It’s that time of year again.
As a lawn lover in Australia, we become exposed to all the elements nature can throw at us. We are forever guessing what’s next. From the harsh dry and hot summer to the plummeting temperatures and dormancy we can experience throughout winter.
Winter, in some parts of the country, can leave us scratching our head, especially with the introduction of frost.
So, what is frost, and how does it occur?
And more importantly, will frost kill my lawn?
Cause of frost
Morning dew and cooler temperatures come hand in hand with winter months, leaving our lawns vulnerable to frost damage. Some of the main contributing factors to lawn frost are:
- Declining soil and air temperatures
- Overnight dew
- Clear overnight sky with little to no cloud cover
These factors will cause the dew to freeze and form small ice particles on the plant.
The adverse effects of frost
For starters, frost will not kill your lawn; the most common problem associated with frost is discolouration. The damage can vary depending on not only the severity of the frost, but also the variety of turf you have. Discolouration is caused by freezing dew, which damages the plant cell walls, therefore prohibiting the plant from photosynthesis and leading to what is commonly known as burning.
When this happens, your lawn may appear anywhere from white or yellow to irregular shades of brown. Lawn types play a massive part in this; warm season grass varieties will get hit the hardest as they lack a certain plant protein that is found in cool season varieties.
Cool season varieties are currently in their prime as they thrive at this stage of the year. This is due to the cooler temperatures and their ability to withstand frost via the protein IRI. For instance, Rye (which is commonly used to sow warm season varieties at this time of year) contains this protein, which helps to protect the plant leaf from freezing. This is why cool season grasses are able to retain that deep rich colour they are known for and provide relief for those in frost prone areas.
Lawn care - what can we do about lawn frost?
Let’s be honest, when a frost is due, there is next to nothing we can do to prevent it. Outside of wrapping our lawn in its own jumper or providing an atmospheric bubble over the property, we will have to play the cards we are dealt.
Frost blankets are used within the professional industry from time to time although they are not practical in the residential environment. The best way we can prepare is by feeding our lawns prior to winter. The use of a quality professional slow release fertiliser with good Potassium and Iron content will also help improve plant health and strength to combat the onset of frosts.
Other hints and tips to tackle frost
If you wake to a frosted lawn, one of the best things you can do is keep yourself from walking on it. As tempting as it is, when any form of traffic or pressure is applied to a frosted lawn, you risk fracturing the leaf blades and encouraging the onset of lawn diseases.
One of the simplest ways to help eliminate frost damage is by means of irrigation. A simple thirty second watering prior to sunrise will be enough to help defrost the ice from the leaf. The less time frost can spend on the leaf, the more protected it will be from damage.