Did Winter Kill Your Lawn? Here’s How to Revive It

Avoid Dead Grass with Early Spring Lawn CareImage: University of Minnesota Extension

Easy-to-implement tips and advice for early spring lawn care

Your poor lawn needs a little tender care after winter’s freezing temps.

“Snow acts like a cover, but ice is bad for turf,” says Chris Lemcke, technical director of Weed Man USA lawn care. “Ice freezes plant cells and crushes blades and leads to death.”

Freeze-thaw-freeze conditions are even worse for turf roots, which can become brittle and die.  Road salt also is bad for lawns. The turf near streets and along driveways and paths may need resuscitation or replacement when spring grass should be greening up.

How to Know if Your Grass is Dead

The best way to see if your lawn is dead or sleeping is to tug the brown areas. If the turf comes up easily, the roots have failed and the grass is dead. If there’s resistance, then there’s hope.

Related: Why Is My Grass Turning Brown?

How to Revive a Dying Lawn

1. Get rid of your dead turf first. Dead patches of lawn are easy to pull up because no roots bind the turf to the soil. Cut around dead areas with a spade, then yank up the patch. n a compost pile and start growing new grass?

2. Reseed after the last chance of frost and soil temps reach 50-65 degrees:

  • Scatter seed on soil and lightly rake it in.
  • Water daily with a light mist for 15 minutes to keep soil moist. If the soil dries out, seed will not germinate.
  • When seed germinates, water deeply.
  • Feed young blades a high-phosphorous fertilizer.
  • Let grass grow at least 3 inches before its first cut. 

If you can afford sod — 8-30 cents/sq. ft. compared with $28 for a 5-pound bag of seed that’ll cover 2,000 sq. ft. — Lemcke recommends laying sod on dead patches instead of seeding. Sod is more forgiving when it comes to watering and resists weeds better than seed.

How to Prevent Your Grass From Dying

You can’t control the weather, but you can mitigate winter’s affect on your lawn.

  • Add topsoil to low areas of your yard to reduce the impact of ice. Then reseed or sod.
  • If you notice dead turf where you piled shoveled snow, spread out your snow pile next year.
  • To reduce salt damage, apply deicers after you shovel snow, so salt doesn’t seep into your grass. Also, use calcium chloride-based deicers, which do less damage than sodium chloride-based salts.