Can Frost Damage My Lawn?

frost damage on lawn

Ice ice baby! Arctic frosts and cold fronts have been hitting the Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) area hard this season. These big chills have been bringing freezing temperatures overnight and making the days unusually cold.

Although we’re sure this weather has been uncomfortable for you and your family, we also know that all the extra cold is uncomfortable for your yard as well.

While we’re willing to bet that you haven’t forgotten to put on your winter sweaters or light up the fireplace, it may have slipped your mind to consider the effects this weather is having on your yard. That’s right…frost!

Although there is a pleasant sort of seasonal appeal to waking up to a soft frost on your grass, you may be wondering…can that pretty frost cause damage to your lawn? The answer – absolutely!

In this blog, we’re going to answer some questions discussing what damage frost can do and why it does it. But don’t worry, we’ve also got the answer to how you can help to protect your grass from frost.

The Problem – Yes, frost can harm your lawn.

What causes frost on grass?

Frost will form on any surface that is at or below freezing temperatures. You probably already know that. However, you may still be wondering why there is frost on your grass at all if your outdoor thermostat says that the temperature outside didn’t even reach 32℉ (official freezing temperature).

The observed temperatures shown on weather reports and displayed on your patio thermostat are all taken at least four feet above ground level. Heat rises, which means that the ground is actually colder than the surrounding air above.

So although the observed temperature may not show 32℉ or less, the ground level can still be at freezing temperatures causing a frost to materialize on your grass.

Overnight heat escapes objects causing them to lose energy. So without the sun providing your grass with heat and nutrients, grass loses energy during the night. This energy loss causes the grass to cool as the cells inside of the plant slow down their production in the cold.

If the temperature of a blade of grass gets cool enough and there is enough water vapor in the air, frost will form on grass.

What kind of damage should I expect from frost?

A “light freeze,” which is more frequent in DFW will cause the blades of grass to freeze, but not the ground soil underneath. In a light freeze, the root system will still be able to circulate water and nutrients.

This means your grass can recover more easily after a freeze. The roots can continue to grow and heal the blades of grass. So although you may notice some brown or yellow patches in your grass, the root system will be able to continue growing healthy grass and heal the damage in time.

If brown or yellow patches appear after a freeze, it is likely damage directly caused by the freeze. However, you may want to take a closer look to ensure that your patches aren’t caused by fall brown patch fungal disease. Check out our blog on this brown patch disease to ensure that it isn’t causing your issue.

A “hard freeze” can freeze the ground as well as the blades, which means the roots can’t circulate and irrigate water anymore.

This makes it harder for your grass to recover from a freeze and often will kill the grass.

Reseeding in the spring is your best bet if there is widespread damage.

Can I walk on or place items on frosted grass?

When your grass gets hit by a frost, it is literally frozen. Grass is a plant, and like all others, it drinks and circulates water. So when your grass is frosted, not only is there frozen water vapor on the exterior of the blade – the water inside the grass is also frozen.

Any activity on your grass will crush and break the blades. When the frozen blade is crushed, the frozen water inside the blade breaks as well, and this causes internal cellular damage to the blade.

Basically, any activity on frozen grass can cause significant, visible damage to your lawn. This damage is likely to recover in time, but the affected areas may not be able to fully heal till spring arrives.

Problem Solved – Simple tips to save your lawn from frost damage.

Rake your leaves.

Leaves are dead weight on your grass, especially once frost sets in. The fallen leaves quash and overwhelm your lawn. The consequences of leaving your leaves unraked can be severe, but the solution is simple – just rake!

We know it’s not a fun chore, but tasks like these are great for the kids around the neighborhood that are looking to earn an extra $10.

frost on leaves

Add some mulch to your landscape.

Mulching protects plants, trees, and shrubs. Mulch acts as an insulator helping plants to retain water. If your soil and roots can hang on to water, then it will help protect your plants from frost damage.

Never walk on or mow frozen grass.

As we stated above, if your grass has frost – then it is frozen. Any activity that takes place on frozen grass will cause the blades to break, and definitely create some noticeable damage to your lawn.

Try to avoid walking or mowing grass with frost on it. Wait till the sun is high enough to start melting the frost before you mow or walk on your frozen yard.

However, if you’re planning on hosting an event in your yard or for some reason you can’t avoid walking on your icy grass, then take a tip from the grass masters – golf course managers! Obviously, frost or not, people want to golf!

To prepare their frosted courses for golfers walking around, they turn the sprinklers on in the morning. Putting water on your icy lawn will speed up the melting process, rehydrate your turf, and get your yard ready for activity again. 

If it’s too cold for sprinklers, then it’s too cold for mowing or outdoor activities.

Water your lawn before a freeze arrives.

We saved our best tip for last. Water the day before a freeze is set to arrive. We know, we know – it seems pretty illogical to water your lawn when freezing temperatures are predicted in the forecast. BUT the science speaks for itself here.

If you water your turf the day before a frost is predicted, the deep watering allows the moisture to evaporate slowly overnight.

The process of evaporation creates friction and heat energy all around the blades of grass. As it drops below freezing overnight, the temperature of the grass blades is able to stay a bit higher. So with the extra heat energy around your grass, the blades won’t be able to hit the freezing temperatures needed to freeze the water inside the cells of the grass.

Water also acts as an insulator in this situation. The added water makes the grass release heat more slowly, so the blades can hold on to heat longer than if they are dehydrated. All of this makes the cells inside the blades stronger against the cold weather.

Watering will also mean that your roots will be well irrigated, and the moist soil stays warmer than dry soil.

Gecko Green Can Help!

We hope that both you and your grass stay healthy and protected from the cold this season. But if you encounter any seasonal lawn problems or if you’re looking for year-round lawn care – call Gecko Green.

We are a locally owned and operated lawn care company that has been serving the Dallas area for 18 years. We guarantee our services, and we’re the local lawn care company that you can trust all year long.

Does Your Lawn Need Help This Winter?