Those unsightly patches of pink or gray spring snow mold on your lawn are not what usually come to mind when the spring thaw indicates it’s time to get rid of our “winter grays” and prepare for spring. However, dealing with this problem early can allow you to get on with enjoying green grass and a colorful landscape as the weather warms. If you have a caring and experienced lawn care service, you can get through this ugly period together and with minimal damage and unsightliness to your yard.
Much of the country was pummeled with snowfall this year, making it hard for spring warmth to evaporate the moisture fast enough. This saturated condition of what was once your beautiful lawn has become a “petri dish” in which those nasty pink and gray snow molds thrive.
With an understanding of what this seasonal mold actually is, it is possible to take preventive steps to keep the problem to a minimum and use appropriate methods of dealing with those specific sections that require more aggressive control.
“What are pink and gray mold?”
While it might seem fun to grow fungi like Portabella or Shitake mushrooms, most people don’t know that snow molds are their kin. Pink snow mold is caused by a fungal pathogen called Microdochium nivale and gray snow mold is caused by Typhula incarnata.
Snow molds develop in spring or fall after cold, wet periods that saturate the soil. Heavy rains in autumn when the temperatures are chilly can cause the spores to spread under the detritus (such as those piles of leaves that collected in the low spots or blew up against the house) and then lie dormant under the winter snow until it melts, giving the perfect cool, moist conditions for growth spurts.
You’ll recognize pink and gray snow molds by their distinctive circular splotches of matted grass. These “spots” can range in size from a few inches to a few feet in diameter. They will be matted in the center and have a “tinge” of pink or gray around the perimeter.
The good news is that they will usually become inactive once the weather turns warm and dry; especially the gray mold, which generally only affects the blades of grass, not crowns. The good news is that there are both preventative and remedial actions you can take.
“Not in my back yard!”
Preventing a bad situation is always easier than remedying one. There are some simple measures you can take to reduce the likelihood that mold will get started in the first place.
- PLANT THE RIGHT KIND OF GRASS: Planting grass that is resistant to snow molds is the best chance at predicting a healthy outcome for your lawn after winter’s snowfall. The “right” type for your particular soil and uses can best be determined by your lawn care professional, who will be familiar with your specific needs, location, and sun exposure.
- AVOID OVER FERTILIZATION: Nitrogen promotes green growth, so your grass blades will grow thick and your lawn will be lush. But too much nitrogen, especially in the fall, can create the moist condition that allows the snow mold to thrive.
- MOW FREQUENTLY ENOUGH: Mowing on an appropriate schedule and at the proper height will allow air circulation that inhibits mold growth.
- FILL IN THE LOW SPOTS: The water will drain from higher elevations and pool in the low spots, taking debris and mold spores to their optimal condition to reproduce.
- REMOVE SNOW ASAP: Get the snow off your lawn as quickly as possible so the ground doesn’t sit wet and cold underneath it.
- DON’T SPREAD IT: The mold spores can be transferred on gardening tools or on your shoes, so simply take care not to walk on those nasty patches and clean off any shovels, rakes, or other tools that touch the diseased spots so as to avoid spreading it to uninfected areas.
Your lawn care professional is the best specialist to help you maintain this preventative routine.
“Get this weird gunk outta here!”
If you want a “Hank Hill” kind of lush lawn in early spring and aren’t willing to wait for the ugly discolored patches to retreat on their own, there are remedial solutions your lawn care professional can identify to eradicate the mold in tough areas.
One method is to rake the affected areas so that the matted center is removed and air and sunlight can get into the crown. Once the moisture level is stabilized, the affected areas can be replanted or reseeded.
Less is more when it comes to harsh chemicals, and there are simply too many factors involved for the novice to know the best safety practices and precise doses of these powerful substances. To get rid of molds, a fungicide combination of a systemic (absorbed throughout the “plant”) and contact (which coats the leaves, or in this case, blades of grass) controls is the best combination for the best results.
These fungicides can have a detrimental effect on the environment, especially near aquatic areas such as ponds and streams, and MUST be applied according to state law. Also, these simple fungal organisms can rapidly adapt, making subsequent applications less and less effective. To that end, our recommendation is to hire a knowledgeable lawn care service that understands the proper legal and safe use of chemicals around you, your pets, and your lawn. Leave the “eradicator/terminator” type duties to the people with the latest knowledge and safest equipment. Use your own precious time and energy to plant a new tree rather than tackle the nasty jobs.
Pink and Grey Snow Mold | Green Bay, WI | 920.434.7918