The persistent cold weather of the last few weeks has caused many local residents to question its effects on area lawns and landscapes. Fortunately little damage is expected to have occurred during the recent cold snap because our lawns and landscape plants are still in dormancy, a state during which woody and perennial plants are at rest and are less susceptible to cold injury. In addition, wet soil conditions have provided extra protection by providing plenty of moisture to turf grasses and evergreens, reducing the damaging effects of drying winds, a common cause of winter injury.
This does mean area lawns and landscapes are out of the woods yet. In most cases, extremely cold temperatures are not the cause of plant injury during our winters. Instead, it is usually a combination of fluctuating temperatures along with factors related to plant care that lead to most of the cold injury we experience. For our lawns and landscapes, cold injury most often occurs in late winter and early spring as plants are coming out of dormancy and temperatures quickly change from warm to cold. While little can be done to moderate these temperature changes, there are some things we can do year round to help our lawns and landscapes better tolerate cold, as well as to help prevent cold damage and speed its recovery.