In the winter, warm-season grass goes into dormancy to protect itself from the harsh cold, kind of like hibernation. In order to protect themselves, the grass shoots will turn brown and die in response to short days and longer, colder nights. Keep in mind that the nature of dormancy allows the grass to make a full recovery once the weather warms up. However, please note that if the temperature falls below 20°F for several hours, there could be damage to warm-season turfgrass. Be sure to keep in mind that your lawn is capable of building up a tolerance after a few frosts and will respond by increasing the amount of carbohydrates and proteins inside. Once the temperature outside starts to warm up, you’ll want to wait at least a few weeks to give your lawn time to recover and start growing again. Be careful not to mow too closely at first, or you’ll risk scalping your lawn.
It’s one of the most well-known ways to protect your lawn from frost: water it. Watering your lawn during the weeks before the first cold front will help the soil stay warm and stimulate root growth. Watering less frequently, but more thoroughly will train the roots to grow deep. Don’t water too late in the day, though. You want to water early so your grass has had enough time to absorb the water. Remember, you never want to send your grass to bed with wet feet. Please note that you should not water plants that have cold damage. This will contribute to root rot and ruin them. You can tell if your lawn has cold damage by checking for a wilted, water-soaked appearance, a foul odor, or if the grass is matted over the soil.
You’ll want to tent fragile plants that are stuck in the ground with an old sheet. This will keep frost from forming on them and damaging them. If possible, try to keep the fabric from coming in direct contact with the plant itself, because the cold can transfer onto the plant that way. The cover should be touching the ground as to keep the heat from the soil inside the structure. Also, be sure to remove the coverings before it warms back up too much, especially if they are in the sun. If the temperature rises to 38°F or above, you run the risk of damaging your plants from trapped heat. Also, move your containerized plants into a covered area like the garage for the night.
Prune & Rake
Prior to the first frost, prune back your trees. This is because shady areas of your lawn won’t be able to thaw as quickly from the limited amount of sunshine. When the soil can’t warm up well, it is at a higher risk for cold weather damage. Also, you should be doing this anyway, but rake up all the fallen leaves on your lawn. A layer of dead leaves will cover your grass and keep it from properly photosynthesizing.
Emily Kaltman writes for The Grass Outlet in Austin, Texas. She enjoys keeping a healthy lawn and writing about nature.