Snow mold is one of the most devious diseases that plague lawns. Why? Unfortunately, many homeowners don’t realize they have a mold problem until it’s too late. Thankfully, there are measures you can take to rectify the damage caused by snow mold. Keep reading to learn how to identify, treat, and prevent his annoying lawn disease.
You might think that the cold temperatures prevent problems like mold, mildew, and fungus. They go dormant in winter, right? Not necessarily. In fact, snow mold is caused by a fungus that thrives in cold weather. When the snows melt in spring, this fungus leaves you with damaged circular patches of grass. The mold accomplishes this by using all that snow as a home. And while it’s not a guarantee that snow mold pops up every winter, certain conditions make it very appealing for the fungus.
Snow mold is most likely to occur when the earth hasn’t completely frozen but receives heavy or deep snowfall. All that sudden extra weight pushes down the grass, which is vulnerable already at this time of year. Winter brings moisture loss and wind damage. And it might not only be snow pressing down on your lawn. Grass clippings, un-bagged leaves, and other organic debris can all contribute to damaging your lawn. All that debris and snow create pockets of moisture insulated from the cold. Since the ground isn’t completely frozen, the residual warmth rises beneath the snow, and now you’ve got a dark, moist environment – perfect for fungi and mold to thrive. And that’s precisely what happens. The mold will set in, and you often won’t notice it until the snow has melted in the spring. Snow mold comes in two varieties: gray snow mold, also known as Typhula blight, and pink snow mold, also known as Microdochium patch or Fusarium patch.
The most significant indicator of snow mold is straw-colored circular patches that appear after snow melts. These patches could be only a few inches in diameter or as large as several feet. The infected grass will be severely matted down and crusty looking. The patches will be grayish-white if gray mold is the culprit, while pink snow mold creates pink-white patches. Of the two types, pink snow mold is more aggressive and damaging. It can kill both the crown and roots of turfgrass, which means you might have to replace the dead grass with overseeding or sod. Gray snow mold typically only damages the blades of the grass, leaving the root system unscathed.
Like many topics in the yard care department, the easiest way to treat a problem is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Keeping your lawn mowed properly, well-watered, and timing fertilization applications keeps your grass in peak health. Note: avoid quick-release high-nitrogen fertilizers before winter. Instead, opt for slow-release fertilizers that will dissolve slowly over the whole season. Plants need nitrogen, but too much in late fall is an open invitation to snow mold.
If you haven’t already given your lawn the final cut of the season, you’re just asking for mold problems. Tall grass will attract pests like fleas and ticks as well. Set your mower so that it’s 1 – 1.5 inches shorter than you typically would mow, but not so low that it scalps the lawn. Also, don’t allow fallen leaves to accumulate. Rake them up, blow them away, or mulch them – just don’t let them sit on the lawn.
Healthy grass is more resistant to pests and diseases. However, if snow mold does manage to set in, you can treat it with topical fungicide applications. If you’ve had trouble with snow mold in the past, it’s actually a good idea to treat your grass now, in November, so that the product can set in before winter returns in full force. You should also apply fungicide in the spring and de-thatch your lawn. Thatching the lawn helps prevent too much moisture from lingering near the roots and developing mold issues.
When snow does arrive, be mindful of how you plow or shovel. You should clear your sidewalks and driveways, of course, no one is arguing that, but when doing so, be careful not to pile the snow into large piles. Keeping it dispersed evenly will prevent all that extra weight from pushing down on the grass and creating an insulated area where mold can thrive.
If you’ve lost grass to snow mold, don’t worry. Ask your lawn care technician which grass seed blend is best for your lawn and overseed the affected areas. This will thicken up the yard in no time! In a few weeks, you won’t be able to tell where the damaged areas were.
Don’t surrender your lawn to the onslaught of snow mold. Keep your turfgrass healthy and vibrant with help from Lawn Lab. Our lawn care program nourishes your grass with nutrients, so it has a high tolerance against diseases and stress. We time our visits throughout the year, so your lawn is never starved for minerals. Let us put our lawn care services to work for you! Give us a call at (972) 287-7400, or you can send us a message through our online form here.
And be sure to check out our other blog posts! We share articles twice a month and cover a wide range of topics, from lawn care to tree and shrub maintenance to pest control.