A Winter That Just Won’t Let Go

article written for www.patch.com

I have lived in New Jersey my whole life and barely remember a winter as treacherous as this past one. January just kept dumping snow on us every week and February gave us the frigid cold. Now into March we have a bit of a thaw and most of the snow seems to be gone, at least temporarily. After looking at snow-covered landscapes for nearly 8 weeks we now have something new to look at thanks to this past winter… Snow Mold!

Compacted snow, which set its base just after Christmas, didn’t have a chance to melt until recently. As a result, many of us are now left with a white mold that has been likened to “cooked spinach” on our lawns. Despite the best efforts by lawn professionals this gray-white mass is popping up almost everywhere and to no ones fault but Mother Nature.

Late winter or early spring we are beginning to see dead, matted grass in rough circular patterns measuring between 3 & 12 inches in diameter. Pink, Gray and speckled molds may be evident right now. Gray mold (Typhula incarnata) rarely does damage to your turf nor does speckled (Typhula ishikariensis). However, the pink (Microdochium nivale) could cause damage to the turf by invading the crowns and roots of the plant. Moist, frigid temperatures perpetuate these molds and snow cover greater than 40 days or leaf drop not picked up only feed this issue. On a positive note, however, these fungi are usually more threatening to you visually.

Thoughtful lawn care applications can deter these fungi from invading your lawn.  That being said, I still have a serious issue on hand at our house this year it appears. Habitual lawn cuttings ending in the fall seems to help deter the problem. Fall fertilizing is not only thoughtful for your lawn it also seems proactive here as long as it’s done 6 weeks prior to the plants dormancy and is not high in nitrogen. Couple this with a preventative fungicide treatment, thiophanate-methyl, in October and you will have done all that you can potentially do. Finally, whenever possible, avoid piling snow in one area as you shovel as this will only contribute to the problem.

Rake away any dead, matted foliage you see early this spring, reduce your thatch layer to less than ½ of an inch and consider aerating your lawn to reduce the impact of snow mold. Continue with a thoughtful lawn program considering an early nitrogen boost, spot seed with premium mixtures and you should be fine. Good luck!