OMG! Winter is the absolute best, am I right?
No. I’m wrong.
I wish I wasn’t because I love all those postcardy bits of Christmas more than most kids do, things like candy canes and Christmas trees and ski slopes or ice skating rinks and throwing snowballs at random people in the park and then pointing at my sister with Meryl Streep acting skills — but winter still sucks because it sucks for lawns, and my job life is lawn care and this winter could bring a massive chunk of snow, which means snow mold. Hint: it could kill your grass this winter.
Now, you probably won’t know your garden is being attacked by this seasonal disease until spring comes back around and you’re staring at patches of discoloured grass. That is snow mold, and it begins to reveal itself as soon as the snow cover starts to melt, and then it’ll continue to laugh in your face for as long as the weather stays cool and damp.
The good news is: these discoloured spots will start to disappear as the weather warms up and dries out.
The bad news: we live in England, where it’s wet and cold, and so these snow moldy spots could stick around all summer long, and beyond. So, here’s what everything you need to know about snow mold.
What Exactly Is This Lawn Care Grinch?
Snow mold is basically a Christmas-ruining, fun-sponging, fungal-based lawn disease that comes in two main forms: gray snow mold and pink snow mold (no points for guessing what colours they are). But what makes them so nasty is their undetectable life-cycle.
The Life Cycle of Snow Mold
The reason this fungi is so hardcore is the way it can remain inactive for so long, hiding away in the soil, its structure and spores able to resist the scorching summer temperatures by not actively spreading. Then, when late-winter arrives, these spores go into attack mode under the cover of snow and freezing conditions, like marines on an arctic mission — and this fungal infection can continue to spread even when the snow has melted away because you need warm and dry weather to halt it completely.
Which One is Worse: Pink or Grey?
Oh, man, this is a ridiculously close call — a photo finish of sorts — but pink snow mold pips it to the post as it’s slightly more tenacious with an ability to keep spreading as long as the lawn is moist and temperatures are low-ish, which just about covers our year-round climate in the UK.
The Damage It Does
To kick things off with a bit of festive cheer, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll have to deal with snow mold every year. That said, if you have nothing else to do and want to watch your lawn closely, you’ll probably notice that snow mold is most obvious come spring, months after the snow first fell, which is because that snow covered the ground before it was fully frozen – when it was still moist. Then when more snow fell, it created a sort of snuggly duvet that meant your soil was the perfect place for fungal growth to do its thing, which sucks. Thankfully, those snow mold spots you may see dotted across your lawn come spring don’t tend to be serious, just really unsightly. A couple of weeks-slash-months of sunshine and warm weather, and these gross areas will turn a lush shade of healthy green again.
Organic Treatment is The Best
Treatment No.1: The secret to helping your lawn recover quickly is to help your lawn dry out faster, and that’s best done by gently raking any damaged spots to aerate your lawn.
Treatment No.2: Another organic move you can make is to start removing any thatch that’s more than ½ an inch thick. Just make sure you wait until your lawn has dried out and been mowed at least a couple of times so that your (or my) dethatching machine isn’t damaging any new grass blades comes the spring.
Treatment No.3: When you get your mower out, set the deck slightly lower than normal and mow at that height until your snow mold is no longer actively spreading. The reason for this is taller grass blades are able to hold more moisture, and that is what encourages this fungal disease to spread. You might also want to remember this come next autumn because mowing your grass blades shorter then will reduce the amount of moisture in your lawn before winter and any dreaded snowfall. Oh and remember to bag up your grass clippings so they don’t encourage snow mold too.
Treatment No.4: Rake the leaves off your lawn in autumn to prevent this debris from trapping any unnecessary moisture. Simple.
Treatment No.5: This may sound counter-intuitive, but try not to create large heaps of snow on your garden paths and driveways either. It’s a much better idea to become a snow-clearing legend and spread any snow out evenly so that it melts faster and holds less moisture during those prime months for fungal activity.