Oh, wintertime. The season of Santa, sleigh bells, snow, and…wait, obscure lawn hazards? While you may be familiar with the classic types of damage that can occur in winter, there may be some lesser-known ones that could be the culprit of slow grass rejuvenation in spring.
Before we talk about some unintended ways the snow and the cold can potentially damage your lawn, let’s do a quick recap of a few ways you can prepare your yard for winter:
- First, make sure your lawn is clear of leaves and sticks prior to the first snowfall. Leaving a thick layer of debris can effectively suffocate your grass, which can lead to snow mold—a pesky disease that can grow and spread under a blanket of snow.
- On your last mow of the season, mow a little lower than usual. It’s more difficult for fungal diseases like snow mold to spread when the grass is trimmed low.
- Aeration and fertilizer. Aeration is a tried-and-true remedy to combat soil compaction, which restricts nutrient delivery and plant growth. In addition to this, apply a winter fertilizer in late fall. This will provide valuable nutrients for your grass to prepare it for the chilly winter battle it’s about to embark on.
Even if you take these precautionary measures, there’s still a chance your lawn can get roughed up during the cold winter months. Let’s take a look at a few unassuming things to look out for this winter:
- Building Snowmen. Building a snowman can damage your lawn in two ways: 1) through the act of building it, and 2) through the weight of the snowman (especially if it’s enormous). Building a snowman is often a family activity and having a handful of people stomping around on a small patch of grass can compact the snow, making it more difficult for the grass to recover in the spring. In addition, (according to some very scientific analyses) it’s estimated that Frosty the Snowman weighs about 600 pounds. Leaving this on your lawn for a chunk of the wintertime can crater and suffocate your lawn.
- Solution: build your snowman on your driveway or on a patch of yard that can handle foot traffic and a 600-pound beast. Or, if you want to be an especially fun parent, establish a strict No Snowman Policy.
- Moles. While many assume moles hibernate in the winter, they don’t. Instead, they basically just burrow a little deeper than usual when it’s cold, and gradually burrow upwards when it warms. While moles themselves actually don’t do as much damage to grass as most people assume, the tunnels they dig are frequented by voles, who can wreak havoc on your yard.
- Solution: to avoid unsightly burrowing tunnels and dead plants come springtime, use mole and vole repellant before it snows.
- Plowing and Snow Blowing. One of the most common ways lawns get damaged in the winter is during the snow removal process. Plows, snow blowers, and shovels alike can all be blamed.
- Solution: diligently stake out your lawn with snow driveway markers. The upfront cost of them is relatively cheap, and they’ll be reusable for years to come.
- Snowball fights. If your home has a patch of grass that’s become the de-facto neighborhood snowball fight zone, know that such high foot traffic can compact the snow in ways that can be detrimental to grass growth in the spring.
- Solution: establish your most annoying neighbor’s yard as the new de-facto snowball fight zone. Or, if there happens to be a patch of woods nearby, redirect the fight there (a forest setting with natural obstacles makes for a better snowball-fight zone, anyway).
While none of these hazards represent life-or-death when it comes to the survival and longevity of your yard, a little bit of precaution is sure to save you from at least a minor headache come springtime.