If you're like most of us in Minnesota, you are enjoying the effects of a warm spell that has banished most of the snow in your yard. Even though we had some record snowfalls, all that is left in my yard are the remnants of the snowbanks deposited by the snowplows. And, with the change to Daylight Saving Time (note it is Saving, not Savings!), I had the opportunity to walk around the yard and see how things survived the winter, which is the best thing you can be doing right now, too.
I'm glad to report there are no major limbs broken on any of the trees from excessive snow and a few of the tulips and daffodils are starting to push their way above ground. We'll see how they fare in the upcoming weeks - I'm sure we're due at least another snowfall and some colder temps. One thing that did take a beating this winter is the lawn - not surprising, since we had some heavy snowfalls before the ground really froze and the grass went completely dormant for winter.
As I checked out my lawn and the lawns in the neighborhood, we all suffered from a little to a moderate amount of snow mold and some were quite matted down because they didn't continue to get cut at the end of the season. I didn't have any matting, but I continued to cut my lawn until all the leaves were off the trees, primarily to mulch the leaf drop into my lawn. Even if you aren't mulching your leaves into your lawn (you should, by the way) you should still cut your lawn into the fall, until we get some heavy frosts and the grass has definitely stopped growing.
OK, so what is snow mold and what can you do about it? As mentioned above, snow mold occurs when there is heavy snow fall or covering, often in areas were snow is dumped or in shady spots. The occurance is much higher when we get snow cover before the ground freezes and a layer of moisture is trapped on top of the lawn. You usually start to notice snow mold as the snow recedes.
At this time of year, you can only repair the damage. Lightly rake the areas when they are dry using a leaf rake, not a garden rake or thatch rake. The grass plants are already pretty weak in the spring and being too vigorous in your raking can be more damaging. Raking will help break up the matting and improve air circulation at the surface of the lawn, removing the excess moisture that spreads this problem. If large areas are affected, you may need to overseed to help fill in the damaged area.
There are a few things you can do to minimize the possibility of snow mold, but since we don't control the weather, don't expect to escape it completely. First, do like I do and continue to cut your lawn all the way through fall. You can reduce your frequency of mowing, but don't stop until we get some hard frosts and all the leaves are off the trees.
Next, be make sure your lawn has good drainage. If moisture sits on your lawn and doesn't soak in, your likelihood of snow mold will increase. Aerating your lawn once or twice a year will help improve drainage.
The last thing you can do is to strengthen your lawn so it will recover quicker if there is damage from snow mold or a harsh winter. The best time of year to fertilize is the fall, while the grass plants are extending their root systems. Mulching the leaves into your lawn is a great way to feed your lawn, but some properly applied late season fertilizer may be necessary, too.
As always, if you have questions about your lawn or yard, please give us a call and we'll be glad to come out an help you develop a maintenance plan that meets your needs and your landscape's needs.