Winter weather will soon arrive in much of Mississippi. The most noticeable changes to our warm-season lawns are that the leaf color changes from green to some shade of brown and we no longer need to mow every week. Foliar leaf expansion ceases and these warm-season turf species become dormant.
As you awake to heavy frost on your lawn at least a couple mornings each week, you may wonder what this is doing to the turf canopy. Leaf tissue, and even many above ground stolons (stems), die and slowly break down from hard “killing” frosts. What we may not notice is the subtle wearing of the turf canopy over the next couple of months, particularly if there is much traffic over the lawn even after the frost has melted.
When the turf is still covered with frost it is even more important to restrict lawn traffic. The fracturing of the ice crystals as we walk can literally sever the leaf blades of the turf and cause a much more rapid breakdown of the dead leaf tissue.
For golfers, early tee-times are often delayed until the frost is melted from the fairways and greens even on healthy cool season turf for this reason. To keep a good turf canopy of winter dormant turf you should avoid treading on your frosty frozen lawn.
Published November 23, 2009
Dr. Wayne Wells is an Extension Professor and Turfgrass Specialist. His mailing address is Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mail Stop 9555, Mississippi State, MS 39762. email@example.com