Snow is an inevitable part of winter in the midwest, and there are clear benefits and drawbacks of snow blanketing your lawn. To help ease your concerns about the adverse effects, and give credit to the advantages, let’s talk about how snow impacts your grass.
Overall, the snow that falls during the winter has some advantageous effects on your lawn. It helps protect and nourish it, even though it seems innocuous to many of us.
On the flip side, snow can also have negative impacts, especially if there is a heavy snowfall or too much snow piled in an area. The weight of heavy, wet snow may cause the grass’ crown to break, and the roots may die. It’s also critical to watch for pooling water and observe how it drains when the snow begins to melt. Ideally, you want the water to seep into the ground uniformly and not concentrate in one spot.
Using a snowblower on your lawn also poses problems. Heavy snow blowers can compact the soil under the tires if the ground isn’t frozen. If improperly used, augers can damage the grass, and the skid plate can gouge into the soil.
Ice, in contrast to snow, is almost always problematic. However, it does get credit for adding extra moisture to the water table when it melts and soaks into the ground.
First and foremost, the sharp ice edges rip the grass blades, making them more susceptible to disease problems. But the more damaging aspect is when the grass is coated in ice, carbon dioxide builds up underneath the ice layer. In high enough concentrations, it becomes toxic to the plant and retards plant growth.
Dealing with ice and getting it melted off of your lawn also poses problems, especially if you opt to use ice melt chemical compounds. A big concern with ice melts is the chemical salts draw moisture from the grass, causing desiccation.
Other adverse effects depend on the ice melt formulation and ingredients.
Many products are formulated using chloride, which has significant disadvantages. While chloride is essential for plant growth, too much causes necrosis of the blade margins and tips. Chloride is also dangerous to pets and corrodes concrete and metals.
When using ice melt compounds, always check the formulation and use it sparingly to minimize the harmful side effects.
Another big problem with snow is a fungal disease known as snow mold. It is a cold-weather fungus that commonly occurs if a significant snowfall occurs before the ground is frozen. A layer of snow creates a perfect environment between the grass and snow for fungal spores to grow. The damage appears when the weather warms, and the snow melts.
Snow mold appears as gray and pink spots on your grass with a cobweb-like goo that turns into dead, bleached, or matted patches of grass. The pink areas are caused by Microdochium nivale, also called Microdochium patch or Fusarium patch; the gray mold is from Typhula incarnata, also called Typhula blight. Pink snow mold is more severe than gray—it kills the crown and roots, while gray snow mold only affects the blades.
Unfortunately, no fungicides work on snow mold once the snow melts in the spring. The best prevention is to aerate your lawn in the fall to open up the soil and improve drainage, remove any leaves and lawn debris before the snow falls, and apply a winterizing fertilizer.
Surprisingly, snow can help when seeding your lawn. In a process known as dormant seeding, grass seed is scattered on top of the snow. When the snow melts, it spreads the seed evenly and provides the water needed for germination. It is the most effective when conditions aren’t extremely harsh.
Hire a professional lawn care company to take care of your winter lawn care needs, and save yourself some time. Ryan Lawn & Tree has over 35 years of experience in lawn maintenance and offers our services throughout every season. Contact us today to find out more about our services and how we can help your lawn to thrive.