Many are wondering what sort of impact so much snow will have on the average lawn come spring. Generally, a decent snow cover protects your lawn from the drying winds and low temperatures common to winter weather. However, if that same snow becomes compacted by use such as walking or driving; the grass can be damaged while in a dormant state. Winter-kill or winter damage can often be attributed to ice formation or compaction through use. New grass planted the prior season is especially vulnerable since it has not had a chance to mature which may result in thinning or dead patches from a harsh winter.
Snow mold is a more widespread problem resulting in various degrees of turf damage and thinning. As snow banks recede and the weather warms in March, snow mold can thrive on the surface where the moisture level is just right and the temperature remains cool. Snow mold has a tendency to matt down grass which is why a gentle raking is so important to help dry out the lawn surface once the sun comes out. Improving the air circulation at the ground level and helping warm the soil through raking is a basic, yet important spring time task.
Grass which is severely stressed, or perhaps growing in the shade may in fact be further damaged by a pre-emergent crabgrass barrier while in a weakened state. Most manufacturers of crabgrass barriers recommend a reduced rate or waiting until recovery has begun in May versus a March or April application. In some situations, providing a basic natural or slow release fertilizer can speed up the recovery time as the soil warms and the material gradually takes effect versus a quick flush of growth from conventional fertilizers. Since there are many variations to winter kill, ice damage, and snow mold within the same lawn and surrounding neighbors- a single solution is often not practical. Each lawn should be evaluated individually, not treated with a cookie cutter approach where one product fits all situations.
So, before you apply a hundred pounds of fertilizer mixed with a crabgrass preventer this spring- consider the additional stress you may add to an already weakened lawn. If you have thin or bare sections created from snow mold or winter kill, once that crabgrass barrier is down, there is no turning back and no seeding until fall. There is a saying that goes something like “think twice, then think again, then act once” . . .