Prolonged snow cover may cause more than cabin fever. It can also hide conditions that may lead to gray snow mold. Luckily, there are precautions you can take now to limit or even prevent its appearance when the snow starts melting.
Gray snow mold is a fungal disease
Gray snow mold is a fungus which lives in the soil and on infected plant debris. It goes dormant in the warmer months, and becomes active as temperatures rise slightly above freezing and the snow starts to melt.
As snow disappears, straw-colored circular patches of dead and matted grass emerge. They often continue to grow as long as the grass is wet and cool, or until temperatures reach about 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Snow mold will typically appear in areas where you have snow drifts, such as the snow banks that build up from shoveling the driveway.
Mow your lawn after it goes dormant, and before the snow arrives. Turf that is too long bends beneath the weight of the snow, providing a perfect breeding ground for fungus.
- Dethatch to give your lawn room to breathe. Aerating will minimize the denser areas where moisture can build up.
- Use a slow-release, winterizing fertilizer. Applying too much of a quick-release fertilizer can burn your turf. This makes it more vulnerable to disease. Over-fertilizing with too much nitrogen is a common cause of snow mold.
- Practice good housekeeping. Give your lawn one last “sweep”. Remove leaves, larger grass clippings and other debris. These can hold in the moisture that causes gray snow mold to thrive.
- Winterize your lawn before the first frost. Timing is important. You want to prepare your lawn before it goes into dormancy and of course, before it’s covered with snow.
Don’t worry: Your lawn isn’t dying. Fungicides are generally not needed or recommended for home turf. Instead, gently rake and remove the dead or browned grass. Your lawn will green up with regular maintenance.
To prevent snow mold from taking hold again the following year, schedule a day or two in the late summer/early autumn to perform the preventive tasks outlined above. Turf which is in good condition prior to the first snow, and which is well prepared for winter, will emerge healthier in the spring.