Common Winter Lawn Problems

(and how to solve them)

Our lawns can look every bit the picture of perfection in the summer months. They’re a vibrant shade of green, the sun’s shining, and the kids are enjoying making daisy chains in the luscious green grass. Then winter hits, and it’s almost like a switch has been flicked.

Rain can turn your previously perfect lawn into a temporary swamp, moss and its distant relations make an unwelcome appearance, and the grass to mud ratio is a little overwhelming. Lawn mowing also becomes a distant memory too as you swap the sunhat and mower for a pair of gumboots and a jacket.

There’s no denying that winter can test our lawns to their absolute limit, but there are ways in which to reduce the impact it has. Keep on top of lawn care and don’t let winter win the battle. Here are four common winter lawn problems and how to solve them.



Moss with blurred background

No matter how many times you give moss its marching orders, it seems to keep coming back. Not only can moss be an eyesore – crowding your grass and making lawn mowing all the more difficult – but it can also be dangerous. Moss works its way into your lawns, pathways and any crack it can find, creating a slippery layer that heightens the risk of slips and falls. Therefore, getting rid of moss sooner rather than later is crucial not only for your lawn’s appearance and health but your own safety as well.

It’s helpful, first, to understand why moss grows. It doesn’t appear without reason, and you’ll notice a lack of it during summer and in well-lit areas. Moss thrives on shade and dampness, so the more of that you have, the higher the instance of moss. You’ll most likely notice it around the base of trees, around edges of your lawn where fencing creates pockets of shade, and around shaded pathways as well. Anywhere that doesn’t have sun or light is a breeding ground for this unwanted guest.

The problem is, you can tackle the problem with sprays and chemicals, but if you don’t address the cause, you’ll never get rid of the moss. What’s more, spraying your lawn without knowledge of correct lawn care can be a recipe for disaster.

There are many things you can do to give moss on your lawn its marching orders, but it takes time. Firstly, take a look at your lawn area as a whole. Can you rectify the problem by removing the items creating the shade? Where possible, prune trees to allow more sunlight through, and this can dramatically reduce the instance of moss.

If fencing or neighbouring properties are the problem, you might have to take a more proactive approach. Instead of keeping those moss-laden areas as lawn, why not turn them into a garden area with plants that love shade? Alternatively, rake up the moss, add lime to it if previous soil tests show the area is acidic, then fertilise the grass to encourage prosperous growth. 


Liverwort with moss


If winter casts a dreary shadow over your lawn, or your soil has poor drainage, you may begin to notice that Liverwort, a dreadful cousin of moss, starts to take over your yard. You may only see it during lawn mowing, but when you do, you’re sure to let out an audible groan. Liverwort is a terrible flat green and stemless plant that causes no end of grief for homeowners. It grows on pathways, lawns, and anywhere with shade or moisture. However, with adequate lawn care, you can remove the problem.

Try to reduce the shade by cutting back plants, aerate the soil to improve drainage, and try to avoid walking on the grass when it’s wet. It may also be beneficial to undertake a soil test as Liverwort tends to grow where nutrient levels are low, and acidity levels are high.

You can then hit Liverwort where it hurts and buy a moss killer. For best effect, apply this before winter or in autumn, and avoid cutting your lawns for at least a week. Once the Liverwort has died, rake it out and use fertiliser or a similar product to promote grass growth.


Further reading for lawn articles
- How to prevent lawn frostbite
- What grass is between your toes
- Signs you need to hire a lawn mowing professional


Poor drainage

Many sections in Auckland and surrounding areas are sloped. While this can allow us to flex our creative muscles regarding landscaping options, it does create some problems with poor drainage. It can cause your lawn to become patchy, create pooling that doesn’t drain away, and of course, creates a boggy mess you’d rather be without.

Lady in a puddle flooded garden

Poor drainage is not something you should leave to get worse. With torrential or relentless rain – particularly in winter months – it can create problems for both you and your neighbours. Therefore, it’s crucial to get on top of the problem sooner rather than later. The most common way to fix poor drainage is through aerating your soil.

When your lawns become compacted, or you have trees dotted throughout your property, the soil tends to clump together and loses its ability to drain water. Trees are by far the biggest problem. If removing the trees is not an option, use a garden fork to create drainage holes. Doing so can encourage rain to go into the ground rather than pool above it.


Pet urine stains

Spaniel dog urinating on a tree

When you’re lawn mowing, you tend to take notice of all the imperfections in every part of your lawn. If you have a dog, you may notice them even more. Aside from little holes dug with little paws, you may also see brown spots burned into the lawns. These burn patches are caused by nitrogen in your dog’s urine. While it might only be a small amount, it’s enough to scorch your lawn to look as if it hasn’t seen water in years.


In summer, these burn marks are easily fixed by rapid grass growth, but in winter when the grass sits dormant, the repairing process can’t begin straight away. Before you know it, your lawn looks like a desert wasteland. However, you don’t have to put up with these burns forever as there are many different ways in which to solve the problem. After your dog urinates, you can spray the area with water to dilute it, or you could encourage your dog to either pee in one spot or drink more water to dilute the nitrogen levels. Then, once summer hits, rapid grass growth will solve the problem entirely.


There’s no denying that winter can cause no end of trouble in our backyards, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be the ones in control.
Stay on top of lawn care and reap the rewards of a lawn area that stands up to the elements all year round.

If you need a bit more help around the garden this winter - be sure to get in contact with Crewcut for some helpful advice. 

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