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 8 – VOLE DAMAGE

Damage from voles can be a very unpleasant site in the spring when you see your lawn for the first time in months after the snow melts.  To make matters worse, vole damage seems to appear that much more dramatic when it’s combined with all the other conditions affecting the lawn that go along with winter including snow mold disease and winter kill.

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Vole Damage Tunnel

  Voles are small rodents very similar in size and appearance to mice.  They are herbaceous and tend to be prevalent in areas situated in close proximity to areas with suitable cover including wooded areas, parklands, bushes and shrubs, and tall grasses.

Vole

Vole

Vole damage is commonly most prominent during winters with long continuous periods of snow coverage.  The snow provides the voles with a sense of protection from natural predators as they can move about freely under the snow cover without exposure to the outside.

 

Voles tunnel along the surface of the lawn protected by the snow and create turf damage by feeding on the grass plants tissue and also from continuous “wear” from the traffic of tunnelling back and forth across the lawn.  Voles do not feed on the roots or crown of the grass plant and therefore the damage they cause is usually not considered severe.

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Vole Damage to a Lawn

Recovery can often take place on its own when damage is minor by simply lightly raking up the areas of matted down turf.  When damage is more severe and the tunnelling has been extensive, a more aggressive approach including overseeding, topdressing, and slitseeding may be required to repair the damage.

voletunnels

Vole Tunnel Closeup

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