Winter Damage to Your Lawn and Beds, and What can be Done About it

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By A Landscape Professional

As the snow departs this spring, many lawns will show damage that occurred during the winter.

The most common problem we see at this time is uneven ground. Low spots hinder drainage, allowing water to collect, while high spots are an invitation for mower damage (scalping). Both of these create poor growing conditions for turf grass.

Salt and ice melt damage may be visible along roads, driveways, and sidewalks. These areas need to be watered heavily to try and wash away the salt, and then top dressed with compost and loam and over seeded with a high quality site appropriate grass seed.

Winter desiccation may also be visible, and will show as large areas of hay colored grass. This is especially common in places that are exposed to wind, and therefore lose their snow cover.

Other common problems are soil compaction and dog damage. Soil compaction occurs when the soil becomes densely packed. This commonly occurs in high traffic areas. Compaction makes it hard for the grass plants to properly root, and allows hardier weeds to gain a foothold in your lawn.

Dog urine and feces can often be a problem. Small amounts may produce a green up or fertilizer effect, but larger amounts often result in burned or dead patches. While most burn spots will recover with time, dead areas can be large enough in some cases to require reseeding.  Aeration and over seeding will help to correct these issues. For optimal results, always remember to add organic matter when aerating.

If your lawn or garden beds were overrun by sea water, the effects of coastal flooding may last long after the water is gone. The soil may now be saturated with salt water, which will negatively affect your plants and grass. You may already see symptoms such as leaf drop, drooping and browning.

Fortunately, there are some things we can do to help your lawn and beds to recover. Once the water has receded, all debris should be removed. This will allow sunlight to get down to the grass and plants, which will help to dry out the soil. Once the cleanup is complete, lawn aeration is the next restorative step. For garden beds, slicing the area with a spade will achieve the same result.

The damaged areas then need to be irrigated heavily. This will help flush the salt out of the root zone.  Flooding by sea water leaves excess sodium in the soil, which will most likely change its ph. This may hinder the growth of beneficial soil microorganisms.  We can top dress lawn and planting beds with compost to help replenish these microorganisms, and also apply gypsum to the affected soil. Gypsum reacts with the salt to break it down, which will help lessen the damage it could cause to your lawn or plants.

Finally, we can perform a soil test for you to determine the condition of your soil, and its ph. This will allow us to determine what other corrective measures may need to be taken, before over seeding your lawn areas with a high quality site appropriate grass seed.

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