Freeze Damage in My Lawn: Is it Dead?

Warmer weather is back, but Sumter County has recently suffered some severe freezing temperatures. You may have noticed that your lawn has suddenly turned brown. Do not worry! Brown is a color too. This is perfectly normal for this time of year and is the grasses normal response to stress. There are several common species of turfgrass used in Hernando. Bahia, St. Augustinegrass and ‘Empire’ Zoysiagrass are probably the most used in homes. All three will turn brown if they receive a hard freeze. Bahia will usually completely brown out while St. Augustinegrass and ‘Empire’ may have various patterns of brown and green. Some patterns may be more distinct than others may. Regardless, the grass is resting. One temptation homeowners may have is to start fertilizing. This is especially true when the weather starts to warm up. As tempting as they may be, we would recommend leaving it be. Applying nitrogen this time of year is not only a waste of time and money, but may encourage more pests and problems during the growing season. Begin your normal fertilization program in April. Formulations such as 16-0-8 or 15-0-15 are some good examples to start with. UF/IFAS has several excellent and useful publications that explain what fertilizer to use and how much. Go to edis.ifas.ufl.edu for more information. Irrigating efficiently is also important. Remember your lawn is resting. You may not need to water every week. In fact, you may be able to water every other week. How do you know if your lawn needs water? Check the soil. If the soil is moist, you may not need to irrigate. If it is dry, then water well. Make sure you are applying at least ¾” of water during each irrigation event. Overwatering this time of year will also encourage fungi and winter weeds. Aside from keeping your lawn healthy, watering efficiently will help conserve our most precious resource.

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