As fall kicks into high gear, now is the time for homeowners to begin to put their lawns to bed for winter and prepare them for a flourishing spring. One of the primary fall lawn care practices that homeowners need to be careful of is over-fertilizing as applying too much fertilizer can lead to snow mold, a lawn’s worst nightmare. This fungal disease transpires in the early spring as the snow melts and appears as pink, circular patches of dead and matted grass. When it comes to fertilization, less is more. Fertilizer overuse is undetectable, and once turf grass goes dormant, too much fertilization can cause it to absorb too many nutrients and grow when it doesn’t want to.
- choose the right fertilizer
- mow before the snow
- dethatch the lawn
- be prepared
- know the different types of snow mold
- let leaves pile up
- use too much nitrogen
- fertilize too late in the fall
- forget to prepare your lawn
- use fungicides
Although quick release fertilizer may be more appealing as it is less expensive, it can be very dangerous if overused. When applied too heavily, quick release fertilizers will damage the grass by burning it. Instead, it is widely advised that homeowners purchase slow release fertilizer of 50%; although it may be pricier, it releases nutrients over a longer period of time, sometimes for up to two months, and is therefore a much safer choice. Slow release fertilizer also ensures that none of the Nitrogen is lost to leaching. Use a fertilizer that has a high content of Potash (K) 6% to 12% in it to help the plant over winter better.
When your grass is extra long, it becomes a breeding spot for snow mold. Cutting it a little shorter than usual before the snow arrives can help prevent snow mold. Cut the grass shorter in the last few cuttings to help prevent winter damage as it will help the turf stand up like a wire brush, instead when it is long it lays down and is crushed by the snow and ice.
Thatch does develop naturally as the lawn grasses grows. While having some present can help protect the roots, a dense mat of it can become a breeding ground for snow mold. It is recommended that homeowners dethatch their lawns before winter.
If you wait until the last minute, it might be too late. If the snow comes unexpectedly before you are able to prepare your lawn it is too late to fertilize even if the frost has melted off. The lawn will have by that time stored all the carbohydrates. Fertilizing after the first frost has come is a waste because the plant won’t be able to use the nitrogen.
There are two types of prominent snow molds. One is grey snow mold and the other is pink snow mold. The treatment for both is fairly similar by ensuring you spring rake and remove of the matted turf. With warmer weather the turf should grow back in, but may be thinned out for some time before it fully recovers.
A thick pile of leaves will increase the opportunity for grey snow mold to form. It is recommended that you use your lawnmower to mulch leaves into the lawn.
Also, don’t forget to pick up the clippings late in the fall if you leave a lot on the lawn because they will not break down very easily. You may need to bag them if you leave a lot on the top of the grass.
ests have shown that two-thirds of high-nitrogen fertilizers either runoff or vaporize without impacting the grass, which is both a waste of money as well as an environmental hazard. Therefore, it is recommended that homeowners apply no more than one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn to avoid overtreatment.
Don’t fertilize too late in the fall, especially after the first frost because the turfgrass plant by this time is already shutting down. Also, make sure you fertilize at least a month before temperatures start to turn cold and the grass starts to get ready for dormancy. Over fertilizing in the fall will also cause snow molds in the spring.
Snow molds will only occur after prolonged snow cover, which typically takes you right into the spring. There is no way to remove it if you have a year with light snow. If it snows and disappears due to warm weather multiple times, you likely won’t have snow mold. Typically, snow mold is most active where snow banks form from shoveling your driveway or areas where snow drifts may form.
Fungicides are used in golf courses, but not that practical in lawn care because it is very expensive for homeowners. It is much easier to follow the instructions of not over fertilizing.
The most important thing to consider when preparing lawns for fall and winter is the element of time. As long as each task is completed at the proper time of year and as instructed, avoiding snow mold should be a breeze.