The Landscaper’s Guide to Regrowing Dead Grass After Winter Damage

Winter can really take a toll on your turf. Dry winds, excess moisture from snow or ice and pesky critters can make a massacre of your lawn all season long.

If your grass is dead or damaged post-winter, we’ve got you covered. Let’s determine the cause and give your landscape the refresh it needs to regrow.

Common Causes of Dead Grass, Post-Winter

Let’s explore why your grass may be dead or damaged after a cold Massachusetts winter.

Salt Damage

Salt might give you better traction on slick sidewalks, but these granules can wash or be pushed into your lawn during snow removal. Or, a salty splash from passing vehicles can coat your grass and draw moisture out, so grass can’t photosynthesize or sprout new growth come spring.

Ever have a houseplant’s leaf tips turn yellow or brown? The sodium in the water saps the soil of moisture, causing your plants to experience dehydration. This is exactly what salt damage can do to your grass. When sodium levels become toxic, they can cause root damage, or make your turf more susceptible to disease.

Snow mold

Snow Mold

We’re all guilty of letting snow sit on our lawn, even if we remove it from our driveways or sidewalks. Or worse, we pile the snow from these areas onto our turf, what other option do we have?! Snow mold is a type of fungi that grows beneath the surface of snow.

If temperatures remain cold enough for the snow to linger but not chilly enough for the ground to freeze, the area between your snowy grass and soil becomes the perfect breeding ground for snow mold.

Crown Hydration (AKA Grass Freeze)

There’s no denying we’ve been having some warmer spells these last few winters. Higher temperatures during this season can wake your grass up from dormancy, thinking it’s time to grow.

Crown hydration often happens to lawns with poor drainage systems or in depressed areas of your turf, which are sunken in. As temperatures rise and your soil thaws too early, water collects but never fully drains— and your grass becomes overly hydrated. Your lawn will suck up moisture in the crown, but because this part of your grass is at level with the soil, it’s the first to freeze when soil temperatures drop again. This can rupture your grass’s cell membranes or draw moisture out of the cells, killing your turf.

Cold Desiccation (AKA Frozen Roots)

Just like letting snow sit on your grass for long periods can mean bad news, so too can long-term exposure to harsh winds on bare turf. Your grass will continue to transpire during the winter, or remove waste products like oxygen and expel water.

Your grass can’t replace moisture sucked away by the cold or expelled naturally if its root system is frozen. Without water, your grass’s crowns will begin to die and, eventually, kill your entire turf over a nasty dry winter.

Lawn Voles

Does your lawn have winding trails of dead grass? You might have yourself a vole problem. These small rodents make a home in your turf over the wintertime, tunneling beneath the snow and your grass and eating your vegetation’s roots in distinct paths.

Repairing winter lawn damage

Troubleshooting & Recovering from Cold-Weather Lawn Damage

If you think your turf experienced any of these wintertime woes, read more about identifying and preventing further damage to avoid dead grass problems and foster a thriving turf this spring.

Identifying & Fixing Turf Salt Damage

Winter salt damage is easy to identify. Your grass will turn yellow or brown in patches near the salt exposure, such as in areas directly against sidewalks, roads or around your driveway.

Fix your dead grass problem by flushing the damaged patches with water to remove the salt traces. If you had some heavy spring rains, skip this step. Here are some great tips for repairing the damaged area.

Really, the best way to prevent this from occurring next year is choosing the right de-icing product, lining areas with burlap and shoveling early to reduce the amount of salt needed.

Identifying & Getting Rid of Snow Mold

Snow mold has a distinct look: pink or gray circular blotches of dead grass, in close clusters. These patches can be roughly eight to ten inches in diameter and can continue to expand if untreated. This fungus is sneaky! It can remain dormant in your soil for a long time— even surviving high summer temperatures while not yet actively growing.

The best thing you can do for snow mold is to rake the damaged area to aerate the soil and give your turf a chance to breathe (after being suffocated by mold!). Remove any thatch that is more than 1/2 inch thick and follow these treatment tips from The Spruce!

The best advice we have to prevent snow mold growth is to spread out snow piles and remove falls leaves, early. Choosing the right fertilizer and applying it at the right time in the fall can help too. Ask us about the best product for your landscape.

Getting rid of snow mold

Identifying & Recovering From Crown Hydration

If you see damage to your lawn in areas where the ground is sunken in, or if you have poor drainage systems and experienced a particularly wet or snowy winter, it might be crown hydration.

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to prevent this from occurring other than ensuring your property has proper drainage methods. Widespread damage may require complete reseeding or resodding.

A landscaping professional can help to identify the cause of your dead grass and, if it’s indeed crown hydration, nurse your turf back to health with proper seeding and lawn care.

Identifying & Recovering From Cold Desiccation

If after a relatively snow-free but very chilly winter you find yourself with dead grass, cold desiccation may have been the cause. This is especially true if the damage is seen throughout your entire landscape.

Your grass might spring back on its own if the damage was mild, but in most cases, you will need to aerate and reseed. Your lawn may take a few weeks to bounce back, but with proper care, you shouldn’t face any long-term headaches.

Identifying & Getting Rid Lawn Voles

Voles are looking for shelter as temperatures drop. Piles of dead leaves are toasty hideaways from the wind, where they burrow away until the snow hits. Because they are rodents, these pests can be baited and trapped like mice, but that can be a real pain mid-winter and honestly isn’t that effective!

Prevent lawn vole by removing fallen leaves and debris from your lawn in the fall, before the cold weather hits. If you find damage early spring, the best thing to do is rake away any remaining debris or dead grass and reseed the damaged paths.

No Dead Grass Here!

Oftentimes, the best thing you can do to avoid winter turf damage is to prepare in the fall.

Download our Massachusetts Winter Landscape Checklist to get your lawn ready for the winter cold. Even if you missed your window of opportunity this year, you know what you can do to prevent dead grass next year.

Experiencing any of these grass headaches? Contact us today for a consultation. We’ll come out to inspect the damage and get your lawn on the road to recovery.

Massachusetts Winter Prep Lawn Care Checklist 

Topics: Winter Lawn Care