Do Weeds Die in Winter – How to Keep Them From Coming Back

It’s winter and your lawn is looking surprisingly good, right?

Or you might not be able to see it under all the snow…

Regardless, you might be wondering – do weeds die in winter?

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t straightforward, so I’m here to help you understand what happens to weeds during the colder months and how to manage them.

Contents

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Do Weeds Die in Winter – Key Points

  • Some weeds die in winter, some go dormant, others grow through winter.
  • Many weeds leave seeds behind at the end of summer that stay dormant through winter and sprout in the spring.
  • Completely eradicating weeds is impossible. Instead, you need to choose a management approach.
  • Weeds can be managed with or without sprays. Neither option provides a quick or long-lasting fix.

It’s Winter and My Lawn is Weirdly Weed-Free

For many people, their lawn looks surprisingly during the winter months. This is because of a few things:

  • In temperate regions, most lawns are made up of cool-season grasses so they are alive and growing during the winter (albeit slowly – they’ll grow faster during spring and fall).
  • The increased rainfall of winter usually keeps things green.
  • Many weeds naturally die off in the winter.

Yep, you might be fooled into thinking that your lawn has magically won its weedy battle come winter. But in actual fact, many weeds are just lying dormant, waiting for warmer temperatures before they strike.

frozen lawn in winter

So Will Weeds Die in Winter?

Yes and no…

There are many varieties of weeds. Some are annuals and die off in the winter but leave seeds behind that will sprout in the spring. Some are perennial and pretty much survive all year round. Some weeds actually prefer the winter and don’t stick around much for the summer.

The answer depends on the variety of weed you’re talking about.

Alright then, does frost kill weeds?

The answer is the same. Some weeds are frost-hardy and aren’t bothered at all by below freezing temperatures. Other weeds (though not their seeds) will be killed by frosts.

If you’re wondering what temperature kills weeds, it varies for all the different weed varieties out there. Most weeds are actually more likely to be killed by hot temperatures than cold.

Messy, right?

So how should we approach maintaining a weed-free lawn in light of this?

The Chemical Spray Option

Note that there are two broad categories of herbicides: pre-emergent and post-emergent.

Post-emergent sprays will not kill seeds so there is no use using them when the plant is not in its active growth phase or has already flowered or spread seeds.

Pre-emergent sprays do kill seeds and prevent them from turning into the weeds you hate, but it requires the seeds to try and start germinating first. The success of this spray also depends on the right amount of rain and sun, so timing is crucial.

Neither option is suitable for winter. Using the wrong type of herbicide at the wrong time of year will just increase the supply of seeds in the soil, known as the seed bank, and make the problem worse!

spraying herbicide on dandelion

Please note that chemical herbicides can be harmful for the environment, animals and people, and often are not a long-term solution to weeds. Instead, new seeds can and will blow in on the wind and many weeds are becoming resistant to herbicides.

Chemical sprays should be used as a last resort. At the very least, make sure you’re using the right kind of weed killer for the job.

I have more helpful guides on weed killers such as whether you can spray on wet grass and the best commercial varieties that might be helpful too.

The Spray-Free Option

There are a few different things you can do to naturally manage weeds without resorting to spraying.

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix. Instead, long-term sustainable weed control requires staying on top of weeds before they become a real problem.

If weeds have become a problem to the point that they have completely overrun your yard, these are your options:

  • Hand pull/dig up your yard and re-seed. Water deeply to soften the soil and then use a fork to loosen large weeds from the ground so that you can pull them out with their roots intact. You can focus on just the biggest, most problematic weeds and then hoe the rest. Re-seeding with plenty of good-quality grass seed should mean that there is no space for weeds to return.
  • Cover the area with black plastic sheeting weighted down with bricks. Leave the area for a few months, ideally through the spring when most seeds will be trying to germinate. The heat of the sun will raise the temperature under the plastic and kill any weeds underneath. You can then hoe and re-seed.
  • You also have the option of overseeding a weedy lawn without actually doing anything to the weeds per se. Instead, hand pull the largest and most obvious, then mow your lawn as short as possible, water deeply, sprinkle with a layer of potting mix, fertilizer and grass seed, and wait for the magic! This is one of the best ways to control weeds in your lawn in winter.

If this is the option you’re keen to take, be sure to read my guide to overseeding a weedy lawn and make sure you have all the yard care tools you need before you get started.

If weeds haven’t completely overrun your yard and you just need to stay on top of them, use these tips:

  • Keep your lawn mowed to the appropriate height for your grass type, season and the type of weed you are trying to control. For example, during summer, a slightly longer lawn has the advantage of being healthier and more likely to out-compete weeds. A longer lawn is more likely to shade-out crabgrass and prevent it from becoming a problem.
  • The opposite is true if you have weeds in your lawn that have just flowered or gone to seed. Then, you really want to be mowing your lawn a little shorter with the catcher on to remove all of the flowers and seed heads before they get a chance to disperse. In this way, you can reduce the seed bank of your yard and lessen the arrival of new weeds.
  • Learn about the weeds specific to your yard and their lifecycles. Weed management is really all about timing and doing what you can to remove them before they go to seed. The easiest way to manage the weed load of your yard is to weed frequently in the spring when all of the young weeds are emerging. Little and often will prevent them from getting established and reproducing. Read my guide to the most common lawn weeds to help with this.
  • Accept that weeds are a natural part of life and the battle will never be won. In fact, the definition of a weed is actually just a plant that has become too successful at growing and surviving in the conditions available. We tend to treasure plants that are rare, fragile and hard to grow.

No matter how many sprays you use, or hours you spend weeding, more weeds will always arrive, and winter will not stop them from returning.

green lawn closeup

Making peace with a weed population in your yard, or choosing to see them as herbs and food for pollinators (which they nearly all are), takes a shift in mindset but ultimately can bring a lot of happiness (and less work!).

Summary

So, do weeds die in winter? Hopefully, you know the answer to that question now!

The answer, is of course, some do, some don’t.

Luckily understanding a few key approaches to weed management can help you to stay on top of the weeds that will inevitably arrive in your yard.

Remember, you’ll never get rid of them completely, they are a part of life. So, it’s worth asking yourself why you care so much.

If it’s because of what the neighbors might think, it might be time to start making peace with a multispecies lawn and save yourself a whole lot of effort and money in the process!

Andy Gibson

My name's Gibson. Andy Gibson. I like to think of myself as the Bond of the backyard, that is if yard work ever became sexy. I write about everything about indoor and outdoor gardening and the dread-it-but-still-need-to-do-it chores around the yard, like cleaning out the gutter guards.

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