Preventing Winter Damage To Your Lawn And Garden

There are a number of ways your lawn or garden can receive winter damage during the winter. This can include things that can occur due to the cold temperatures, ice or snow and the result of using certain substances to melt ice.

As far as the substances you may be using to melt ice, damage can be prevented depending on the substance you use.

One substance that is commonly used to cause ice to melt is salt. However, salt is toxic to plants when dissolved in water. That’s because sodium ions in the salt leaches phosphorous and potassium from the soil. Rock salt absorbs water that is necessary for the roots of the grass and plants. Roots dehydrate and plants stress. Salt reduces the cold hardiness of plants and that makes them more vulnerable to frost.

You can use a variety of substances to rid your lawn and garden of ice, but you have to use it in moderation and select the right type of substance that won’t cause their own problems. Here are some tips to achieve that.

  • Never over-salt. Read the label of salt substances so you know how to use them properly.
  • Don’t use rock salt during extremely cold temperatures. It works best at temperatures just below freezing.
  • Use de-icing solution with calcium chloride or calcium magnesium acetate when the temperature is extremely cold. These substances are salt-free and won’t cause any damage.
  • Sprinkle water lightly over the surface before applying the ice melt in extremely cold temperatures to assure the best results.
  • Construct barriers out of plastic fencing, burlap or snow fencing to protect sensitive plants.
  • When plants get salt on them, use a broom and lightly remove the salt off the plants. Salt damage may not appear on plants and trees until spring.
  • Shovel or otherwise remove ice and snow as soon as possible. Keep sidewalks and pathways clear to avoid reapplying.

Avoiding Weather Caused Winter Damage

There are a few weather-related ways a lawn and garden could suffer winter damage during the winter. The winter damage may not be apparent until the ground thaws and the snow disappears. These issues include:

  • Snow mold
  • Voles
  • Crown hydration
  • Winter desiccation
Voles are pests that travel through grass under snow. They leave a runway on the grass that can be observed when the snow melts. (Courtesy: Peter Warne at

There are things that you can do to prevent these problems.

Snow Mold

Piled up snow on a lawn can prevent the soil from freezing and can increase humidity within the turf. As a result, grass becomes matted and wet. This results in snow mold growth. The snow mold won’t appear until the snow melts and show as 6-inches to 8-inches of patches or water-soaked turf. You may observe fluffy white, gray, or pink mold.

Follow these four steps to prevent snow mold.

1. Perform proper fall lawn care before the snow arrives.

2. Rake leaves and debris away and apply high nitrogen fertilizer to the lawn.

3. Mow the lawn a little bit shorter at the end of the fall to avoid matting.

4. Perform core aeration that will dethatch the yard and encourage air circulation.

5. Apply a preventative fungicide to reduce the formation of snow mold.


Voles are pests that travel through the grass under snow. When the snow melts, you will observe long runways that the voles have created through the grass. Voles feed on grass, but they don’t feed on the crown. So the grass should recover.

To reduce the possibility of vole infestation, mow your lawn shorter than usual at the end of fall so there is less cover for the voles to do their work during the winter.

Crown Hydration

Crown hydration occurs when the winter weather warms up briefly before freezing temperatures return. When the weather warms, the grass wakes up and begins absorbing water. When the freezing temperatures return, the water freezes quickly inside the grass. This causes the water to crystalize in the crown of the grass and ruptures and kills it.

Since crown hydration occurs due to the weather, there is nothing you can do to prevent it. The only thing you can do is to wait for warm weather to return and then check out the damage to see what repair is necessary.

Winter Desiccation

Winter desiccation occurs when there is no snow cover to protect grass from the cold and dry winds of winter. The winds and freezing temperatures remove moisture from the grass and causes damage and death.

This malady is almost impossible to avoid. You can set up windscreens around exposed areas to minimize the problem, but snow cover is the best way to insulate the grass.

(Source: and

About Robert Janis

Written by Robert Janis for LawnEq - Your specialists for Lawn Mower Parts and Small Engine Parts. We offer genuine premium OEM parts for Land Pride, Toro and many more dependable manufacturers.