How to Prevent Frost Heave This Fall

Frost heave crack in residential concrete sidewalkIn New England, we’re used to severe temperature swings. As a local resident, you’re likely no stranger to roads, driveways, plants, and structures suffering damage as a result of hard frost. This phenomenon, known as frost heave, often occurs at the end of autumn, and it can spell disaster for your landscape and hardscapes. To avoid the havoc this can cause, let’s review some tips on how to prevent frost heave.

What is Frost Heave, and Why Does it Occur?

Frost heave is a natural reaction to contracting and expanding soil during shifting periods of freezing and thawing. The movement that results from the ice formation beneath the ground forces the surface upward, causing an unlevel landscape that can destroy plant roots and crack hardscapes. The following criteria often contribute to the severity of the damage:

  • Temperature: Frost heave occurs when the temperature is low enough to penetrate the topsoil.
  • Moisture: In order for the expansion to occur, there must be moisture present in the soil.
  • Soil: Some types of soil – such as clay, silt, and loam – are more susceptible to frost heave than others, as they tend to retain higher moisture.

Since fall can have a mixture of heavy rain and below-freezing temperatures, it usually creates the ideal conditions for frost heave.

Tips to Prevent Frost Heave

Knowing how to halt the progression of frost heave is crucial to protecting your plants, hardscapes, and even the foundation of your home. The following are some tips on how to prevent frost heave:

  • Vigilance: To identify an area affected by this phenomenon, look for raised patches of your lawn. When spotted, press the soil back into place firmly and cover any exposed roots with soil or mulch.
  • Provide Ample Drainage: To prevent pooling water that saturates the subsurface soil, blend organic matter into your soil in fall to loosen it, fill in concave areas of the lawn, and install French drains where necessary.
  • Insulate with Mulch: Mulch can act as a blanket of insulation and regulate the temperature of the soil. After the first hard frost, spread a thick layer of mulch to prevent underground ice formation.

You can also plan ahead by choosing hardy plants that thrive in freezing temperatures or by planting perennials six weeks before the first frost.

Learning how to prevent frost heave can save you the headache of costly and timely repairs come spring. At Dolan Landscaping, we can help prepare your landscape for the cold weather, repair any damages to your hardscapes, and maintain your property throughout New England’s harsher seasons. If you’re looking to protect your landscape from the frost, contact us today.