Identifying and Preventing Soil Frost Heave

Within the state of Utah, temperatures and weather conditions change significantly throughout the year. Winters are cold and snowy while summers are hot and dry, and these seasons plus everything in between have a significant impact on your grass, soil and other parts of your landscaping.

At Professional Yard Services, we can help with all temperature-related lawn care and landscape maintenance services. One such concern, particularly in winter and the periods just before or after it, is known as frost heave. What is frost heave, when can it take place, and how can you prevent it in your yard?

identifying preventing soil frost heave

Defining Frost Heave

Common both at the end of fall and during the beginning of spring, frost heave refers to a condition where soil expands and contracts due to the freezing and thawing taking place at its surface. As temperatures get into the 32 degree Fahrenheit range, cold air makes its way into your soil and freezes the water that’s there – this in turn expands the soil, plus brings further moisture up from below the surface.

Unless you address it, this cycle can become heavier and heavier and draw various items, including soil or roots, out of the ground. Your soil may appear to be “growing rocks” after too much frost heave, a negative look no one wants in their landscape.

Conditions for Frost Heave

There are three basic conditions that have to be present for frost heave to take place:

  • Cold: Temperatures have to be at 32 degrees, or even slightly colder in some situations, for frost heave to take place. This is because the freezing temperature needs to be able to reach below the top layer of soil.
  • Soil: There are certain kinds of soil that are not at risk of frost, but many others definitely are. If you have clay, silt or loam soil, these are all particularly susceptible to frost heave, as they al contain high levels of moisture.

Preventing Frost Heave

Some basic tips for preventing frost heave:

  • Plant early: During fall, plan to plant all your perennials at least six weeks before the first frost, if not earlier. This gives them time for their root systems to grow and become robust.
  • Watch: The best way to catch frost heave is to notice it early and correct it. Look for any areas that are freezing, then press the soil back into place and consider additional mulch for insulation.
  • Drainage: To avoid frost heave and several other issues as well, your soil must be able to properly drain moisture. You should be adding organic matter each fall and spring season to help here, plus rake and otherwise arrange things so drainage is optimal.
  • Mulch: Mulch can be valuable for several things, including keeping your soil a little warmer during winter. If you have issues with frost heave, consider additional mulch or changing to a stronger type.

For more on how to avoid frost heave in your soil, or to learn about any of our lawn care or sprinkler repair services, speak to the staff at Professional Yard Services today.