If you’ve ever watched one of the many home renovation programs on television you’ll know that the big moment at the end is called the “reveal.” That’s when the homeowners are ushered in to see the finished job. Depending on the circumstances reactions can range from a subdued “Isn’t that nice” to screams and tears.
I suspect that many homeowners will be reacting, not necessarily with screams and tears, but with some emotion this spring, when their lawns are “revealed” as the snow finally melts away.
I’ve had many surprises in years past after the snow disappears off my lawn; my children’s toys, garden hoses, onions harvested and left to cure, piles of debris from flower borders and sprinklers come to mind. But I’ve never had snow mold, until this year.
Snow mold is a fungal disease of lawns that is common in many areas of the country where snow lingers for several months. The fungi responsible are often present in lawns, but they only become active when conditions are moist and temperatures are around the freezing point for a long period of time.
This is certainly what has happened this winter. Usually with open ground the turf has a chance to dry relatively quickly, but the snow has been covering it since early December, an unusual occurrence in the valley bottom. Daytime temperatures have been just over zero for several weeks, not changing much underneath the snow.
My lawn has four distinct brown patches right now, ranging in size from dinner plate to garbage can lid size. If I looked closely I’d see very fine grey or pink fungal growth around the outer edge. It doesn’t look very good.
The location of my lawn is such that it’s normally free of snow very early and the turf dries quickly, so if there is snow mold here, there’s sure to be snow mold in many other locations once the ground is clear.
The good news is that it won’t be fatal to the lawn. Rake up the dead grass from these patches, water and fertilize as normal and the turf should come back just fine. If it doesn’t you may need to re-seed the affected areas.
If similar conditions happen next winter (who knew we’d have snow on the lawn for three months this winter?) snow mold will be back. Here’s what you can do to help prevent reappearance.
Don’t fertilize the lawn with high nitrogen fertilizer later than August 15. Soft and succulent grass tissues are more susceptible to attack.
Mow the lawn in the fall at the regular height and keep mowing into October. Long grass that becomes matted under the snow is much more prone to snow mold. Rake the leaves off the lawn too.
Try to avoid walking on the lawn while it’s covered with snow, and remove snow that has been shoveled onto lawns by spreading them out in early spring to melt quicker