The First Disease of the Year
Your lawn was perfect last fall. You spent all summer tenderly caring for your grass.
You faithfully watered it during the hot, dry periods. You mowed at the right height, making sure you never removed more than 1/3 of the grass blade when you cut it. You contracted with a reputable lawn care services company to apply the right fertilizers and weed control products to make your lawn healthy and beautiful. You had the best lawn in the neighborhood and were darn proud of it.
As fall came, you made sure the leaves were removed as soon as possible, and you even invested in lawn aeration to improve rooting and keep the thatch layer at bay. When the first snows came, you were confident that your lawn was strong enough to survive the tortures of winter. The snow came, as it usually does, and turned your lawn white. You were not worried, as you knew you did everything you could possibly have done so that your lawn will be as green and lush in the spring as it was the previous fall. But, when spring arrives you look through your window at your grass and your’re mortified at the sight of your lawn.
There are large patches of blighted, straw-colored grass covering half of it. You rush out the door and get down on your hands and knees – not to pray to the mighty lawn god, but to inspect your disfigured lawn. The grass is a pale yellow color and appears ‘glued’ together. Your worst fears are confirmed – it is (gasp) Snow Mold!
What is Snow Mold Lawn Disease?
Snow Mold lawn disease can infect most all types of grasses that must endure a period of freezing temperatures and snow cover. It is often the first disease of the year and may cause your lawn to have an unsightly appearance, especially after the snow melts. Snow Mold can even develop without snow cover. If it is cool, rainy, and overcast, then the disease can become active and affect the lawn.
Types of Snow Mold
There are two types of Snow Mold. One is Gray Snow Mold or Typhula Blight, and the other is Pink Snow Mold or Microdochium Patch. They have similar visual symptoms, but each affects the lawn in a different way. The control of either lawn disease may require a combination of methods. In severe, recurring cases, a combination of chemical, cultural, and biological controls may be required. In less severe cases, a light raking of the affected area may be the best answer.
Controlling Snow Mold Disease
Controlling either of the grass diseases is easy if the infection is not severe. A light raking of the matted area will loosen the grass and allow the new plants to grow. Be sure to rake lightly, as the ground is usually very wet and the existing grass can be easily raked up. In severe infestation, raking is also recommended, but on a larger scale. It is not advisable to use a power rake as it may also damage the existing grass.
Preventing Snow Mold Disease
Preventive maintenance before lawn repair is needed is usually the best answer when dealing with most diseases. This is true for Snow Mold. Follow a balanced fertilization program that provides the necessary nutrients at the appropriate times of year. Thatch management is another important key in Snow Mold prevention. Practice core aeration of your lawn at least once a year to keep thatch levels below 1/2″. Another important factor is mowing the grass short before winter. Cut the lawn to 1-1/2 to 2” at the last mowing. This should be a gradual process and not a one-time exercise. Lower the height a notch a week until the mower is set at 1-1/2 to 2”. This will prevent the turf from laying over on itself, increasing the chance of Snow Mold.
If You Have Snow Mold
If you do have an outbreak of Snow Mold, it is a good idea to reduce any piles of snow that may remain, especially in shady areas. The longer the snow remains the more moisture and cool temperatures are present. Applying a chemical disease control material to grass already damaged by Snow Mold will do little to change the severity or need for lawn renovation. Most of the chemical controls should be applied in the late fall as a preventative treatment. Contact your local county extension service for the products recommended for your area.
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