It’s no secret that winter here in Michigan can be long and devastating for our lawns. In the spring, it’s not entirely uncommon to find dead or dying patches of grass under the melting snow. Winter kill is the general term used to describe many different forms of winter lawn damage that results in the decline or death of grass. There are many different causes of winter kill in Michigan, here are four of the most common ones.
First on our list is a devastating cause of winter kill in Michigan called winter desiccation. Essentially, this is when the grass dries up and dies from dehydration. Winter desiccation is caused by extremely cold temperatures combined with a lack of snow cover. A blanket of snow helps retain moisture in the grass below. When the snow isn’t there, then the grass leaks moisture into the air. Dry winds suck the water right out of the blades of grass. Because the ground is frozen, the roots are restricted from absorbing water. In the end, your grass loses all of its stored water and has no way to replenish it, resulting in grass death.
Winter desiccation isn’t a form of winter kill that’s easy to prevent. Completely dependent on weather patterns, all you can really do is prepare your lawn throughout the year. A consistent lawn care program ensures all of your lawn’s seasonal needs are met. This helps create a strong stand of grass, making it easier to stay resilient against the tough winter weather.
Here in Michigan, it’s not just the tumultuous weather to worry about in the winter. There are a few hungry critters that cause extensive and ugly damage to grass over the winter. Voles may look small, but the damage they do can be huge. Under the snow, voles go wild. The snow cover keeps them safe from hungry predators above, leaving them free to chow down on your grass. By the time the snow melts, you may find a sprawling network of chewed paths created throughout the grass.
Luckily, vole damage rarely results in irreparable lawn damage. It may look ugly, but the voles don’t eat the roots or crown of your grass. This means your grass will grow back in the spring. Help your lawn along by raking the affected area. Prevent voles with essential fall lawn maintenance. Rake and remove your leaves, trim your trees and bushes away from the ground, and mow your lawn until the grass stops growing. This eliminates their hiding spots and makes your lawn inhospitable to voles.
The next cause of winter kill in Michigan is called crown hydration. Crown hydration is another weather-dependent cause of winter lawn damage. This devastating winter lawn issue happens when temperatures climb above freezing for an extended period of time and is followed by a rapid drop to below freezing. When the temperatures are higher, it tricks the grass into waking up and starts drawing water into the roots and crown. The rapidly dropping temperatures cause the stored water to freeze and expand, causing the plant cells to erupt. Ultimately, crown hydration can kill large areas of grass.
Crown hydration is another cause of winter kill that’s difficult to prevent. All you can really do is consistently feed your lawn throughout the year, keeping it as healthy as possible with weed control and pest control. The healthier the lawn in the fall and the more resilient it’ll be against the difficult winter conditions.
Snow mold is the last cause of winter kill in Michigan that we’ll be discussing. This fungus loves the cold, damp under the blanket of snow in your lawn. It tends to grow in lawns with excess thatch, poor drainage, and long, matted grass. Snow mold grows under the snow, only being revealed in the early spring after the snow melts. Gray snow mold appears in the lawn as circular patches of wet grass covered in white or gray mold. Pink snow mold, the more dangerous of the two, appears as the same circular patches of wet or dying grass, covered in red, pink, or copper-colored mold.
Gray snow mold rarely results in grass death. Pink snow mold, on the other hand, affects the crown and roots of the grass, resulting in grass death. Prevention is key to controlling snow mold. Fall lawn maintenance is essential. Mow your lawn until the grass stops growing, remove all leaves and lawn debris, and aerate your lawn to promote better drainage and break up excess thatch. If you find snow mold in your lawn, then use a rake to break it up. This helps dry out the area by improving airflow through the grass.
The best way to protect your lawn from winter kill in Michigan is with a lawn care program from Go Green Lawn & Tree Care. Here at Go Green, we know the unique needs of our Michigan lawns. With a lawn care program specifically designed to benefit and protect lawns in Michigan, we can help build up the health and resilience of your lawn. Combined with our premium aeration services, your lawn will be healthier than ever before.
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