Editor’s note: Danielle Gorski’s family “goes big” with holiday decorations outside their Denton, Texas, home every year, so she’s perfect to write this article. Danielle also shot the photos with this piece.
Christmas is coming to town, and the time for putting up holiday lights has rolled around again. With all the shopping, decorating, and planning that the holiday season requires, this time of year is stressful enough without having to worry about your grass being damaged too.
If you’re feeling hesitant to put up outdoor lights and transform your neighborhood into Candy Cane Lane because you’re worried about damaging your lawn, we can help you learn how to put up holiday decorations in your yard without destroying your grass.
- How to Decorate Without Destroying Your Grass
- 1. Rake Leaves
- 2. Move Holiday Decorations Around
- 3. Choose Lightweight Decorations
- 4. Find Other Places for Your Decorations
- 5. Avoid Decorations That Sit on Grass
- 6. Don’t Go Overboard
- 7. Use Timers to Limit Foot Traffic
- 8. Use LED Lights
- 9. Check for Frayed Cords
- 10. Place Inflatables in a Dry Area
- 11. Don’t Use Candles
- FAQ About How to Protect Your Grass from Holiday Decorations
How to Decorate Without Destroying Your Grass
Usually, lawns have already entered a state of dormancy for the winter when you put out the holiday lights, so in most cases, holiday decorations won’t mess with your lawn too much.
However, if you’re not careful, holiday decorations can cause some damage to your grass, especially if they are sitting on your lawn for several weeks. Luckily, there are some ways to decorate your yard without destroying your grass:
1. Rake Leaves
First things first: Before you start decking the halls with boughs of holly, the yard needs to be cleared of all debris.
Any soggy leaves, tree branches, or trash in your yard gather water and can lead to mold or diseases forming on your grass, so don’t let leaves sit on your lawn too long if you want to keep your grass in good health.
- In Northern areas, the leaves may already have dropped for the year.
- Southern areas may still be waiting for the leaves to fall off the trees even well into November.
Leaves or dry twigs can also be a fire hazard, especially when they are next to hot Christmas lights. So before you decorate your yard, rake up leaves and twigs in your yard. You can also hire leaf removal services if you don’t want to bother with the leaf-raking chore yourself.
2. Move Holiday Decorations Around
Holiday decorations standing on your grass for an extended period of time increase the risk of grass damage. What kind of damage? Holiday decorations kept in one place for weeks can smother grass and deprive it of necessary air and sun.
To prevent this, move your decorations around the yard once a week. Don’t leave a heavy decoration sitting on your lawn for more than 2 weeks. Regularly moving Christmas decorations ensures that they will never be sitting in any one spot for very long.
Besides, neighbors passing by your house might appreciate you shaking up your Christmas arrangement every once in a while.
It also helps to be timely with putting away the decorations. To reduce the risk of damaging your grass, take down holiday decorations shortly after Christmas or New Year’s.
3. Choose Lightweight Decorations
Anything large, heavy, or bulky exerts pressure on your grass. Heavy lawn decorations may look neat, but they have a negative impact on your yard. Heavy decorations crush grass, and the weight can compact soil on your property requiring you to aerate your lawn as a result.
Worse, heavy, bulky holiday decorations deprive grass of sunlight and oxygen, both essential components that your grass needs to survive. In the worst case scenario, starving your grass from needed sun and oxygen can kill your lawn.
This damage will carry over into the spring, so when grass emerges from its dormant state, your lawn might look blotchy and unkempt. To keep your lawn pristine and in good shape, avoid buying heavy or bulky holiday decorations.
Instead of heavy Christmas decorations, choose lightweight decorations:
- Blow molds are made of plastic and usually are lightweight
- Fabric inflatables are fairly lightweight, though they still shade the grass, cutting it off from the amount of sun it needs.
- Outdoor Christmas trees. Their stands don’t cover up much grass, saving your grass from being smothered.
- Christmas-themed yard signs that you can easily stake into the ground. These signs don’t take up much space and are low-effort to set up in your yard.
- Decorations with stands or bases that won’t cover up much grass
- Christmas light projectors shine creative light patterns on your house. Just stick the light projector into the ground. Projectors don’t take up much space, leaving your grass largely untouched with plenty of exposure to the sun and wind.
If there’s a heavy Christmas decoration that you simply can’t resist adding to your holiday setup, just make sure to move it around your yard every once in a while to give your grass a break. So long as it isn’t resting on a patch of grass for too long, your grass should be fine.
4. Find Other Places for Your Decorations
Instead of placing blow molds in the grass, find other places where your decorations can fit:
- On the front porch or deck
- By the doorway
- Among landscaping plant beds
- On your roof
Pro Tip: If you already have a lawn ornament sitting in your front yard, swap it out with a Christmas decoration for the holidays. That way it won’t harm your grass.
5. Avoid Decorations That Sit on Grass
The easiest way to take care of your grass and still go all-out for the holidays is to pick out lawn decorations that won’t interfere with your lawn.
If even after reading all these tips for protecting grass you still feel hesitant to put anything on your lawn that could potentially damage it, not to worry. There are additional ways you can decorate:
- Use LED light strands to wrap your trees and landscaping bushes.
- Add holiday flair to your house with a wreath to greet visitors at the front door.
- Top your house with a crown of lights around the edge of the roof.
- Hang ornaments or glowing bulbs from your trees or bushes.
- Use wall or window holiday decorations.
Turning to alternative decoration ideas that don’t involve pegs to secure your lights is especially useful for homes with artificial grass lawns.
You can also use heavy bags full of sand or gravel to weigh down stands or blow molds, which secure these decorations in place without you having to turn to stakes.
In the event that you can’t avoid using pegs, try to use stakes as sparingly as possible. Usually a stake or two will be enough to secure a blow mold firmly in place, unless your area regularly experiences fierce, high-speed winds.
6. Don’t Go Overboard
We know everyone is eager for the day when Santa Claus comes to deliver presents, but when it comes to putting up outdoor decorations, sometimes less is more.
A tastefully arranged figurine or two can create a better Christmas display than stuffing as many decorations into a yard as possible, especially if the decorations are accented with a few strands of lights wrapped around the plants in your yard.
The fewer holiday decorations there are, the easier it will be for you to rearrange them every week to avoid damaging your lawn.
But if you want all the holiday spirit with plenty of decorations spread around your yard, try to stick with lightweight decorations that are easy to manage. Blow molds tend to be lightweight and they won’t crush your grass as much as a heavier lawn decoration would.
7. Use Timers to Limit Foot Traffic
During the chilly weather that inevitably comes with Christmastime, you don’t want to have to dash outside at midnight to unplug your holiday lights. If you unplug your lights by hand every night, it might require you to walk across the grass to reach the outlet. This increases yard foot traffic.
Foot traffic wears a pathway in the grass and can lead to brown patches, especially for turfgrass types that have low foot traffic tolerance. Too much foot traffic thins grass when it grows back in the spring. In the worst case scenario, it can even kill your grass.
That’s where a timer comes in. You can pre-program timers to automatically turn outdoor lights on and off at specified times.
Additionally, electric lights heat up after a while, so leaving them on all night isn’t good for the grass. Keeping lights on for a limited time reduces the amount of heat generated by lights. Because you can skip leaving your lights on all night, it also saves money on electricity bills.
Reducing foot traffic also has a safety benefit, since you want to avoid tripping over all those hidden extension cords that might bury themselves in the dormant grass.
8. Use LED Lights
LED lights are safer than traditional incandescent bulbs and greatly reduce fire risk, since they burn cooler and they don’t generate as much heat. Using LEDs protects your grass from getting overheated and from being scorched by heat exposure.
LED lights are safer for your home and yard, especially if your area suffers from wildfires or long dry spells.
9. Check for Frayed Cords
There’s nothing better than getting to roast chestnuts over an open fire for the Christmas season, but you definitely don’t want the fuel for that fire to be your lawn. Old or new, make sure to give all electric cords a good lookover before you connect them to holiday decorations in your yard.
- After you pull all your decorations out of storage, check power cords for signs of fraying, damage, or wear.
- Even brand new lights need a thorough inspection to make sure that they aren’t damaged.
- If you store lights in the attic and you had an attic wildlife infestation earlier this year, be doubly cautious when inspecting your Christmas lights. Rodents love to chew electrical cords and they might have used Christmas boxes or cords as a snack.
- All outdoor lights should be designed for outdoor use. Don’t leave indoor cords outside, since they aren’t built to withstand outdoor weather.
Frayed electrical cords pose a fire risk, especially if you have a dry lawn or live in a region that frequently experiences droughts. Anything that looks damaged should be replaced or repaired immediately.
10. Place Inflatables in a Dry Area
Be careful where you locate your inflatables. Inflatables are prone to gathering water and getting soggy from moisture, so avoid placing Santa, a snowman, and other blown-up characters and decorations in an area of your yard where water gathers.
Here’s why: In areas that regularly receive a lot of rain, water might get trapped in the folds of an un-inflated inflatable. Too much moisture around your grass will leave it damp and soggy, which makes your lawn vulnerable to issues such as lawn pests or diseases.
To avoid soggy grass, place inflatable decorations on the higher parts of your yard so the water isn’t draining right to them.
11. Don’t Use Candles
Few things are as enchanting as the warm glow of candlelight, but candles are a fire hazard, especially if there is a lot of dry grass or fabric inflatables nearby.
A burnt lawn isn’t a very appealing Christmas present, so unless you want a black lawn for the holidays, don’t use candles in your decor. You can substitute battery-powered candles for real ones. Battery-powered candles are designed to mimic the natural flickering motion of a real candle.
Never leave a lit candle home alone either indoors or outdoors – make sure you always blow out a candle (or candles) before you and your family head out. Sadly, homes have burned down due to unattended Christmas candles, and we don’t want your Christmas festivities to start with your house catching fire.
FAQ About How to Protect Your Grass from Holiday Decorations
Will Holiday Decorations Damage Artificial Grass?
If you have an artificial lawn, crushed or browning grass isn’t something you have to worry about. However, don’t use decorations that require stakes or pegs in an artificial lawn. The damage to the turf will be permanent since unlike live grass, artificial grass can’t grow back.
How Do I Protect Outdoor Holiday Decorations?
Winter weather can be rough on outdoor decorations, between freezing rains, heavy snowfall, and gusty winds. Here are some things you can do to protect your outdoor decorations from the elements:
- Waterproof Christmas decorations by covering them with a sealant such as polyurethane or acrylic. This protects the decorations from moisture damage and sun exposure. Apply a thin coating (otherwise it will look cloudy).
- Secure holiday decorations to the ground with stakes or pegs to prevent them falling over or blowing away in the wind.
- Use zip ties to tie down light strands or loose parts of your holiday decorations to keep them fixed in place.
- Wrap cord connectors with electrical tape or wrap them in a plastic baggie to protect them from moisture. This seals off cord connectors and prevents moisture from getting inside. It also reduces fire risks by binding cords together and preventing them from pulling loose.
- Only use decorations and cords that are designed for outdoor use. Don’t use holiday decorations that are meant only for indoor use.
- A ground-fault circuit interpreter (GFCI) prevents shocks and shortages in your power system. Some city regulations even require homeowners to use a ground-fault circuit interpreter for their holiday display.
- Move your decorations inside to protect them if the weather forecast shows that harsh conditions such as hail or high-speed winds are about to hit your area.
Should You Mow Your Lawn Before Putting Up Holiday Decorations?
It can be helpful to mow your grass before you put up holiday decorations to give you a flat and evenly trimmed lawn. Overgrown grass will need to be trimmed before you set up your holiday lights. Homeowners should continue mowing grass until it goes dormant and stops growing for the year.
Can Stakes Damage Your Sprinkler System?
Be mindful of how holiday decorations are placed in relation to an underground irrigation system. An irrigation map can help you locate the layout of your yard’s sprinkler system so you don’t accidentally hammer a metal stake into your sprinkler head or pipes by mistake.
Protect Your Grass This Holiday Season
Celebrating the holidays doesn’t have to come at the expense of your lawn. There’s no place like home for the holidays, and that’s why we know how important it is to keep your home and yard in good shape.
All of the above are some easy ways to prevent holiday decorations from causing lawn damage, so don’t let the stress of keeping your grass green turn you into the Grinch.
If you need lawn care services, we can connect you with a local pro to handle your lawn maintenance chores such as mowing, dethatching, aeration, and more. Some lawn care pros even put up and take down holiday decorations.
Main Photo Credit: Danielle Gorski / LawnStarter