Lawn care may require a different approach this year after extreme freeze

Right now is normally the time of year we recommend applying pre-emergent to lawns to prevent winter weeds. But after the winter storm, it’s a little more complicated. Pre-emergent herbicides are products that help prevent annual weeds from popping up from seed; there are a number of different products that can be used on a healthy, well-established lawn that won’t hurt the turfgrass or other well-established plants if applied correctly. But the key point is that they are designed to be applied on healthy turf – the products labeled for home lawns are root inhibitors and can slow down recovery if the turf is stressed. Some lawns may be damaged from the extreme freeze, especially St. Augustine lawns. So wait and see if the lawn is stressed or damaged from winterkill before applying pre-emergent. If the lawn is stressed, focus on other methods of weed control (such as mechanical–hand pulling and hoeing may be the best bet).

Also, the timing is delayed a bit coz of the cold snap. The recommendation from Texas A&M turf specialists is to apply pre-emergent when the soil temperature reaches 55 degrees Fahrenheit for several days. We hit that mark right before the winter storm, but now the soil temperature 5-day average has dropped back down. The current soil temperature and the 5-day average can be viewed at the website

High-value, intensely managed turfgrass can be assessed for winterkill by digging up plugs and planting them in containers in a warm, sunny spot. Water and care for them and see what percentage of the plugs survived and how vigorously they grow. Most homeowners will probably prefer to just wait and see how spring green-up goes. Just water appropriately when it warms up, keep an eye on the turf, and don’t fertilize too early – wait until the lawn has needed to be mowed twice before fertilizing. Keep an eye out for pests, and just give the turfgrass some good TLC through the spring to help it bounce back if damaged. As much as we want to find as many silver linings as possible to the problematic deep freeze, the cold spell will likely not have a huge impact on insect pests. For example, fire ants burrow deep into the ground and most likely avoided the deadly temperatures.

To learn more about spring landscaping in West Texas and recovery from winter damage, save the date for a seminar on trees, lawns, and edible landscape crops – Thursday, March 18. Visit the website for details and to register.

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