The past five days have brought in a weather pattern that us desert dwellers are not used to and I’m pretty sure many of you have noticed your dark green lawn turn to an ugly shade of yellow and brown.  While your plants outside have been suffering pretty bad with the deep freeze there is nothing to worry about with your lawn.  Ryegrass is well adapted for the cold weather and even though it is below freezing at night the daytime temperature is moving into the 40’s which will keep the lawn from going dormant.  It would take a couple weeks of freezing temperatures combined with very low daytime highs for you to lose all the color in your lawn.

I have been watching all my neighbors throwing covers over all their plants in hopes of preventing any frost damage and running their irrigation water for the trees on a trickle to keep the foliage but this is not necessary for your grass.  I have been by several neighborhoods where people are watering at 7:00 to 8:00am to try and get the frost off their lawn and instead of removing the frost they’re creating an ice rink.

The morning is always the best time to water your lawn, but during days with that we’re expecting a deep freeze it is okay to turn the water off completely for a few days or water after 9:00am when the frost has burned off the ground.  It looks like we have about 1 to 2 more days of deep freezes in the forecast and then the temperature will be creeping back into the 70’s.

One of the biggest dangers during a hard freeze like we have seen is damage to your exposed irrigation pipes.  Most people have their pipes buried deep enough that very little if any will be effected, but one of the places that is often damaged is main line coming off your  water source leading to your irrigation system.  Since this is generally only about a foot to a foot and a half above the ground you can wrap the exposed pipes with a towel at night to prevent it from freezing and causing damage once you fire the system back up again.

In the north everyone blows their irrigation lines out for the winter in October or November to remove any extra water from freezing in the pipes and bursting but since we use our systems year round this is not an option.  When the nighttime and morning temperatures are above 32 degrees wrapping your pipes is not an issue but if we see any more hard freezes after Thursday you should take some precautions.

Now the obvious question is what can you do to get your lawn back in shape once all of the color is gone?  Don’t waste your time putting down a granular fertilizer because the soil temperature is too cold to break down the product and release into the plant.  The foliar fertilizers are your best friends during the winter months and while lots of places will sell you a foliar iron source be careful because most of them will stain your sidewalks, pool decks, stone, and valve boxes.  The Soil Burst fertilizers were designed not to stain your concrete or walkways and they provide the same amount of iron as other products you buy.  You can order them directly online from and have them shipped to your home.  If your lawn is seriously deficient in color use the 16-0-4 and if you just need a little boost and want to provide your lawn with a balanced blend for the shoots and roots use the 7-7-7.  There are a ton of iron products out on the market so make sure you choose carefully before purchasing one so your lawn gets the desired nutrients.

I have had a couple people email to ask me about how much growth they should be seeing in their lawn at this time of the year and the answer is very little.  My lawn is quite juiced up on fertilizer, but I have not had to mow it in two weeks because of the cold temperatures.  The color has remained strong, but there is no growth.  I try and spray my lawn every two to three weeks during these really cold periods so I never have a loss of color, but even the healthiest lawns will lose a little color during a cold snap like this one.

Right now people are starting to see a little Poa annua appear in their lawns and the easiest way to remove this weed is to hand pick it out.  Take a knife and cut the clump of grass out before it spreads to the rest of your lawn.  This weed is easily blown in the wind and moved by shoes and your lawn mower so if you see it take care of it before the problem gets too large.

If you have a large population of Poa in your lawn the best approach is to wait until transition time in the spring and spray it out with a chemical like Revolver.  This will kill your ryegrass so it cannot be sprayed now, but when the season is over and bermudagrass is growing it is a great way to transition your lawn.  This is the approach most golf courses take and getting rid of the Poa is just one of the benefits.  The other major benefit is removing all the shade from your bermudagrass and eliminating any competition between the two grasses.

That’s all for this week and check back often because next month I will be giving you guidelines for pre emergent weed control for the spring.

Please hit the “Ask Jay” button on the top right of this page if you have any questions.