The state of Texas endured a series of severe storms that impacted many homes and Texas citizens. Snow and sleet trapped cars, people lost their electricity and temperatures plummeted. The Texas produce industry was devastated as hundreds of acres of produce, leafy greens, onions and cabbages were decimated. When it comes to home lawns, entire front and backyards were severely damaged or worse—killed completely. Sod University looks at a few ways you can distinguish between permanent vs. temporary damage in your grass outside and a few ways you can revitalize a damaged lawn.
Northern and Central Texas home lawns are mostly made up of zoysia and bermuda grass, which in general, should have survived the freeze and may need a little assistance to green up. Southern Texas, however, is mostly made of St. Augustine home lawns.
How to Distinguish Between Permanent vs. Temporary Damage
It can be tricky when it comes to determining if your lawn has been completely obliterated by the winter storms or if it’s capable of rejuvenation. The best way to figure this out is by looking at the grass’s roots. Start by going to the edge your lawn. This can be around driveways, sidewalks or walkways. Pull out a couple of rhizomes like the one pictured below for examination. If you see smaller, hairy roots that might be clinging to soil or appear white in color, this is a good sign that your lawn can be brought back. The roots that are covered in dirt are clinging to soil so that they can absorb the nutrients—indicating your grass is still alive.
Pictured above: A bermuda grass rhizome that seems to still be alive indicated by several white, hairy roots and the soil that’s sticking onto them.
Another way to see if your lawn is repairable is by brushing up some of the grass and seeing if there’s any green color. See the images below for a visual representation of what this should look like. It’s likely that your lawn can be brought back if you see some green amidst all the yellow and brown. If you see green, you’re in luck and should be able to bring your lawn back, but you’ll need to be patient since it’s still pretty damaged and will take time to come back to full strength. You’ll start repairing it by watering it, applying fertilizer and making sure it can grow in good environmental conditions. You should start to see more green around the mid-spring. Refer to the next section to learn more.
Pictured above from left to right: Two photos of green peeking out of damaged zoysia and a photo of green peeking out of damaged St. Augustine.
On the other hand, if you don’t see any green and if the roots aren’t white or clinging to dirt, it may be time to replace the lawn with new sod.
Ways to Bring Your Lawn Back After a Freeze
If you’re one of the lucky homeowners who was able to find a little bit of green in your damaged lawn, you’ll need to perform a few maintenance practices to help it recover. First, mow the grass down and get as low in height as your mower can.
Although it is usually not recommended you remove more than a third of the leaf blade, most of the grass you’ll be removing at this height will be dead anyway. Because you’ll probably remove a lot of material, you will want to avoid “choking” your mower or getting it stuck. A good idea is to mow it twice: remove half during the first mow and remove the remaining dead material during the second mow. Make sure you bag up clippings because this is going to be a lot of material.
Next, you will want to water the grass. Give it some moisture by watering once a week for 30 minutes. If you’re in a very dry area, watering it twice a week for this amount of time is also recommended.
Do this for a couple of weeks. Once you start seeing more green, you can apply fertilizer like Lawnifi’s® Spring Fertilizer Box. Be sure you apply fertilizer only after a few weeks of watering has occurred. If you apply fertilizer too early, your grass isn’t going to absorb it and it becomes a waste of time and money. Learn more about Lawnifi in Why Use Lawnifi Fertilizer?.
If you have smaller more severely damaged areas that are bare, you can bring those areas of your lawn back by planting grass seed, grass plugs or sod pods—but there are a few things to watch out for with this. For grass seed, you should only need to plant grass seed if you need the grass to turn green really quickly for some reason. When it comes to planting seed, grass plugs or sod pods, you’ll need to be mindful of what you have on the ground already. Mixing varieties and sometimes cultivars within a variety can be very noticeable.
For example, if you have St. Augustine grass you will need to use St. Augustine grass plugs, there’s no such thing as St. Augustine seed and any other type of grass seed is going to look drastically different from what you currently have once it turns green again. Zoysia grasses commonly found in Texas do not come in seed form and in general it’s difficult to find zoysia seed. You may be better off filling in bare spots with zoysia grass plugs if you have zoysia sod. You can also use centipede seed, which looks fairly similar. This is not recommended, but it will look acceptable in your zoysia lawn. If you have a bermuda grass lawn, you can seek out bermuda grass seed or bermuda grass plugs. The main thing you don’t want to do is mix the grass types.
If you decide to plant seed, start by giving the lawn a “buzz-cut” with a mower. This removes all the dead material. You may notice a layer of thatch, so be sure to dethatch your lawn next. This allows the seed to reach the soil and receive sunlight.
How to Install New Sod
If you are one of the unlucky homeowners with a completely destroyed lawn, don’t be too discouraged—this is a great time to renovate your lawn and install fresh, new sod. You will have a beautiful lawn as soon as you install it. Sod University has a couple of links and resources to help you with installation and the turfgrass selection process.