Winter started early here in Northern GA with six to eight inches of snow that hit our area over the weekend. And while the white stuff is pretty and puts everyone in a jolly holiday mood, your warm season turf could be in jeopardy.
Indeed, this early snowfall could be an indicator of an active, cold winter pattern for the next few months. And your lawn could suffer from winterkill, also known as winter injury, this season.
In this blog, you’ll learn what winterkill is, how it affects your zoysia or Bermuda grass lawns and how a professional lawn care service can protect your lawn from it.
What is Winterkill?
Winterkill or winter injury happens when cold air dries out a plant, in this case, your lawn grass. The crowns and blades lose water and die.
Cool season grasses, such as fescue, can handle this cold snap. However, warm season grasses, such as Bermuda and zoysia, are affected adversely. So, your Atlanta or Roswell warm season grass needs extra protection to help it survive a cold winter.
Believe it or not, snow won’t kill your lawn grass. Instead, snow serves as an insulator, protecting the crowns and leaves from cold, dry air as well as helping to keep the soil at a warmer temperature underground compared to the air temperature above ground.
Here are seven ways your warm season grass could get winter injury:
- Sustained low temperature: If the air temperatures stay at freezing (32°F) or below any time this winter, your warm season grass is in danger of winterkill.
- Continual freeze/thaw cycles: A string of warm days followed by freezing temperatures puts warm season grasses in danger of winter injury. This risk is more prevalent toward the end of winter or the beginning of spring when the days are warm, and the nighttime temperatures drop too low. However, freeze/thaw cycles can happen throughout the entire winter season.
- Unseasonably warm temperatures followed by extreme cold: If we get a “heat” wave in the middle of winter where the temperatures rise to 65°F to 70°F for a few weeks, then return to more typical winter temperatures, it can kill your grass. When there are sustained warm temperatures dormant warm season grasses wake up. Then, a cold snap results in newly grown Bermuda or zoysia dying off because of the cold.
- North-facing slopes: If you have Bermuda or zoysia grass on north-facing slopes, your lawn is in danger of winterkill. Cold winds and less sunlight leave your warm season grasses susceptible to desiccation or drying out.
- Poorly drained areas: If there are parts of your property where the water doesn’t drain well, you may find that your warm season grasses won’t survive the winter due to too much water refreezing into ice. Grass plants don’t like to be wet, let alone frozen, and will die.
- Too much foot traffic: If your kids are playing in your yard, the soil becomes compacted, not allowing your lawn grass to develop deep root systems. Soil compaction affects all grass types because turf needs to be able to develop deep root systems to survive the winter. When the turf is thin, there aren’t enough roots getting into moisture and food stores to help your lawn live through cold winters.
- Low potassium (K) in the soil: Potassium helps lawns survive cold temperatures. If your soil is low in potassium, then your turfgrass may not be hardy enough to survive a cold winter.
How Your Local Lawn Care Professional Can Help Your Warm Season Grasses Survive a Long, Cold Winter
Your local lawn service will cover your lawn to insulate it from severe cold winds. Pine straw and top dressing are popular covers that will protect your lawn grasses’ crowns from drying out.
Likewise, your lawn care technician may add a fertilizer with potassium to help build up your lawn’s ability to withstand the cold.
Typically, January is the time to add pre-emergent weed control to Georgia lawns. However, if the cold persists, that application may be postponed due to pre-emergent prohibiting new grass seed from germinating.
If your Northern GA lawn is made up of warm season grasses, call us at Agropro today, 678-445-9990 or fill out our contact form.
Han, David, “Winter Damage on Warm Season Turfgrasses,” Alabama Cooperative Extension Systems: May 2014.
Turf Tips, “Warm Season Turf Winterkill 2014: What Can You Expect and Now What?” Purdue University: March 12, 2014.
Agropro Lawn Care Service~ Agropro provides Lawn Care and Plant Health Care services to these areas in North Georgia: Alpharetta, Atlanta, Buckhead, Canton, Cumming, Dunwoody, Johns Creek, Marietta, Milton, Roswell, Sandy Springs, and Woodstock.