Winter Kill: What it is and How to Prevent it in Your Lawn

The term “winter kill” is the general reference to winter lawn damage that results in the death of your grass. Every winter, there are several different causes of winter kill that must be monitored and treated. Here are a few of the most common causes of winter kill in our Utah lawns and how you can prevent them.

Vole Damage

Voles are some of the most common causes of winter kill here in Utah.
Voles are just one of the many causes of winter kill in lawns. These hungry little rodents spend the winter under the snow, where they chow down on your grass. Voles create little paths through the crass that end up looking like a crisscrossed runway of dead grass. By the time spring rolls around and the snow melts, you’ll see the extensive damage that they’ve done. Given the chance, a vole can kill an entire tree by chewing away a strip of bark all the way around your tree. This is called tree girdling and it’s a death sentence for any tree.

Vole damage done to your lawn is typically easy to repair. Just rake the affected area and allow the grass to grow back. Overseed areas that are bare and water well. You can prevent voles from making a home in your yard by ensuring your grass is consistently mowed, especially at the end of the fall. Trim your shrubs and bushes away from the ground to reduce hiding spots and apply mulch around your trees, making sure not to pile the mulch against the tree trunk itself.

Snow Mold

Snow mold is another common form of winter kill here in Utah.
Snow mold is another common cause of winter kill here in Utah. This nasty fungus starts to grow under the snow in the wet, matted grass below. Here it will spread and fester until the snow melts, that’s when you’ll know if you have a problem. The two types of snow mold, gray snow mold and pink snow mold, cause different types of damage to grass. Gray snow mold can usually be cleared up just by letting the affected grass dry out and it doesn’t kill the grass. Pink snow mold, on the other hand, attacks the crown and roots of your grass, resulting in winter kill.

With snow mold, the best course of action is prevention. In the fall, keep your lawn clear of leaves and debris. This reduces some of the conditions that encourage snow mold growth. Mow your grass until it stops growing in the fall because shorter grass is less likely to become matted. Invest in a year-round lawn care program to keep your lawn healthy and its immune system strong.

Winter Desiccation

Another common cause of winter kill is winter desiccation. Winter desiccation refers to extreme dehydration and drying-out of your grass and plants. This cause of winter kill is most common when the temperatures are below freezing but there is no snow cover. Without the cover of snow, your grass and plants are stripped of their moisture by the dry, winter winds. The frozen ground doesn’t allow your grass roots to take in any water, so it can’t replenish the water that it’s lost. After a while, the grass dies of dehydration.

Winter desiccation is nearly impossible to prevent, we’re really at the mercy of the weather. There are a few ways to make your lawn more resilient throughout the year though. Investing in a lawn care program throughout the year gives your lawn the fertilization, weed control, and pest control necessary to maintain a healthy lawn. A healthy lawn is more resilient to drought-like conditions.

Crown Hydration

Finally, there is crown hydration. Crown hydration is probably the most devastating cause of winter kill in our Utah lawns. This lawn problem happens when temperatures quickly change from above freezing to below freezing. When the temperatures are above freezing, it tricks your grass into waking up and taking in water. It stores the water in the crown and when the temperatures plummet back to below freezing, the water in the crown freezes. As the water rapidly freezes, it expands and causes the cells to burst, killing the grass. Crown hydration is a terrible form of winter lawn damage.

Like desiccation, there is no real way to prevent crown hydration. The only thing you can do is provide your lawn with the best care possible throughout the year to build up its strength and resilience.

Ferta-Lawn Can Help Protect Your Lawn Throughout the Year

Here at Ferta-Lawn, we know how big of a pain winter kill can be. In order to prevent winter kill in your lawn, invest in a lawn care program throughout the year. With proper care and maintenance, we can set your lawn up to take on any issues.

For more information on how we can help, call us at (801) 295-3057 or contact us here. Follow us on Facebook to hear about our latest deals and check out our blog for the best lawn care tips for Utah lawns.

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