Assessing Post Winter Turf

Snow molds will be evident in most lawn areas early on as snow cover recedes. They occur in cool to cold weather, and are enhanced by snow cover. The more extended the snow cover, the greater the chance there will be snow molds present.

The two most common snow mold varieties are gray (Typhula blight) and pink (Microdochium patch). As there names suggest, the affected turf will have a pink or gray tint to them. All snow molds will appear as pale, matted down, crusty looking patches, varying in size. As snow melts away, a delicate, thread-like mycelium may be visible on the patches. Damage to the turf is generally limited to the top growth, which will be replaced by new growth emerging from the crown (or base) of the grass plants. In some isolated cases, some of the damage may be permanent, especially turf planted last fall. Fertilization, along with light raking or mowing of the turf will break up / air out damaged top growth and help the areas recover, especially once soil temperatures reach and remain above 50º F.

Depending on your location, rodent damage (field mice, moles) may be evident. They are able to move about freely under snow cover, protected from predators, and are moving away from buildings and plant beds in the early spring.

Field mice (and on occasion, meadow voles) damage appears as irregular, narrow channels that have been chewed out of the surface of the lawn, leaving behind clumps of clippings. Unless there has been damage to the crown of the grass plant, the damaged turf will gradually recover and fill in with new growth.

Moles tunnel below the soil surface, which can be felt as soft spots in the turf while walking. More unsightly are the tunnel exit dirt mounds that can be pushed out onto the lawn. Controlling or eliminating moles is difficult to say the least, with most of the products marketed for mole control are ineffective or time consuming endeavors that result in limited, if any success. In most cases, moles will move out of the lawn sooner rather than later on their own, looking for other food sources or habitats.

Dessication is a condition that causes a drying out of your turf or evergreen plants in areas that are exposed to wind or heavy traffic. This condition is more common in winters where there has been little or no snow cover to protect the lawn.

Clean up of the turf can begin once lawn is open, but avoid working if soil is very wet. We strongly recommend against heavy raking and/or mechanical de-thatching to avoid damage to both the turf and your pre-emergent control.

If your lawn has received the first treatment, delay clean up until after next rainfall or irrigation. Then, follow these guidelines for the best results:

  • “Air out” turf surface with light raking and/or mowing. Don’t try to rake out all of the dormant tissue as this
         will be mown off and replaced by newer, emerging top growth.
  • Sweep or blow off sand along edges rather than raking.
  • Turf pieces torn up by plows can be put back and tamped down where they will take root.
  • Remember - Power thatching could be detrimental to your crabgrass control. Spring loaded tine rakes
         that many landscapers attach to the front of their mower decks are a better alternative as they don't dig too     deeply

Dormant top growth and matted down
snow mold disease patches

Field mice "tracks" that have been chewed
out of turf canopy

Thread like mycelium associated with
gray snow mold