How to Avoid Accidentally Killing Your Lawn This Winter

Jan 16, 2023
How to Avoid Accidentally Killing Your Lawn This Winter

Behold winter, the one season that should come with a Lawn Health Advisory Warning.

Winter’s harsh elements spare no one, especially those who battle and endure it 24/7. As if 50 below zero wind chills, Iowa blizzards, cement skies and waves of snowstorms weren’t enough, your lawn is also weathering other dangerous man-made auxiliary threats that can threaten its long-term health.

“Winter weather can be unforgiving for even the healthiest of lawns” The Spruce’s Kelly Burke writes.

Your lawn doesn’t ask for much during winter: watering, mowing and seeding is not needed. What it asks for, what it needs to reach spring healthy, is for us not do anything careless that could endanger it.

“The good news is that you really don’t need to do much to make that happen – just don’t kill it” Yahoo Lifehacker’s Elizabeth Yuko writes.

Winter Kill

Winter kill is a phrase you never want associated with your lawn.

“It refers to any severe damage or death sustained by turf grass lawns during the winter months,” Burke explains.

Death patches that suffer winter kill can need months to grow in again on their own. Some may require reseeding or re-sodding of your lawn.

How can you avoid putting your lawn’s health in danger during this already long, cold Iowa winter? By avoiding these potentially devastating mistakes.

If Possible, Find Somewhere Else to Pile Shoveled Snow

Full author’s disclosure, my lawn is the first place I turn to for free storage space for my oversized collection of Iowa snow. It’s convenient. It’s always available. It’s rent-free.

But, if possible, try to avoid stockpiling large snow hills on your lawn, especially if you use deicer on your pavement. The threat is double-edged. The deicer’s salt and the snow’s heavy weight (such as Winter Storm Elliott, which buried Iowa in blizzard-like conditions for three days before Christmas 2022) could damage your lawn.

Shovel Carefully

The objective of every Iowa snow shoveler is to get done and get back into the warmth and winterless beauty of indoors as soon as possible. But careless shoveling can get you in trouble with your lawn. Be aware of your location and be sure to know where you are shoveling and what you are shoveling. This way you will avoid removing chucks of lawn or soil along with the snow.

Be sure to shovel with a safe lawn strategy.

Don’t Park on Your Lawn

Remember, your lawn’s days of doubling as an overflow parking lot should end in the fall. Trust us, asking your lawn to take on 2,000 pounds of sedan, 4,000 pounds of sports utility vehicle or 5,000 pounds of truck during the winter is asking too much if you expect your lawn to wake up healthy come spring.

Compacted soil damages a lawn’s ability to naturally drain and absorb nutrients.

“Do not walk or park on your frozen lawn to reduce the chance of winter kill,” The Farmers’ Almanac stresses.

Don’t Use Deicers Containing Sodium Chloride

Sodium chloride can be an absolute cancer for overburdened winter grass exposed to it. Unfortunately, many deicers contain sodium chloride. It’s great for slippery driveways and sidewalks. It can be death for grass.

When soil has high levels of salt, lawns and other plants can’t absorb enough water, even though there may be plenty of it around, courtesy of snowfall. The resulting condition, Iowa State University horticulturist Richard Jauron notes, is “psychological drought.” A strong alternate to using sodium chloride-rich deicers, Jauron notes, is opting for deicers with calcium chloride, potassium chloride and magnesium chloride, which are healthier for lawns and plants.

Winter is rough enough on our lawns as it is. Let’s take simple steps to avoid making it rougher on our grass.