For many, winter may signal the end of gardening tasks until spring. However, extreme winter weather can harm your lawn and damage can take months to recover. Therefore, keeping on top of your grass during the colder, wetter months will ensure all your efforts haven’t gone to waste.
We’ll walk you through how to protect your lawn in winter to help keep your grass looking healthy come spring, as well as answering some common queries.
Wet weather lawn care
Lawn turf can reduce the impact of flooding as it helps rainwater to flow through gaps in the soil. However, problems can arise when the grass is exposed to long, heavy rain.
Prolonged rainfall can result in waterlogging: when heavy rain sits on the surface of your lawn, with the soil unable to absorb it. This can lead to your grass wilting, drying out or turning yellow.
How to tell if your lawn is waterlogged
When your grass becomes waterlogged, problems that can occur include:
- Root damage
- Bacterial or fungal diseases
- Loss of essential nutrients
- Lawn grubs or insects
- Excessive weed growth
Tips for keeping your lawn healthy during wet weather
1. Aerate your lawn
Heavy rain will leave your grass compacted and the soil compressed, meaning water, nutrients, and air cannot pass through to the root. By simply spiking the soil with a garden fork or a rolling lawn aerator, you can improve water drainage and prevent damage to your grass.
Avoid spiking the soil when the grass is frosty, as your tools may get stuck.
2. Build resilience by fertilising
Keeping your lawn well-fed with fertiliser before winter will ensure it is thick and dense, providing better protection from heavy rain and, if damaged, an easier recovery.
While autumn and spring are great times to treat lawns, avoid using fertiliser during winter. Due to the cold weather, grass may grow slower or have stopped growing altogether, meaning it won’t be able to recover from treatments.
3. Avoid walking on your lawn
Similar to how heavy rain can compress it, walking on your lawn during wet conditions could cause the soil to compact even more. This can add to the problem of waterlogging, so try to only step on wet grass when necessary.
How to lay turfs in wet weather
Although it takes more care and attention, turf can be laid in wet weather conditions. If the rain is heavy or the ground is soaked, it’s better to wait until the rain has stopped. This will ensure precision when laying your lawn.
When laying your lawn remember to:
- Prepare the soil correctly — Before laying your turf, ensure the soil is raked to a fine consistency to create pockets of air so the newly laid grass can grow. Although it can still be done, raking is more difficult during heavy rain, as water hitting the ground can compact the soil again.
Avoid stepping on the soil — Stepping on the ground when rolling out the turf, especially during wet or frosty conditions, can also compact the soil. Using wooden planks to walk on when needed will reduce the impact.
Mowing your lawn in wet weather
Mowing your lawn in wet conditions can weaken it, making it easier for diseases to spread, especially in damp conditions where they thrive.
Pushing a mower over wet grass can also contribute to soil compaction, causing a lack of nutrient and air intake, resulting in poor root growth.
As well as running the risk of slipping and falling near the mower’s blades, using an electric lawn mower on wet grass could also cause an electric shock. Therefore, it’s best to wait until the weather improves.
Snowy weather lawn care
Lawn damage or death during winter — sometimes referred to as winterkill — is a result of cold temperatures, frosty conditions, and snowy weather.
Signs of lawn damage caused by winter weather
Lawn damage in winter can be caused by several factors including:
- Snow mould — There is a risk of fungal diseases forming in moist conditions when heavy snow covers your grass. Once the snow melts, the turf may turn brown in patches and merge as the disease spreads. If infected for a long time, the grass will take months to recover or even die.
- Cold desiccation — This occurs when uncovered grass is exposed to cold conditions. Frozen grassroots cannot replace the lack of moisture, causing them to die.
Crown freeze — The crowns of your lawn (where the grass shoots and roots meet) can be damaged or killed if warm weather is followed by a freeze. In mild, wet conditions, the crowns absorb water, so a sudden freeze will cause them to expand, possibly killing them.
Top tips for protecting your lawn in snowy weather
The best solution to prevent snow from damaging your lawn is to cover it with an over-ground cover or install an underground heater. For most of us, however, this isn’t possible. That’s why we’ve come up with some tips to help.
1. Prepare your lawn before winter
To ensure your lawn is back to its fresh, green condition after winter, it’s best to prepare before the colder weather sets in. Fertilising your grass in autumn will toughen it up and strengthen the roots ready for snowy or icy conditions and limit damage.
2. Use high-quality lawn turf
Investing in high-quality, resistant lawn turf like perennial ryegrass or red fescue will better your lawn’s chances of survival in harsh winter conditions.
3. Avoid walking on your lawn
When the snow has settled on your lawn, walking on it can result in lasting damage to the frozen grass beneath. Stepping on wet turf when the snow has melted can also harm the delicate grass leaves.
Avoiding this is particularly important during the first year of rolling your lawn, as it will be more vulnerable to environmental changes and, therefore, more prone to damage.
4. Only mow on mild winter days
Mowing during frosty or snowy days could result in unnecessary damage to grass when it is most vulnerable, causing it to turn brown or, in the worst case, die.
Grass growth tends to slow or stop during cold weather, so mowing your lawn in winter shouldn’t be necessary.
5. Work out the hardiness of your grass
Hardiness relates to a plant’s ability to survive in the weather conditions in your area. If you’re at the point of choosing the lawn you want in your garden, choose a type of grass that can withstand wet and cold conditions the UK is familiar with.
Perennial ryegrass and fescue grasses are great options due to their hard-wearing qualities that can handle frosty British winters.
Your zone on the hardiness scale below will determine which species will perform best in your garden. For those who are new to a location, it’s also worth speaking to gardeners in your area who have maintained lawns in winter. This will give you an idea of the type of grass that will survive in your local weather conditions.
During the colder seasons, look out for the development of diseases such as snow mould. Snow mould is one of the severest grass diseases as it can cause lasting damage or kill patches of your lawn. It can be tricky to manage, especially if it keeps recurring. Spotting the signs early will give you the best chance of repairing the patches quickly.
For more tips on caring for your garden during the colder winter months, take a look at our guide.
What are the signs of snow mould?
Once the snow has melted, you may be left with patches of yellow, dry grass which will eventually turn brown. As the disease spreads, these patches may increase in size and merge. You may also notice pink fungus begin to grow around the edges of the patches during wet conditions.
How to treat snow mould
If snow mould has already formed on your lawn, trifloxystrobin is the only fungicide available to homeowners to control the disease. It can be useful for dealing with small outbreaks before they spread.
As snow mould can build resistance to trifloxystrobin, it’s best to use it just twice a year, along with other fertilisers to repair the damage.
How to prevent snow mould
If there are any signs of snow mould on your lawn, it’s best to get an expert in. The following steps, however, can be taken to help prevent it.
- Removing dead leaves — As leaves can trap moisture on your lawn, resulting in a lack of air supply, the chances of mould increase. Keep walking on the grass to a minimum, however, as this may cause further damage to your lawn, especially in wet or icy conditions.
- Removing piled-up snow — As mould thrives under snow, removing the excess can help it to melt quicker.
- Raking or spiking your lawn — This will help your lawn to dry quicker after heavy snow, increasing air circulation to prevent snow mould.
- Keep your grass short — If your lawn is too long when the snow begins to fall, it will hold onto too much moisture, increasing the chances of snow mould developing.
Once you understand the care it needs, protecting your lawn during cold and wet conditions isn’t as difficult as it seems. For more expert gardening tips, take a look at our blog.