It should be to no one’s surprise that winter conditions could threaten the health of a lawn. However, some novice lawn care enthusiasts may not understand exactly what the affects of cold temperatures, snow and ice can have on a lawn.
Snow, ice and freezing rain left on grass for a long period of time can damage or actually kill warmer season grasses and the root systems of this and other grasses. When ice settles on cooler season grasses it can make the blades brittle and easy to break. In fact, lawn care experts advise that you limit activity on cooler season grasses in this condition to avoid damage.
Winterkill can result in blotchy patches on your lawn as it starts to green. That’s because some locations take longer to thaw due to lack of sunlight or a larger collection of snow or ice. If this is a common experience, then it is possible that the effected area is low lying and should be leveled out so the damage won’t happen again.
Although it is true that the grass is dormant during the winter and may appear dead, the luscious green will return come spring. However, to assure this you need to provide fertilization and nutrients when you are advised to do so.
All sorts of other issues may arise during the winter season. For example, sections of your lawn may experience loss of moisture due to the weather. Snow and ice can block moisture from reaching the roots causing desiccation. Moreover, a fungus known as snow mold can develop under the snow. In addition, badly timed fertilizer application causing a flush of growth of the grass to late in the fall, a cover of leaves and long grass can cause the appearance of the fungus. Although it is active during the winter and spring, it can remain if not properly treated.
There are two types of snow mold –- pink snow mold and gray snow mold.
The color of the pink snow mold can be dramatic against the green color of the lawn. It starts out white and has a web-like mycelium or fungal cover that coats the surface of the grass. Ultimately, a pinkish or salmon-colored ring will appear around the edge of the circle.
Gray snow mold doesn’t appear as dramatic as pink snow mold probably because the color is very similar to the color of the snow. It threatens the aesthetics of the lawn and affects the blade tissue instead of the roots and crowns of the grass.
Both kinds of snow mold result in yellowish brown circular patches as the colored mycelium on the grass dries out in the sun.
Snow mold doesn’t appear every year. Instead, it is most common when an early, deep snow prevents the ground from freezing.
The damage caused by snow mold is not serious. It is said that the effected areas are a little slower to green up.
Gently rake the affected areas of the lawn to promote recovery. This will help the area to dry and will prevent further growth of the fungus.
Snow mold can be prevented. However, you need to properly prepare your lawn for winter. Actions you can take to avoid the problem include:
· Not fertilizing with excessive amounts of nitrogen in the fall.
· Cleaning up leaves in the fall.
· Prevent the accumulation of more than 2-inches of thatch.
Fungicides are available to prevent and treat the mold. However, they really are not necessary because the damage caused by the mold is usually superficial and temporary.
Although it is true that it looks nasty in the early spring, most snow mold damage will recover. Once the effected area dries, the mold will disappear and the grass will renew itself and grow.
If you wish to speed up the process of recovery, then lightly rake the area to promote drying.
If the damage remains, you may have to do some over seeding and if the damage is extreme, topdressing may be necessary and you may have to repair the area as you would a bare patch.