With snow on the ground, it may seem like spring is a long ways away. However, the days are getting longer, the sun is shining more, and soon the grass will be peaking through the piles of snow. So, what should you expect to see and how do you care for your lawn in the early days of spring?
As the snow melts, you’re likely to see a few things winter has left behind.
- Straw colored patches – this is likely snow mold. Snow mold is a disease that is active under the snow. It causes the grass to turn a bleached color and mat over. It is a foliar disease meaning it infects and kills the grass blade and not the plant. Products can be applied to the lawn in the fall prior to snow fall to limit the extent of this disease. In the spring, the best action is to lightly rake the areas to allow air and nutrients to reach the soil and to remove some of the dead tissue. With time, the lawn will recover from this.
- Straw colored lines – this is likely vole damage. During the winter, voles create tunnels under the snow to move from place to place. They use these tunnels over and over instead of digging new tunnels, which wears out the grass on the path. The grass will recover, but like snow mold will take some time. Raking these areas will also stimulate them to recover more quickly. Next year, you can limit vole damage with the application of a repellant before the snow falls.
- Brown grass along the road, driveway, and sidewalks – this is likely salt damage. Road salt used to keep ice off paved surfaces can have a detrimental effect on turfgrass. The salt dries out the leaf blade causing the brown appearance. Unfortunately, salt will enter the soil, knocking nutrients off and changing soil chemistry. This can make it difficult for the grass to grow in the area. Using plant-safe ice melt products can reduce salt damage. In the spring, if you see large piles of sand/salt, it is best to rake, shovel, or vacuum up it up to reduce the amount of salt going into your soil. Additionally, the use of fertilizers, seed, and soil topdressing may help the area recover more quickly.
- Large brown patches in low lying areas of your lawn – this is likely ice damage. On warm days during the winter, snow melts and the water flows to the low points of your lawn. At night and on cold days, this water will freeze. Freezing water causes the grass tissues to rupture and leads to death of the plant. Prevention involves re-grading your lawn to eliminate the low areas and aerating to increase water flow through the soil. In the spring, the best way to get recovery in these areas is to seed them.
- Your lawn is not greening up as fast as your neighbors – you likely have a different variety of grass. Like humans and animals, there are many different species and varieties of grass. Some green up quickly and others green up more slowly. Unfortunately, many of the darkest green Kentucky bluegrass varieties are slow to green up in the spring. Further exacerbating the problem is most sod is grown using these varieties, so newly sodded lawns are likely to have this problem. The best way to get your lawn to green up this spring is to wait. Dumping fertilizers on the lawn won’t have the desired effect and will just pollute the environment. In the future, you can consider overseeding with different varieties to create more diversity and achieve earlier spring green up.
Getting your lawn off to a great start in the spring often starts with what you did in the fall to prepare it. There are two very important reminders for the spring.
#1 Patience is key. A warm spring day makes it feel like everything should be going full blast. But, in the Midwest, our soil freezes and it takes a lot of warm days for it to heat up. Your lawn needs warm soil to grow actively and recover from winter damage.
#2. Wait to rake your yard until several weeks after the snow is melted. Raking when the soil is still cold and wet can rip up live plants, including those that look brown early in the spring. Raking too early will leave your lawn with bare spots, which could cause a longer recovery time than necessary. Brown grass is just something that happens in the Midwest. With a little time, the lawn will be green again.
Our team of experts can identify these winter problems and provide solutions to get your lawn going again. Give bioLawn a call if you’re in the Twin Cities area and have winter scars that need help.