Greener on the Other Side of Winter: The Grass Growing Cycle

If spending an entire winter outdoors in Minnesota sounds challenging, it just goes to show how impressive the yearly grass growing cycle really is.  Over a long winter period, grass in the northern part of the country enters dormancy — a fascinating process that allows it to withstand hard freezes and heavy snowfall. Winter isn’t the only time that grass adapts to the seasons around it; it undergoes constant transformation throughout the year. The constant adaptation helps your lawn withstand all types of weather. If you’ve ever wondered what makes grass grow and why it seems to slow at certain times of the year, we’re here to explain.


As the landscape thaws, the cool season grasses commonly found in Minnesota begin to bloom. Spring brings a period of rapid lawn regeneration. Grass types such as Kentucky Bluegrass, Tall Fescue and Ryegrass flourish during the first growth spurt of the year. Plentiful rain and relatively mild temperatures are the ideal conditions for grass to emerge from dormancy quickly. This is a great time of year to use nitrogen fertilizer on your lawn to stimulate healthy growth.


When the hottest months of the year arrive, the risk of drought rises. Cool season grasses tend to slow down their growth during the summer, and one extended dry spell could take a toll on the lawn. The grass may even return to dormancy during an especially dry period. If you want to keep your lawn looking lush during this time of the year, we recommend that you regularly water the grass in the early morning hours. That way, the hot summer sun won’t evaporate the water before your soil can soak it up.


The grass begins its race to the sky once again during the fall, as the conditions become more reliably wet and cool.  When the grass grows faster, it requires more nutrients, and that’s where your trusty bag of fertilizer comes in handy. If you still have nitrogen rich fertilizer left over from the spring, it should still be effective later in the year. Fall is also a good time to overseed the lawn if you notice any bare patches in your yard — just be sure to use phosphorus based fertilizer if you’re overseeding. Your fast growing lawn is also battling compaction from foot traffic during fall, so consider using a lawn aeration tool to help the roots spread before a cold snap.


At the beginning of winter, grass begins to turn a soft shade of yellow. The plant does this to preserve energy through the bitter cold. Winter days are shorter and there is likely to be a layer of snow blocking the sun’s rays (which are much weaker during this period). The grass expends very little energy and requires almost nothing to survive. This is the easiest and most straightforward time of the year when it comes to lawn care — you just need to remember not to walk on the grass. Footsteps may cause icy grass blades to break and leave brown spots when spring returns.

Each season brings new challenges for homeowners who want to grow a healthy lawn. Cool season grasses are surprisingly adaptable to changing weather conditions, but it takes some seasonal alterations in lawn care to get the most out of your yard. No matter what season it is, it’s never too late to transform your lawn into the lush sea of grass you’ve always dreamed of.

Looking for some inspiration? Check out our blog post “6 Stunning Lawn Mowing Patterns on Sports Fields” to see what’s possible when grass is well-maintained throughout the year.