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What Happens to Your Lawn During the Winter Months

Pennsylvania falls within the northeastern cold weather belt of the United States. Just like some winter-hardy plants that tolerate the frigid temperatures here, your lawn too can survive snow-bound terrain. Cool season grasses like fine fescue and Kentucky bluegrass, as well as Zoysia grass in the southern part of the state, can withstand the harsh winter weather, making them popular choices for most lawns. 

Facts about Cool Season Grass in the Winter Months

While cool season grass can tolerate the PA winters, it does best during the spring and fall months when the weather is cold but not extremely so. Towards the end of October and the beginning of November, grass such as fescue starts slowing down its growth. Once the temperature reaches 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the grass hunkers down and stops growing. What many people don’t realize is that cool season grass doesn’t go fully dormant; it starts growing differently – through root development and cell wall strengthening.  

Root Development and Cell Wall Strengthening

Winter months truly test the endurance of your lawn. The roots of the grass need phosphorous to grow deep into the soil. Also, cell walls need adequate amounts of nitrogen and potassium. Ideally, you should do a soil test during the fall season and add the necessary fertilizers as you winterize your lawn to arm it well for the cold days ahead. 

Mowing Your Lawn to the Right Height 

You should mow your lawn one last time before the first signs of winter frost so that it has enough room to grow come spring. But mowing doesn’t mean cutting the grass to short. Pennsylvania DCNR (Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) recommends that the grass should be always kept at about 2.5 to 3 inches, and you should not trim your grass blades by over 1/3rd of length during every trim. Also, for good root development, keep in mind that the taller turf encourages deeper root development. 

Does the Cool Season Grass Stay Green in the Winter?

Though cool season grass like fescue stays green during winter, it is not uncommon to see yellow patches in your lawn. This could be due to a lack of nutrients like nitrogen, in the soil. This can be easily rectified by a quick soil test to prepare for the right fertilizers in spring. 

However, if your cool season grass gets brown during winter, it could be due to 

  • Excessive load on the frost-coated grass – Clean up any snow piles, reduce foot traffic, and remove any heavy equipment from the lawn to avoid stress on the lawn. 
  • Fungus growth from water clogging due to excess rain or snow thawing – If you notice a web across the grass blade, it could be a sign of fungi. If fungi appear on grass, you need a professional lawn care expert to apply fungicide before it spreads over the entire turf. 

Get Your Lawn Winter Ready  

When you look at your lawn this winter, don’t be fooled by its dormant state. A lot is actually going on underneath the surface! Keep an eye on your lawn and look for tell-tale signs of stress to take the right steps when needed. Get help from lawn experts to prepare for the winter months ahead. 

Check out our service programs or call GREENSKEEPER at 215-938-8440. You can also contact us using our online form for a free quote.