Frost Damage in Florida Lawns

Frost Damage in Florida Lawns








There are many types of turf throughout Florida. The most commonly used grasses are Bahia, Bermuda, St. Augustine and Zoysia. Most of these preventions apply to all of these grasses.


Watering your Florida lawn properly is the key to any successful lawn program. Often times homeowners will cease watering once colder temperatures arrive. This is not only bad for your lawns health it can be detrimental during an excessive freeze or frost.

Continue watering your lawn for approximately 30 minutes per zone once per week in the winter. Also, when you are under a freeze watch or freeze warning, water your lawn thoroughly the day before. Remember to follow local rules regarding times of the day to water. This usually means you should not water between 10am and 4pm. Watering after 4pm usually works best to protect your turf against frost damage.

Watering your lawn before a freeze helps to raise the temperature of the soil. It also provides insulation to the grass blades and roots. Once the water freezes it will keep these at 32 degrees. Much better than 20 or even the teens!


Keep in mind that areas that are predominantly shaded during the day will create colder temperatures in the soil. Shaded areas do not become as warm as areas in full sun therefore damage to these areas are often more severe.

Mowing height

Mowing height is also a very important part of a successful lawn program. Whether you mow yourself or have it professionally done, keeping your cutting height higher is always better for most creeping turf grasses. This is especially important during times of extreme heat as well as freezing temperatures. A good rule of thumb is to never cut more than 25% off the blade. For example, if your lawn is at a height of 6 inches when you are ready to cut, it should be no shorter than 4.5” after the cut as 1.5” is 25% of 6.

It is best once a lawn goes dormant (turns brown) to not cut at all until spring. If you need to use the mower to get the leaves off the lawn, raise the deck as high as possible to capture the leaves without scalping the turf. Also try and refrain from any mowing when a freeze watch or warning is in effect.


The wrong type of fertilizer applied to your lawn before a freeze can harm your turf as well. Applying any form of nitrogen before a frost or freeze can kill the turf. Nitrogen promotes plant growth. Promoting plant growth before a freeze can and usually does cause irreversible damage to your turf.

Apply a fertilizer with only potash or potassium once the weather begins to cool. In our region, this is normally done during the month of December as January and February are normally our coldest months. This helps to strengthen and prepare the roots for colder weather. An example of a potash only fertilizer would be a 0-0-20 or 0-0-62.

Newly Planted Sod

In our area most of our grasses go dormant for a period of time in the winter. Just like our body needs sleep everyday to function properly, your lawn needs to rest each year. This time frame can vary from 2 months to 4 or even 5 months depending on our weather. If you have lived in Florida for more than one winter you know that the only constant to our winters are fluctuating temperatures! We can go from a high of 85 degrees one day to a low in the 20’s the next. A good average is about three months.

Any new planting should be postponed during this time. To bring a newly cut piece of sod from further south and transplanting it here could be disastrous to the turf and costly as well. It is best to wait until spring time.

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