Winter Kill. What is it? How does it happen? Shoud I be concerned about Winterkill on my lawn? What can I do? The recent winter conditions of late are a concern for many homeowners of how it may affect their lawns and landscapes as spring approaches. Continue to read and this will inform you on many of the concerns and more. It is our goal to serve our communities with the information needed to make accurate choices regarding home and lawn maintenance, facts, and options.
What is Winter Kill?
Winter Kill is a term generally used to describe the loss of grass due to cold winter months. Low temperatures, extreme dryness, crown hydration and ice encasement are the main causes of Winter Kill on your lawn. This can be a devastating blow to many homeowners, especially those who have contracts with a lawn care company. Environmental effects to your lawn are unpredictable, and can not be avoided. So what can YOU do as a homeowner?
Causes of Winter Kill
In this section, we will go into detail on the causes of Winter Kill and what you can, and cannot, do when your lawn suffers from this condition.
- Low Temperatures
Lawn grass can be damaged by Direct Low Temperature Kill. This type of Winter Kill occurs during extremely cold temperatures early in the winter following a relatively warm period in late fall.
During the fall, plants go through a dehydration process. This process allows plants to harden off and tolerate freezing conditions. Warmer weather during the late fall can delay this process, causing plants to become vulnerable to ice formations. Even though it is impossible to prevent, Direct Low Temperature Kill can be less harmful by extra seeding at the appropriate time.
- Extreme Dryness(desiccation)
When your lawn is not covered in snow fall, your grass is susceptible to harsh, dry winds. Winter desiccation is the death of dormant or semi dormant grass and plants caused by extreme dryness. The fall of 2014 and winter of 2015 thus far has been extremely dry which makes lawns more susceptible to Winterkill. This can be particularly hard on your stand of turf as they lose significant amounts of moisture, resulting in plant death.
- Crown Hydration
Crown Hydration is the most destructive cause of Winter Kill. During late winter, February and March, temperatures can vary from freezing to above freezing for several days at a time. The thaw can cause your grass and plants to soften a bit, and become hydrated. If rapidly freezing temperatures follow this thawing process, ice formations will form inside the crown of your lawn. The crown refers to all of the plant’s aboveground parts, including stems, leaves, and reproductive structures. When ice formations form inside the crown of your grass or plants, cell membranes will either burst or lose all their moisture.
- Ice Encasement
Plant death caused by ice encasement occurs when a thick covering of snow and/or ice literally causes a barrier that can be toxic. Oxygen is depleted and a buildup of toxic gasses such as carbon dioxide, butanol, and ethyl butyrate occurs. If the snow/ice encasement lasts for weeks, or months, at a time, lawns and plants can die.
How can I protect my lawn?
As we mentioned earlier in this article, environmental effects to your lawn are unpredictable and unavoidable. Preventative measures can be implemented and will surely reduce damage to your lawn, but realizing what you’re up against is crucial. To determine if, and how much, damage has occurred, samples can be evaluated by a licensed lawn care service professional and recommendations be made accordingly. Depending on the extent of damage, seeding or sodding may be necessary. Lawn maintenance can be tedious but the results are phenomenal.
4-EverGreen Lawn Care, LLC
Okeena Termite & Pest Control