We’ve already seen some snow this year and we’re bound to see way more before February is out. (Let’s not even talk about March yet.) Rumor has it that we might be seeing some snow as early as the end of next week; time will tell if it’s going to be just another dusting, or one of those February blizzards we’ve come to expect. When it comes to snow, you’ve probably got a lot of things on your mind, but tell me: How high up on the list is winter lawn care?
You’re probably worried about shoveling first, then cleaning off your car, then whether or not the roads are too bad to make it to work – with all of the immediate issues that snow presents, it can be easy to forget all of the problems it can cause later on – like a dead or unhealthy lawn come spring thaw.
But don’t worry! That eventuality is far from inevitable. There are plenty of things you can do right now, before the next time it snows, to help protect your lawn from damage when it does – and throughout the rest of the frosty season. I’ve gathered up some of the best winter lawn care tips for you to keep in mind whenever you see snow in the forecast – and don’t worry, I promise, they’re very easy!
If when you finish taking care of your lawn, you feel inclined to care for some more of the nature in your backyard, check out my post on winter bird feeding – why it’s important, and how to get started!
General Winter Lawn Care Tips:
You can provide some much-needed extra air for grass roots by aerating your lawn, or putting little holes in it. For small to moderate sized lawns, this can be done by taking a spade and digging up small pieces of dirt (think 2-4 inches) over the lawn. If your lawn is larger (like large enough that you own or have thought of buying a ride-on mower), or if you’d rather not be on your hands and knees on your lawn when it’s 30 degrees out, you may want to consider
buying or renting a manual or motorized aerator.
2. Clean up debris.
Whether it be dead leaves and twigs, toys, or lawn furniture, it’s best to get rid of it ahead of the winter frost. Anything left on your lawn over a long period of time can smother your grass, but this is especially true in winter, as the frost and decay that can build up underneath are quick to cause disease condition that can kill your grass. If you can, it’s good winter lawn care practice to keep your yard completely clear until things warm up again.
3. Water it.
This may surprise you, but it’s actually important to make sure your lawn stays moist throughout the incredibly dry winter season. On a day when you’re certain it won’t freeze (so, over 32 degrees outside), take the hose and give your lawn a little shower. After that, try to make sure it stays moist: Once it snows, this will actually be easier, because as long as it doesn’t turn to ice, snow acts as an insulator and a moisturizer for your lawn. As with most of these tips, you just have to keep an eye on things.
4. Watch traffic patterns.
Grass is a resilient plant, and it can handle a moderate amount of strain even when dormant and covered by snow. However, if there are clear paths trekked back and forth across your lawn in the winter months, it can create the same disease conditions and smothering that leaving out toys and furniture does. For a healthy lawn, it’s best to try to vary your traffic patterns across it during the winter. If you don’t, there’s a good chance the path you’ve worn will grow back much slower, or not at all.
Things You Can Do Ahead of Snow:
1. Clear up any old ice patches.
If your lawn never completely unfroze after the previous snowfall, you may want to search for any spots where you know there’s compacted ice lurking underneath the snow and get rid of the ice. There’s no quicker way to kill your lawn than by stacking ice on top of snow on top of more ice. It’s like leaving debris out, but the debris is already frozen.
Note: Leaving just snow on top of your lawn is fine; it’s actually good for it, because it not only acts as an insulator, but also keeps your grass moist in the winter, something it desperately needs. It’s that line between moist and frozen you have to watch out for!
2. Prune trees and shrubs.
This isn’t directly related to the grass itself, but good winter lawn care is about taking care of your whole yard, not just the ground. Winter is the best time to inspect trees and shrubs for any dead or dying branches, and to inspect the overall health of the plants in general. Especially ahead of a snowstorm though, if you notice any dead or dying branches, or branches that seem like they would snap off under the strain of heavy ice and snow, you should get rid of them; if and when they do snap, they will create more debris that will hurt your lawn.
3. Don’t use salt.
Salting is a great way to prevent ice and encourage snow to melt faster, but using it is NOT good winter lawn care. Salt is incredibly corrosive and can cause major damage to plants, especially more delicate ones. Instead of salt, use CMA, or calcium magnesium acetate, which is not only biodegradable and friendly to plants and animals, but is also non-corrosive: It won’t harm your cars or other vehicles by causing rust damage.
4. Wrap or tent delicate plants in burlap.
If you have plants in your garden that you want to keep safe from heavy snow or damaging winds, you can create a little shelter for them by making a sort of tent out of burlap and stakes. Just be sure there won’t be so much snow that your tents will collapse: If they do, your plants will be smothered even faster.
Additionally, you can wrap some plants in burlap before a hard freeze comes in, particularly young trees or delicate shrubs. Never wrap in plastic or another material: The reason burlap works is that it is a woven fabric that allows plants to breathe and have access to air while still keeping them insulated.