What is winter die-back?

Winter die-back is a lawn problem that occurs mostly during the winter, but can occur during other seasons depending on the amount of rainfall. Your grass plants may start become yellow and the lawn’s growth becomes sparse, and the soil is exposed.

New lawns are more susceptible to winter die-back. For more information on how to maintain a new lawn and problems that occur with new lawns, please click here.

water-logged lawn

What causes winter die back?

The growing environment within which your lawn is growing will play a major factor on how your lawn will grow and look, especially throughout the winter.

To live and be strong, grass plants require four major elements. Air, water, sunlight and nutrients. If any of these elements are reduced, the overall health of your lawn will be affected. Lawns surrounded by fencing, structures and walls will be affected by a reduced amount of sunlight and a reduced amount of airflow. These two factors alone are enough to cause a lawn to suffer from winter die-back and sparse growth.

However, fences, structures and walls also have footings and foundations, and the soil within which your lawn is growing will be probably be surrounded and enclosed by these footings and foundations. These reduce the natural flow of water throughout the soil which causes poor drainage. A good amount of airflow over the surface of a lawn, and a sufficient amount of sunlight can help to evaporate any excess water from soil. However, when your lawn is presented with all of these problems combined, it will suffer from winter die-back.

If your lawn is new (under 12 months old), it is important to follow our guidelines on caring for your new lawn and noting the do’s and don’ts. Heavy use of a new lawn (especially turfed) can cause winter die-back)

What can be done to overcome winter die-back?

It is difficult to make structural changes to anything that is causing a lack of airflow over the surface of your lawn or reducing the amount of sunlight, so it is best to think about how we can give your lawn the best advantage possible given its current circumstances. There are a few things that we can do:


The first and main factor that causes winter die-back is over-saturated soil. Soil with a high clay content will hold on to water for longer, and reduce the flow of water throughout the root-zone. Adding sand to your soil will help to improve its overall condition by increasing the pore size within the soils structure, allowing water to flow through it more freely.


Some varieties of grass plants will grow better than others in specific growing environments. For lawns growing in a shaded environment or in an environment surrounded by , the best variety of grass seed to use would be a mixture that contains a shade tolerant variety such as Creeping Red Fescue.



Based on the above solutions, we would recommend the following Green Man Lawn Care treatments:

  1. Hollow-tine Aerationthis treatment will help relieve soil compaction, and create holes for top-dressing to fall in to and mix with the original soil.
  2. Top-dressingthis treatment will help improve the soil content by adding sand to the original soil content.
  3. Overseeding (using a shade tolerant mix) – this treatment will introduce a more appropriate seed to the lawn.
  4. Spiking – this is a treatment that Green Man does not offer but is something you can carry out yourself using a garden fork. To spike the lawn, press the fork in to the soil to a depth of over 2 inches. The holes made by the fork will allow air to pass through the root zone, and help the excess water evaporate.

Lawn mowing

Lawn mowing plays a major role in lawn maintenance, and especially more so with lawns growing in an unfavourable environment. The key to maintaining a lawn in such an unfavourable growing environment is to maintain a cutting height of two inches, and mowing ‘little and often’. This means you will need to cut your lawn more often but taking only a small amount off the height of the grass plants. This method prevents the grass plants from using too much energy to search for sunlight, whilst maintaining a thicker sward of grass.

For tips on lawn mowing, please click here.

When will I see an improvement?

The grass plant requires a minimum temperature of around 8 degrees centigrade to grow. The solutions offered above will help improve the lawn once it has a chance to start growing again. It’s important to note that the lawn may improve on its own once temperatures start to increase in the spring. It is also important to note that some lawns may take many years to mature enough to the point where winter die-back does not become a problem.

How will my Green Man Lawn Care treatments help?

Lawns that suffer from winter die-back will also suffer from weeds due to the amount of soil exposed. Our seasonal treatments help to reduce the amount of weeds that will take advantage of the exposed soil.

It is important to maintain a sufficient level of nutrients available to the grass plants to ensure your lawn stays healthy and help it thicken up quicker in the spring. Nutrients will also help to improve the amount of roots within the soil. A healthier root-zone will improve the overall condition of the soil.