Posts Tagged ‘snow banks’

Prepare your lawn for spring in NH & VT

Soon my friend, soon you will cut again!

Spring is technically only a mere 4 weeks away on the calendar!  Although you are not likely to be planting any vegetables or flowers outdoors close to March 20th, the countdown to spring is on.  In the world of grass, those pesky snow banks are likely to linger well into April in our geographic region.  One can almost taste that first day when the air temperature reaches the mid or upper 50’s only to be surrounded by dark, crusty black snow banks.  Your first instinct may be to grab a rake and cleanup some of the debris left by winter wind and snow plows.  Raking even a small portion of your lawn can be therapeutic, signaling the end of white and the beginning of green.

Further raking will assist in air circulation and a drying of the lawn surface where snow mold, ice, and mice may have caused damage.  Removal of surface debris such as gravel, leaves, and branches will allow sunlight to warm the soil which will in turn stimulate green leaf blades in your lawn.  You may find mole hills as they search for insects and their favorite meal worms- in the top 6 inches of the soil.

Be careful not to apply a crabgrass barrier too soon or at a heavy rate in the spring to damaged or diseased turf.  Such an application can have an adverse affect on recovery and spring seeding/repair plans.  In addition, an early crabgrass barrier will run out of steam that much earlier in the summer, potentially giving rise to annual weeds and crabgrass in July.  One option is to lightly fertilize with a compost tea, sea kelp, or a pure blend of straight fertilizer to enhance recovery in April.  If “crabgrass control” is still a necessity, you still have plenty of time in May to apply such a product and maintain decent suppression.  As always, the best defense against crabgrass or even broadleaf weeds is a thick, healthy lawn resulting from proper cultural techniques in addition to turf health care treatments.

If you have not aerated your lawn in the past few years, or don’t even know what core aeration is, consider aerating this spring.  Core aeration is an effective way to help reduce compaction/thatch while increasing air, moisture, and nutrient availability to the lawn.  Heavy duty commercial grade aerators do a marvelous job at removing plugs and depositing them on the surface due to their heavy weight and large tines.  Overseeding after an aeration is a terrific time to thicken up those thin or weak areas in your lawn.

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What large piles of snow mean to your lawn this spring.

Snow banks promote turf damage

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” . . .

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