There isn’t another four-letter word that carries as much fear and frustration for Atlantans than “snow.” Just the thought of that fluffy, crystalline precipitation causes flashbacks of 2014’s Snowmageddon and sends people in droves to the grocery stores to make sure the bread and milk shelves are empty. When the roads get icy, though, you may wonder if your grass will be alright under the snow and ice. Read on to learn about how snow and ice affect grass in the Atlanta area.
Snow and Ice Are Generally Fine for Grass in Mild Climates
Since snow, sleet, and ice don’t normally occur until bermuda and zoysia lawns have gone dormant, the freezing moisture won’t have any negative effect on the leaves and stems. Dormancy is the stress response our bermuda and zoysia turfs use when temperatures drop to freezing. It starts in the fall months as the days become shorter and nights become cooler. There’s always a characteristic slowing of growth and color fade as they work on storing energy in their root systems. Once the first few frosts occur, the blades of the grass freeze and turn tan, giving your lawn that characteristic brownish color for winter.
When dormant, the leaves and stems of your grass are no longer viable and will be replaced with new leaves and stems when spring temperatures return. Without any real injury to the top growth, the roots are also generally safe in the event of snow.
When Snow and Freezing Temperatures May Harm Grass
The only situation in which snow poses a real threat to our lawns is when snow is accompanied by prolonged periods of freezing weather. When snow is piled up in a single place for a long period of time, smothering and snow mold are technically possible. Snow mold in the Atlanta area (and other mild climates) is exceptionally rare—but not impossible. More concerning would be freezing soil temperatures that last for extended periods of time, causing root damage and winter kill. This is most common in shaded areas next to structures that aren’t warmed by radiant heat during the afternoons. The most common damage after snow, however, is mechanical—unusual wear and tear on the grass.
Sledding and Play: Wear and Tear on Your Grass
When the rare snow event happens in the Atlanta area, people want to make the most of it, and that unusual wear and tear can unfortunately damage grass. While most adults dread the snow and are scrambling for toilet paper and bottled water, kids are praying for snow days and making plans to hit the biggest hills in the neighborhood. Sleds are a rarity in Atlanta, so everything becomes fair game: lunch trays, laundry baskets, lids to trash cans, the tops of those turtle sandboxes. If you can sit on it and it will slide, it becomes a makeshift sled. Often, however, there isn’t enough snow for good sledding. When there is only a thin layer of snow and ice on a grassy hill, sledding on that hill can result in mechanical damage.
Mechanical damage refers to any physical damages created by unusual wear and tear. In warmer months, mower tracks from repeatedly mowing in the same direction, foot traffic through a gate, or the pitter patter of small feet around a playset are all examples of mechanical damage. When snow is on the ground, friction created by sledding, the drag marks created by feet trying to roll the balls of a snowman, or people doing donuts with their toys all cause unusual wear and tear on grass. In extreme cases, these activities could potentially cause bare spots. Most of the time, the damage will be minimal and recoverable within the next growing season.
Keeping those activities to non-turf areas like beds and straw hills can help limit this wear and tear. Fortunately, our bermuda and zoysia lawns have rhizomes and stolons that allow for recovery with time. If kids are kids, encouraging plant health will help grass be grass.
- Snow in the Atlanta metro area typically occurs after full dormancy has set in. The top growth of our lawns are no longer viable, so damage to the leaves and shoots is inconsequential.
- The only biological concerns from snow are:
- Snow mold where piled snow lasts for an extended period of time, but this is exceptionally rare in our area.
- Root issues where the soil freezes and stays cold for an extended period of time. This occurs typically in shady areas near structures and doesn’t require snow.
- Mechanical wear from play is the most likely damage in metro Atlanta when it snows. We generally don’t get enough snow, so we end up doing damage while trying to enjoy it.
- Keeping activities that cause wear and tear to non-turf areas like beds and straw hills can help limit damage to grass.
- Fortunately, if the damage is minimal, our turfgrasses possess specialized structures that will allow them to recover from the damage.
- For more information about ensuring a healthy, beautiful lawn, give us a call at Nature’s Turf at 770-461-4156 or email us at email@example.com.