare ground. Frozen soils are much less effective in absorbing and storing snowmelt than thawed soils. So not only is snow good for your grass, but it’s also better than it remaining bare.
Watering the lawn the night before is the most practical technique for treating grass when it snows, avoiding light frost damage on your grass. A thorough watering enables the moisture to evaporate overnight gradually. Around the grass blades, heat and friction are produced by this evaporation. Your grass flush with the ground has a higher temperature due to evaporative heat processes as the nighttime air temperature dips below freezing.
With proper watering, your grass can’t get cold enough to allow water molecules to expand, which results in widespread winter die-back.
Snow mold can develop when the thawing snow cannot correctly drain, and dead leaves are buried under the snowfall, accumulating moisture.
Snow mold is more prevalent in lawns with longer grass. This is because moisture accumulates more in thick grass. So snow mold can develop when the snow thaws and cannot properly drain.
The soil can more easily breathe and absorb water and nutrients in the winter when liquid aeration is done in the fall. Late summer or fall is the best time to aerate your lawn, especially if you experienced a sweltering summer or if there was a lot of foot traffic that significantly compacts the soil. Avoid scheduling your liquid aeration too late in the season to avoid having snow mold appear on your lawn.
Winterizer is a special blend of lawn fertilizers that provides your lawn with the nutrients it needs for the coming winter. First, ensure your winterize has the correct nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus ratio to avoid snow mold. Then, depending on the weather, you should apply the winterizer any time between late September and early November.
Raking your lawn might be a pain, but it’s healthier for the long-term upkeep of your lawn during the winter. Snow mold or other lawn diseases are more likely to appear on your lawn when fallen leaves, branches, and other waste are left there and then covered with snow. So even before snow begins to fall in the late fall, take the time to clear your yard. Maintaining a clean yard will help your lawn experience reduced dry and dead patches.
In addition to the tips mentioned above, here are a few other simple ways to ensure that your landscape remains happy and healthy this snowy winter.
Overall, a good amount of snow covering benefits your grass and ground. However, the preventive measures you apply before and during winter are vital. Understandably, the winter season is also the busiest time for many homeowners, having less time to tend to their lawns. This is when working with lawn care experts can be a wise choice.
If you get minimal snow cover, the winter season can be especially tough on your foliage and soils. While no one can forecast when and how much snow cover they’ll receive, Turf Unlimited is committed to making your lawn winter-ready in the best possible way.
Turf Unlimited is a locally owned business that has been running since 1996. Our team of lawn care experts strives to provide the best services and products at competitive costs. We are eager to understand and fulfill each of our client’s specific demands.
Our team is constantly exploring our sector’s most recent products and technologies to continue offering the best products and services. Below are some of our offerings that can winter-protect your lawn.
If you require any lawn care services we haven’t mentioned, our team would be more than glad to accommodate you. So be part of our long list of happy clients and make your lawn winter-ready — reach out to our team or call (888) 649-9919 for fast assistance.