February’s temperature and snow forecasts vary greatly. This situation has really played havoc on our lawns. This mild weather pattern this winter may cause problems with your lawn this spring.
The good news is that people who applied grass seed this fall had an extended period of time for turf establishment and growth. The bad news is you needed to continue to mow your lawn a few weeks later than you normally would. This is always good practice to avoid snow mold problems; we’ll discuss this subject more below. There is more bad news, since the growing season was so long, nitrogen reserves have been depleted. Since the grass kept growing, the lawn kept using the fertilizer you applied last fall. Many lawns even suffered from a lack of “lawn food” from Thanksgiving on. This would have been a good year to fertilize in September and again in November. Rust and powdery mildew started to break out in December. Rust disease looks “orangey” on the blades of grass like metal rusting and powdery mildew looks like you sprinkled baby power or spray painted your grass blades white. The simple way to combat these diseases would be to lightly fertilize which you could not do due to various state lawn fertilizer laws outlining “black-out” dates restricting lawn fertilizer applications. This lack of nitrogen reserves to grass plants may also contribute to red thread disease problems next spring. If snow mold is present this can make matters even worse. We’ll discuss some plan of action-solutions to counter these disease potentials below.
Did you remember to clean your leaves off of your lawn this December? I hope so or snow mold may come visit your lawn even if it doesn’t snow. How can that be? If you did not mow your lawn shorter than usual for your last mowing, excessive leaf matter may promote snow mold if the proper conditions are present. When there is lots of rain but little or no snow how can snow mold appear? You do not need snow for snow mold to appear, you need frozen ground. In the last few years, snow mold spores have been well established in the soil. When soil temperatures start to rise in early spring snow mold has a good chance of breaking out in your lawn. If you have a history of snow mold, you could apply a lawn fungicide labeled for use on snow mold in late fall to help prevent further winter damage.
What’s the solution? Fertilize your lawn as soon as you can after your states “black-out” dates or in New Jersey after March 1st with Green-Up Lawn Fertilizer. Follow up 4 to 6 weeks later with Crabgrass Preventer plus Green-Up. This fertilizing program will help the lawn “grow out” of its winter diseases. This will then allow you to start mowing earlier in the season to help alleviate lawn diseases. Prepare to re-seed damaged areas in early spring. You could try a “snow-frost” seeding. You apply grass seed over existing snow cover and the seed will work its way into the soil and germinate when temperatures warm up. This is a good way to crowd out weeds too.
If we continue with this mild weather pattern throughout winter be prepared for more problems with your lawn later this spring. This short winter dormancy will not kill off as many weeds and insects. Therefore, we can expect more insects and weeds this spring.