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How To Recover Your Lawn From Frost and Freeze Damage

by Allyn Hane 03 Feb 2022

Florida got hammered with record low temperatures this past week and I’m seeing folks asking tons of questions around what to expect in their lawns moving forward into the season.

Before we get into the action items, let’s talk about mindset.

Some folks I talk to seem like they are literally in a panic over their lawns and the damage they are seeing from the cold.

I think most of this comes from the fact that I'm reading messages on FaceBook and maybe people convey emotion through text differently, but either way, do not be concerned about long term damage to your lawn from this weather event. I know it looks bad now, but in about 6 weeks or so this will all be forgotten.

Remember: In lawn care, the weather always wins and you cannot control it. Therefore there is no reason to be concerned over weather. Instead, you do your part and control the things within your reach.

Stick to basics: Mowing, watering, fertilizing… and in time, you’ll see that your Ws will far outweigh your Ls. (wins and losses)

Hard to see it that way now though right? We are coming off a major weather loss.

Know this: It’s these times that make great Lawn Care Nuts - the times when you get right back out and start training again after one of these devastating losses. 😁

I’m being a bit funny here of course, but it is kind of true in life isn’t it? The way you respond to hard times that are not of your doing is applicable to many situations outside of your lawn - like work, family, school, etc. Getting up from your Ls builds experience, character and grit.

Not only for you, but for your lawn too!

(if you like this kind of fun rambling - you should for sure check out my podcast - Apple, Spotify, YouTube.)

Here is what my lawn looks like today:

Looks pretty bad right? I’m over in Bradenton (Just below the frost line) and weather reports are conflicting, but from what I gather, we did dip to 32F for a few hours overnight Sunday into Monday.


Not All Florida Lawns Are The Same

We really didn’t get hit as hard as what you think though. It didn’t stay below freezing in most places in Florida for more than a few hours and the level of “damage” all really depends on where you are located in Florida anyway.

Also, let’s stop using the word “damage” because there won’t be any - not any that lasts anyway. Really, the cold just took vigorous lawns and sent them into dormancy overnight so that feels like damage but it’s not - it’s just nature taking its course a little further south into the state than we are used to.

If you are further north of the frostline (review this video to learn about the frost line) then your lawn was probably already dormant and it looks the same now as it did 3 weeks ago.

If you are much further south like Naples or even down into Broward County on the east coast, you may only see some purple tips here and there and nothing more. Maybe your mowing slowed a little for a few days but kicked right back in already.

I’m right in the middle here in Bradenton/Tampa area. My lawn was perfectly beautiful and green and I was mowing about every 6-7 days consistently all December and January. Now, as you can see above, it’s in this “between” phase where it’s not really sure what is happening.

This also is the case for my Scotts ProVista St Augustine over at the Freedom Factory race track. You can see here in Cleet’s video the grass was very very green just last week. Now here is what it looks like as of today:

Right now: I’m going to be talking to those of you who are in the same position I am - you got hit and you’re in between. You were green, you were expecting to stay green (and growing) and this cold spell has stunted everything even halted it temporarily. That’s who I am mainly talking to from here on out with these steps

Note: If you are far north (Jacksonville, Destin, Tallahassee) and your lawn was already dormant, you can just keep on waiting for your lawn to wake up as normal. No additional steps needed from you. Apply your pre-emergent when soil temps cross 50 heading to 55F just like you have always been planning. Apply 7-0-20 Stress Blend sometime around then as well - Easy!

If you are further south and all your lawn got was some purple tips but no real visible browning, then you can also carry on as normal. Keep mowing and fertilizing as you would have been anyway, the cold is gone and will most likely not return for you for another 40 years that far south.

How To Recover Your Lawn From Frost/Freeze Damage

I was out at Bethel Farms (sod farm in Arcadia) on Tuesday and they also suffered some browning from the cold. Here is a cool cross section of ProVista St Augustine grass that is very revealing.

You can see that everything on top has gone dormant but beneath the grass looks pretty normal. Your lawn likely is in this same state and the very first thing you should do, right now in fact, is go give it a good cut.

Mow The Lawn
It’s already back up in the 80s here so that means the lawn is going to start trying to pick itself back up and start growing again. You can help by giving it a good cut and in fact, go ahead just this one time and take the cut height down 1 or even 2 notches.

For Zoysia and Bermuda lawns, this isn’t going to be anything to be concerned about. You can even decide to give your lawn a full scalp if you want (remember, I’m talking to central and south FL here where it’s 80F during the day). Here is some more detailed info on what your options could look like.

For St Augustine and Bahia lawns, yes, it’s also ok for you to take your lawn down 2 notches on this next cut and then go back to normal thereafter.

It’s ok to mulch the clippings if you are not seeing clumps but if you see areas piling up, go ahead and bag the clippings or do a double cut to get all that dead stuff chopped up and worked in.

The idea here is we want to expose that green and growing part underneath to as much sunlight and heat as we can. This will help it to recover faster. Mowing in general also accomplishes this and helps the lawn regain it’s vigor.

Continue Watering The Lawn

You also want to start right back up with your watering cycles. This time of year you for sure want a minimum of ½” of water on the lawn weekly. If we continue to get days into the 80s, you may need to double that.

We want the lawn to recover and water is the basis of that. If you have not already, take your tuna can challenge and get your zones set up for the season starting right now.

Fertilize With High Potassium

Lawns under stress can benefit from applications of potassium. Potassium helps maintain balance with plant cells and aids during stress, but also in recovery from stress like we just faced.

The 7-0-20 Stress Blend is perfect for this because it has 100% slow release nitrogen and 20% potash. Many of our community members used this with success after the Texas freeze of 2021 that many of you heard about. That freeze was much worse than what we have seen and most of those lawns recovered with no lasting visual effects.

You can apply the Stress Blend anytime in the next few days and get it watered in so it can go to work.

Another excellent edition here would be the Root Growth Stimulant (RGS) found in the Bio-Stimulant Pack from Greene County Fertilizer. RGS contains sea kelp that stimulates healthy rooting and humic and fulvic acids to condition soil. It’s a part of my regular program anyway but for sure it comes in handy as an aid during times when we want to get our lawns growing again after a freak event like this recent frost.

Apply at 6oz/1,000 sq ft for a real kick in the face that the lawn will actually like!

I’ll also be going into more depth on these topics and talking more about what I discovered at the sod farm in this week’s podcast so be sure to subscribe!

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