There is no question that this winter has been one of the harshest winters in Indiana in recent memory. Temperatures are supposed to increase next week and we’re all looking forward to some sort of normalcy for the rest of February and the rest of the winter leading into spring. As the temperatures begin to rise and we're less concerned with staying warm, we can become more concerned with how this snow is going to affect our lawns. We've already had a few customers ask about how this winter will affect their grass, so we’ve decided to get some of the facts and put together a blog about the effects of snow on your lawn.
Our main source on these matters is Greencastle legend, Barry Fisher. Barry is the State Soil Health Specialist /Agronomist the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Indianapolis and is known throughout the nation as an expert in no till farming and the utilization of cover crops to retain soil health. Anyway we posed the question to Barry regarding the effects of snow coverage on a lawn, specifically we asked about how it affects the level of nitrogen available for the grass. Nitrogen is a common element found in the soil (and common fertilizers) that fosters healthy plant growth. Here was his response:
“Soil Nitrogen from organic matter cycles to a nitrate form in the fall. Nitrate is very leachable so in a warm wet winter we lose a lot of this Nitrogen to leaching. Snow actually has some nitrogen in it, plus, frozen ground slows the biological processes that convert organic and ammonium nitrogen (much more stable forms of N) to nitrate. So in theory, when the snow does finally melt, we should have more plant available nitrogen remaining. All this depends somewhat on what happens with precipitation and temperatures between now and when the grass comes out of dormancy.”
Put into layman’s terms, this means that the cold weather and snow combination theoretically has kept the vital nitrogen elements from leaving your soil. Basically this means that we can look forward to long healthy grass come spring. It should be a heavy grass season. This means more time on the old lawn mower to keep your yard under control. This may be the best time to upgrade to a zero turn mower or an even a faster, more powerful mower to keep your grass looking better than it ever has before.