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How Frost Can Affect Your Yard

Frost can appear on many types of surfaces as objects reach the freezing point of water or drop below it.  The moisture that we call morning dew forms as water vapor in the air and turns into a liquid as it cools.  If conditions are cold enough, that liquid will freeze, becoming frost.  The result can be a beautiful sight on a fall morning, but it’s important to remember that frost poses a unique threat to grass.  This post will briefly summarize the problem and the steps you can take to help protect your lawn.

First, a quick note about the conditions that produce frost: We’ve all seen frost on the ground on days when the temperature of the air around us is above 32° F.  The explanation for this apparent contradiction is the familiar observation that heat rises.  The ground will almost always be colder than the air we’re moving around in, allowing frost to persist as the sun begins to move across the sky.


Unfortunately, temperatures that are low enough to create frost will also cause the moisture inside plants to freeze.  If you see frost on your grass, you can be sure there’s frost inside each blade as well.  Water expands as it assumes solid form, and the resulting ice can burst cell walls within the plant.

If grass absorbs an impact while it’s in this state – for example, from a person’s footstep – the ice inside the plant will shatter into sharp fragments that can cause serious damage to the interior structure of the blade.  The best way to protect your grass from frost damage is to keep pets, kids, vehicles, and everything else off of it when frost is present.

The good news is that soil has to get very, very cold to cause problems for grassroots systems.  If roots are still functioning well underground, they can get to work immediately repairing any damage that frost has caused to the parts of individual grass plants visible aboveground.

Counterintuitively, watering your lawn can help protect it.  You should continue to water as usual until grass enters dormancy.  Even when you water deeply on a cold day, some water will end up on the surface of various plants, and as it evaporates it encourages the frost to thaw.

If you’ve recently planted new grass or had your lawn overseeded, a lawn care company would recommend covering vulnerable areas with peat moss.  You can also provide some warmth by repurposing old bedsheets.  Plastic tarps will supply some warmth but generally do more harm than good as they freeze and stiffen themselves.

It’s important to note here that frost doesn’t usually kill grass seeds.  The danger is that new seeds will interpret the last warm days of the year as an opportunity to germinate, and frost will definitely kill young seedlings.

If you have questions about fall lawn treatments, year-long application programs, or any other subject related to lawn care, an experienced lawn service company like Arbor-Nomics can answer them. Arbor-Nomics is a lawn service company that provides specialized lawn care services in North Buckhead, Brookhaven, Woodstock, Johns Creek, and all nearby cities in the metro Atlanta area. In addition to weed control, we provide lawn fertilization, outdoor pest control, and much, much more. Our Certified Landscape Specialists are ready to help with all of your lawn service needs.