Winterkill: How Will This COLD Weather Affect Your LAWN?
- January 2, 2018
What is it? How does it happen? Should I be concerned about Winterkill on my lawn? What can I do?
These are all great questions. The recent winter conditions of late are a concern for many homeowners and managers of turfgrass and how it may affect their lawns and landscapes as temperatures warm back up. Continue to read and this will inform you on many of the concerns we have with Winterkill and what you can expect as a result. It is our goal to serve our customers and communities with the information needed to make accurate choices regarding home and lawn maintenance, facts, and options.
Winterkill 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 Winterkill on your lawn. This can be a devastating blow to many homeowners and turf managers.
First, let’s go into detail on the causes of Winterkill and what you can, and cannot do, when your lawn suffers from this condition.
Recent temps have been recorded as low as 1 degree in some areas. Lawn grass can be damaged by Direct Low Temperature Kill. This type of Winterkill 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.
When your lawn is not covered in snowfall, 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 left behind a lot of winter damage and we learned a lot. It was extremely dry in the Fall, which makes lawns more susceptible to Winterkill. The Fall of 2017 and winter so far in 2018 are shaping up to have a significant impact on our warm season grasses. This Winterkill can result in plant death.
Crown Hydration is the most destructive cause of Winterkill. 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 above ground 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. We, as of now, aren’t to that point in the season yet and aren’t out of the clear just yet.
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.
As we mentioned earlier in this article, environmental effects to your lawn are unpredictable and unavoidable. Preventative measures can be implemented such as applying a winterize (potassium) for root strength and/or cover the warm season grass areas with some type of tarp or pine straw. This will help minimize the damage to your lawn. 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. If you have any other questions, please submit them here: Lawn Question(s)
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