Prevent Winter Lawn Damage

Prevent Winter Lawn Damage

It is cold out there! Your lawn is probably the last thing you are thinking about right now. But should you be? If you have worked hard over the growing season to get your lawn into tip top shape, don’t let winter lawn damage ruin your hard work. Read this post to learn how to protect your lawn over the winter!

How to Avoid Winter Lawn Damage?

In order to determine how to prevent damage to your lawn, we need to talk about what can cause it. We are going to talk about the following sources of lawn damage:

  • Salt damage
  • Excessive debris buildup
  • Excessive traffic

Let’s explore these sources of lawn damage and we can avoid them!

Salt Damage

I know what you’re thinking, “What does he mean by ‘salt damage’?” Let me explain. When the temperatures drop like they do this time of year, it is common practice to use a de-icer your sidewalks and driveways to prevent ice from building up on them. If we didn’t de-ice our sidewalks and driveways they would become very hazardous. Let’s talk some science.

De-icers are made usually made of salt. Salt can be toxic to plants. When salt gets on your lawn it can cause a condition called physiological drought. This is a condition that can cause bare patches in your lawn by essentially causing your lawn to starve. How can you avoid this condition? Here are some considerations:

  • Not all de-icers are made the same. There are many types of salt. Common table salt for example is made of sodium chloride; this is the worst kind of salt for your lawn. If you can, opt for calcium chloride based de-icers near your lawn.
  • Use only what you need. Don’t over apply de-icer. Not only are you wasting product, you are increasing the likelyhood that you will damage your lawn. Excessive de-icer will be washed onto your lawn.
  • When you shovel snow from your sidewalk/driveway, try not to put it on the lawn (especially if it was already de-iced once).

De-icing your sidewalks and driveways is often a necessity of winter. However, by exercising a little bit of caution when using these products you can protect your lawn from unnecessary damage. Let’s talk about debris build up.

Excessive Debris Buildup

One thing about PNW winters is that they can bring some very harsh winds. As a result your yard will be plagued with debris that blow in from the woods, from your neighbors yard, from the trash can that couldn’t hold its own against the wind, debris will come from all angles. That said, don’t let this debris pile up in your yard.

Not only is debris in your yard unsightly, it can cause lawn damage. By leaving debris on your yard it will create dead spots. Here’s a quick gardening tip, if you have a part of your yard that you want to de-sod, cover it with a tarp for a couple of weeks. Doing so will kill the underlying vegetation. For this reason it is important to always cleanup after a storm.

Remember not to leave any of the following on your lawn, it’s bad for your lawn and looks trashy:

  • Branches, large or small. Especially large evergreen branches that break off in the wind.
  • Paper, leaves, or other garbage that may blow in and form piles in your yard.
  • Patio/lawn furniture or toys that gets blown over, or left on your lawn.
  • Bonus: Dog poop, seriously, it’s gross.

If you’re still not sure if it’s okay to leave something on your lawn until spring, don’t. You don’t want to start the spring with bare patches in your yard.

Vehicles travel down Interstate 5 infron of Seattle Downtown

Excessive Traffic

Are we talking about I-5 from about 4 am until 10 pm? No, we are still talking about your lawn! Walking on your lawn too much can cause damage to it. Yes, your lawn is a great playground for you children and pets, but it gets weak in the winter. In the growing season your lawn is very resilient. It is growing everyday and can withstand the traffic of kids and pets at play. In the winter though, the ground is soft, your grass isn’t growing as fast, and this isn’t a good combination.

In the winter the ground becomes saturated and soft. When this happens it becomes very easy to compact the soil (even by walking on it). One trick that is used to help compact gravel or soil is to water it as you compact it. That is why in the winter, traffic on your lawn can compact the underlying soil. Why does this matter? Soil compaction makes it harder for your grass to grow a deeper fuller root system. Your lawn needs a strong root structure in order to properly utilize soil nutrients and water in the growing season. Soil compaction can also cause drainage issues.

To prevent soil compaction in the winter:

  • Avoid moving heavy objects across your lawn if possible. Use your sidewalk.
  • Don’t walk across your lawn (except to keep it clean!).
  • Don’t park on your lawn!

If you can avoid too much traffic on your lawn over the winter you can prevent excessive soil compaction and weakening your grass before the growing season arrives.



You spend 9 months of the year working on and tending to your lawn. Don’t let that hard work go to waste over the winter. By following this guide you can prevent a lot of avoidable lawn problems. Taking simple steps to prevent damage to your lawn can save you a lot of time and money in the spring. However, if your lawn is suffering from any ailments resulting from the above, we can help you to identify the cause and correct it. If you need any help getting your lawn back up to speed in the spring, contact us, we can help you fix it!

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