Vail Landscape Logic column: Snow mold and lawn damage
February 21, 2016
Along Colorado's Front Range and at higher elevations, snow mold may be a an issue this year because conditions have been nearly ideal for it to develop. It shows up as circular patches of straw-colored grass that appear dead, and the patches may cover large areas of lawn. The affected areas may also be covered with gray or white webbing.
What is it?
Snow mold is a fungus, commonly called "gray snow mold, that develops after 40 to 60 days of snow cover and when temperatures are around freezing. This is how the winter and the snow have stacked up along the Front Range this season.
At higher elevations, it will likely be a few weeks before temps hit the warmer range — but areas with snow cover may still be susceptible. Areas where snow has been piled on top of the turf from shoveling or plowing will be most vulnerable.
When does it appear?
After snow thaws, the damage will be seen in dead-looking patches of grass that will be unsightly. The damage is more cosmetic than permanent. Affected areas of the lawn may take considerably longer to green up in the spring, but ultimately, warmer temperatures will deal with the fungus. Fortunately for many property owners, some of the most common Colorado lawns — Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescues — are the most resistant to this disease.
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How should you deal with it?
The dark, wet and matted condition of the grass underneath the snow have been ideal for fungus growth, so the No. 1 recommendation from turf experts at Colorado State University is simply to rake the areas lightly with a leaf rake. Gentle raking helps open up the matted turf and promotes drying, which will help prevent additional growth of the fungus.
Fungicides are not recommended because they have not proven effective and because Mother Nature deals with the problem in due time. If there are areas of dieback in the lawn, they can be reseeded in the spring.
Steps to avoid snow mold
• To reduce the amount of deep and long-lasting snow cover that sits on lawns, avoid piling snow on the turf whenever possible during snow removal. Also avoid piling snow on lawns on north sides of buildings and in other shaded areas because snow in the shade will take longer to melt.
• In the fall, mulch fallen leaves on top of the turf with a mower or rake/remove excess amounts of leaves. Non-mulched leaves left on the lawn will create a wet mat just as snow cover does, and the fungus may also feed on the leaves. For these reasons, fall leaf mulching or removal is an important deterrent.
Being rid of damaging snow mold is another reason to be thankful to Mother Nature when she returns the warm days of spring.
Becky Garber is a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at 970-468-0340.