Posts Tagged ‘winter damage’

Spring Lawns After a Harsh Winter

Unusually large amounts of snow and a late winter thaw can spell trouble for home lawns in VT and NH.  Massive piles of snow and ancient icy banks are determined to persist well into late April.  Slow melting ice and snow is anything but good news for grass buried deep beneath the arctic wasteland we call home as temperatures remain far below average in the last days of March.  The real damage from the copious use of rock salt will become apparent as the snow recedes, exposing brown and yellow patches along walkways and driveways.  Pieces of turf now flipped upside down lie like fish out of water from plow damage after each successive storm in what has been called a “real winter”.  Cue the spotlight on snow mold as the cold temperatures, with just the right amount of humidity, are ideal for this disease to thrive.  Pink and gray snow mold may be widespread and hamper the ability of your lawn to recover successfully from the trauma dealt by Mother Nature.  If I had a batman lamp, I would surely turn it on and point it into the night sky; our lawns need help.

Help our lawns
Fear not, Mr. Grass is here and although not a super hero, I am well versed in the green art of lawn care and helping the innocent lawns which have been beaten down from a harsh winter.  You can help your lawn immediately by breaking up piles of ice and snow, scattering the chunks onto warmer surfaces to melt; a driveway or patio perhaps.  The faster the snow goes, the quicker the soil will warm and awaken your dormant lawn into recovery mode.  If there are excessive leaves, debris, branches and other objects, try and remove them before the lawn begins growing to prevent mulching and unnecessary damage.  This is especially true of gravel and rocks that may have been pushed up and onto lawn surfaces from winter plowing.  Rake and remove any gravel and sand from your lawn.  If you do have visible turf chunks, help them by flipping the root surface over and put it back on the ground so when growth occurs, some root regeneration can occur.  Leaving chunks of lawn in pieces lying on each other will also damage the healthy lawn below; acting as mulch.  This phenomenon is especially true as things really warm up and the grass begins to grow again.

Big pile of snow
Additional winter recovery can be obtained by firing up the friendly soil micro-organisms with compost tea, a high quality lime, or fertilizers.  I do not recommend heavy dethatching because the damage inflicted may well thin out or even kill portions of your lawn under such stress.  I do recommend lightly raking out any matted snow mold and ice damage which will speed up the drying process, warm the soil, and promote new root and shoot growth.  Your lawn will need extra help this spring so plan on doing your part.  As your lawn recovers, using crabgrass or other broadleaf weed controls become more practical as tools to protect future infestations.  Good luck and may the temperature rise in your neighborhood creating more green and less white!

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A brief commentary on spring lawn seeding

 

Spring lawn seeding can be done in a single spot or an area providing a quick way to repair plow damage and dead spots from the winter, or damage incurred in the drought of 2012.  If done correctly, spring seeding can help restore otherwise lost grass area adding to summer enjoyment.

Spring lawn seeding can help repair plow damage

Spring seeding can normally be done once the ground warms until early-to-mid June if properly done and with appropriate weed suppression.  Spring seeding takes a second seat to fall seeding due to reduced crabgrass and weed pressure in the fall.  Fall seeding affords warm soils and fast germination without crabgrass or annual weed choking out new growth.  However, with special treatments, spring seeding can be successful if done carefully and with the proper grass blends.

Regardless of how you fix your lawn, the grass types installed are critical toward long term success.  All grass blends are not created equal and you get what you pay for in terms of age, weed content, and site specific blends, be it drought-shade, sun, play or other locations.  Cheap grass seed and a lack of foresight is a common error in repairing or installing a lawn.  What appeared to be success can quickly turns to brown grass and defeat.

Full lawn installations are best saved for early spring or late summer into fall due to generally favorable weather.  Small repairs can be done anytime during the year but keep in mind, you will have weeds and crabgrass of varying population levels.  These weeds can be treated with a variety of specialty sprays but these are not inexpensive and must be done properly with qualified, licensed turf companies like Chippers.

Watering is the second most important factor in achieving good germination and helping establish a new lawn.  Without water, your seed will stay dormant and cannot germinate.  If you water in the beginning and then stop, the shallow rooted seedlings may perish within days without an adequate supply from rain or irrigation.  Try and water in the morning and late afternoon in the absence of rainfall to keep the seed alive and improve both germination and growth performance.

The overall success of your seeding can be summed up by two main factors; watering and seed type/quality.         

 

 

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Spring lawn care issues

As the snow recedes after our snowy winter, snow mold and mice damage may appear on your lawn as common spring lawn care issues.  Snow mold is a common turf disease and can range from visually unappealing to damaging with actual turf loss.  Snow mold can appear on the surface of your lawn even with no snow in some circumstances.  You will either see a pink or gray color, especially in the morning or with cool, moist conditions in March or April.  Once dry, the affected grass becomes matted, kind of like pink eye, all crusty.  I took the picture below of pink snow mold yesterday.  Another area was matted and dry, requiring a light raking to break up the old matted leaf blades so air and sunlight can hit the soil and speed up recovery.  Lawns with a severe case of snow mold should not receive an early crabgrass barrier.  Applying a crabgrass barrier with a severe case of snow mold will place unnecessary stress on your already weakened lawn, often promoting less recovery and/or thinning.  Your best option is to lightly rake a lawn with severe snow mold which will promote new growth.  This can be done in conjunction with a natural or organic fertilizer treatment followed up with crabgrass suppression in May.

 

snow mold on lawn in spring

 

Mice damage is another spring issue and is typical if the lawn is left too long going into winter.  Mice will feed on the surface leaves under the snow causing surface tunnels, as illustrated in the picture below.  Some turf damage may result if the base of the lawn is eaten, down at the crown level.  As the soil warms and your lawn starts to green, only then will you know if recovery is possible.  A simple tip to help reduce mouse damage is to mow your lawn short for the final cut of the season, down to 1-1.5”.  Be sure to mow your lawn if it is long in April to 2” and/or rake out the damaged areas to help promote recovery while applying an organic or natural fertilizer.

 

mice damage on lawn in the spring

 

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