What Happens to Your Lawn During the Winter Months?

What Happens to Your Lawn During the Winter Months?

What Happens to Your Lawn During the Winter Months?

PART 7 – SNOW MOLD DISEASE

Snow mold is a fungal turfgrass disease that commonly affects lawns in early spring.   The Symptoms and visual damage are very evident as the snow melts away and brown matted down circular patches of turf ranging in size from a few inches in diameter to over one foot cover the lawn.   Depending on the severity of disease activity, these patches coalesce together and form bigger patches when the conditions are favourable for the disease.

Snow Mold Damage

Snow Mold Damage

There are two types of snow mold disease that affect turf.  Pink snow mold also commonly referred to as Fusarium Patch, and Gray snow mold also known as Typhula Blight.   Pink snow mold poses a greater risk for more severe damage and can be identified with the distinctive pink coloured mycelium.  Damage to the roots, crowns and leaf may cause plant death and require renovation to bring back the lawn in these areas.  Unlike pink snow mold, gray snow mold mycelium is greyish white in appearance and requires snow cover for infection to occur.  Damage is usually only minor on the leaf blades and the turf can generally recover on its own from this damage.

Spring Snow Mold Damage

Spring Snow Mold Damage

Most of the turf species that make up a home lawn including Kentucky Bluegrass, Fine Fescue and Perennial Ryegrass are all susceptible to snow mold.   Although preventing snow mold disease can be tough, a few things to consider before going into winter to better prepare the lawn include:

  • Proper Fertilization (avoid applying excessive nitrogen)
  • Mow the lawn at the recommended height until it stops growing
  • Rake up leaves, clippings and other debris before snow cover
  • Core aerate and remove undesirable thatch accumulation

Although the appearance of the lawn with snow mold can look rather rough, this typically only lasts for a couple weeks until the lawn wakes up from dormancy and begins greening up and growing quickly.  As the lawn begins to dry up, lightly hand raking away the brown matted down areas can also help speed the recovery process up.   If more severe snow mold damage has taken place beyond just cosmetic, aggressive renovation practices may be required to repair these areas.  Cultural practices such as Core Aeration, Overseeding, Topdressing and Slitseeding can help with this.

What Happens to Your Lawn During the Winter Months?

What Happens to Your Lawn During the Winter Months?

What Happens to Your Lawn During the Winter Months?

PART 2 – SNOW COVERAGE

Depending on what part of the country you live in, the amount of snow coverage and the length of time the lawn is covered by snow can be significantly different region by region.  The majority of Canada with the exception of the coastal regions in British Columbia regularly experience consistent snowfall and snow coverage for the better part of 3 – 4 months (specifically December through March).  With that being said, these areas can be faced with winter kill damage that’s caused by snow coverage.

Generally speaking, when a lawn is covered with snow vs. not being covered during the harsh winter months it is usually regarded as a positive considering the lasting effects other factors can have on a lawn.  Consistent snow coverage acts similar to a blanket and helps insulate the grass plants and their roots from cold temperature extremes.  Exposure to these temperature extremes, combined with wind, ice, and freeze/thaw conditions can be very damaging without snow coverage.

Although snow provides protection against low temperature kill, wind desiccation, ice damage, and crown hydration, conversely snow coverage can help contribute to the likes of snow mold disease, and vole damage.  The same blanket effect that acts as a positive insulating the lawn as mentioned earlier, can have a negative effect providing optimal conditions for snow mold disease to transpire, and voles to tunnel their way across the lawn.  Prolonged snow coverage directly contributes to both Pink and Grey Snow Mold Disease.  The damage caused by snow mold is generally not considered severe and often times looks far worse than it really is.  The lawn typically recovers on its own in the early spring with minor renovation practices required only for the areas worst affected.

Snow Mold Damage

Snow Mold Damage

Vole Damage is another common problem that can be an un-pleasant surprise after the snow cover melts in the spring.  Voles tunnel along the surface of the lawn protected by the snow coverage and create turf damage from the surface tunnelling traffic and by feeding on the grass plants tissue.  Voles do not feed on the roots or crown of the grass plant and therefore the damage they cause is not considered severe and recovery can take place on its own or with minor renovation practices.

Vole Damage

Vole Damage

What Happens To Your Lawn During The Winter Months?

What Happens To Your Lawn During The Winter Months?

What Happens to Your Lawn During the Winter Months?

 PART 1

Have you ever thought about what happens to your lawn over the winter months when it is covered under ice and snow?  Or wonder why the lawn looks so bad in the spring after the snow melts when it looked so good in the fall?  Or Better yet, all the work you will need to do this spring to quickly get the lawn looking its best again?

To help answer these questions, it is important to outline what can and commonly does happen to your lawn during the winter.  Secondly, determining the what, where, why, when, and how things take place and the damaging effects they can have on your lawn is equally as important.   Understanding this can provide helpful insight on what can be done to help prevent these things from happening next winter, and help determine what course of action might be required to fix your damaged lawn.

Measuring Snow Coverage

Measuring Snow Coverage

Winter Kill is a common term used to describe turf damage that takes place during the winter.  A number of factors and a variety of conditions can contribute to winter kill resulting in moderate to severe turf damage depending on the circumstances.  Most people assume winter kill only happens if and when snow is covering the lawn.  This is not true.  Lawns covered with snow for months at a time certainly do see their fair share of turf damage, but snow alone is not the only factor that causes damage.

Highlighted over the next several blog posts, I will outline some of the most common types of winter damage and the steps to help your lawn recover if and when they do happen.  These include the following:

Snow Coverage

Ice Damage

Crown Hydration

Desiccation

Low Temperature Kill

Snow Mold Disease

Salt Damage

Vole Damage