Winter kill (or winterkill) with regards to lawn, refers to any severe damage or death sustained by the turf during the winter months. For the most part, well cared for turf is resilient and strong, but winter weather can be unforgiving to even the best lawns. Winter kill can occur under a variety of conditions.
Snow cover - a persistent snow cover can create warmer, insulated conditions near the soil surface. Gray snow mold may break out in these conditions. Mouse activity may also occur and leave noticeable trails in the grass in the spring. Gray snow mold is going to be gray in color and look "hairy" on the turf. Gray snow mold thrives in the spring of the year as we go through the freeze/thaw of spring time melting.
Bare dormant grass - can become dessicated or dried out when exposed to winter winds and extreme temperatures over long periods of time. Foot traffic over bare dormant grass is less desirable than snow cover. With the lack of snow cover and moisture this winter. These could be a issue. However the unseasonably warm temperatures have been in our favor.
Ice, wind, and scalping can inflict the most serious damage by injuring the sensitive crown of the plant. Extreme temperatures, wind, and freeze/thaw conditions can inflict the worst damage. If winterkill occurs from these conditions, recovery may take longer than expected.
Winters can often be unpredictable and may put your lawn through any or all of these conditions during the course of a winter. The best thing to do is make sure the grass has hardened off, you've "put the lawn to bed" properly, monitor the weather, and deal with conditions as they occur.
The best treatment for snow mold is to rake up the matted areas after the lawn has dried up and soils temperatures rise. This will allow sunlight, air flow and "room" for the grass to fill in and recover. If there are large areas some type of over seeding may be required.
Posted on Mon, January 23, 2012