How to Revive a Lawn that took a beating this Winter

Since Minnesota is almost always among the states to endure subzero temperatures and often record snowfalls, don’t be surprised if your lawn – especially low lying areas – are dead on arrival in Spring.

“Snow acts like a cover, but ice is bad for turf,” says Chris Lemcke, technical director of Weed Man USA lawn care. “Ice freezes plant cells and crushes blades and leads to death.” says Lemcke.

The Freeze-Thaw-Freeze conditions that typically ensue in Winter are even worse for turf roots, which can become brittle and die off.  Road salt affects turf near treated sidewalks, streets, driveways and paths so those areas may need resuscitation or replacement when Spring grass should be getting green.

If your lawn died, it won’t green up from the brown of Winter.  The best way to check if areas have died is to tug at the brown areas, and if the turf comes up easily the roots have failed and the grass is dead.  If there’s some resistance then there’s hope.


The time to start burying dead lawn is after the last chance of frost, when night low temps are above 35 degrees and when soil temperatures reach 50-65 degrees.  Yank up or cut around dead patches to remove.

Reseed after removal of dead areas, scatter seed on soil and lightly rake it in, water daily with a light mist for 15 minutes to keep soil moist, avoid the soil drying out as seeds will not germinate.

When seeds do begin to germinate water deeply on a daily basis, feed the young grass blades with a high-phosphorous fertilizer and allow grass to grow a minimum of 3 inches before the first time you cut it.

If you can, use sod, as it’s more forgiving when it comes to watering, and resists weeds better than seeds.


To mitigate Winter’s effects on your lawn add topsoil to low areas of your yard to reduce the impact of ice.  Then reseed or use sod.  To reduce future salt damage, apply de-icers after shoveling so salt doesn’t get into grass as much.  Use calcium chloride based de-icers which do less damage than sodium chloride based salts if possible.

Source: by Lisa Kaplan Gordon

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