We're into August and heading towards "The Final Hurdle," as Ete refers to this last push in the struggle to keep lawns healthy through the summer. What should your expectations be for your lawn during this time of year? What sort of problems should you be watching out for right now? What specific steps can you take to help your lawn get through? Ete discusses this and more in this episode of Eco Lawn Science.
Grey/Pink Snow Mold is a lawn fungus that many in Utah will see over the next few months. Find out what it is, what causes it, and what you can do to prevent it and save your lawn.
Hey, Hey, what is up everyone? This is Ete with another episode of Eco Lawn Science. Today we're going to be discussing a fungus called snow mold, gray or pink snow mold. Sounds really fun. I know you're all excited. But you know what, I see it out there and I want to talk about it cause it's coming up soon.
So we're here in late January and as the snow begins to melt, which in Utah, that is early March generally, and in some parts–Salt Lake area, early March–you may see these little colored circular patches. They could be a few inches to a few feet wide underneath the snow. The grass looks kind of straw-ish. And the circles, when you go to touch them, it's usually matted down and they're kind of crusty. And you may say, what the heck is happening on my grass? It could have some fuzzy little gray hairs or pink hairs, some mycelium over the damaged area, but it's matted down and the patch, if you're standing up, you know, if you're just standing there looking down, it may have a gray or a pinkish appearance or hue, this is called gray or pink snow mold.
If you have a heavy snowfall before the ground completely freezes in the fall, if you have an extensive snow cover in the winter and sometimes it can happen without even any snow, just really the way the ground freezes, you could have snow mold. One of the things is the weight from the snow on the grass combined with the moisture. And then often if there's debris in the lawn that was left, so if you left leaves, dead grass, things that weren't picked up before winter and then that snow just sits on it, this fungus could be brewing and then you won't see it until the snow melts.
Usually this damage is not fatal for grass. It just kills the blade. The pink snow mold can kill blades as well as the crown and roots. So sometimes a more severe case, you can really cause damage. But most of the ones that I see, it bounces back. It just needs a little bit of love, a little bit of attention, a little bit of identification, and then bounces right back. You generally do not need to use a fungicide. It can heal itself with a little love. But if you've got a chronic every year, the same problem, the same spot, you may, do look into it and if you need a fungicide, the best time to apply is going to be in the late, late fall before the freeze. So the best way to treat this is really, it's a prevention. Then there's the fungicides in the spring you're gonna put down.
But what you want to do is you want to remove all the dead debris, that falls, you know, trees, et cetera, that falls before the ground freezes in the fall. And you want to watch out for high nitrogen fertilizers in the late fall before the winter. This could actually contribute to you having this fungus in the spring. So of course on the topic, and I've done an episode on, you know, should I leave my leaves on the lawn? The short version is if you do, you better, they better be fine and shredded and tiny. Otherwise this could contribute to the snow mold. Most cases you're going to want to remove most of those leaves.
So what happens? The snow comes, you know, the ground, we get the snow before the ground properly freezes: just one of the few causes to this. Anyway, you come into the spring and the snow melts, you're ready and excited about your lawn and you've got these pink grayish spots. They're matted down, they're kind of, they got the straw look to them. Here's what you do. Soon as you see it, you want to get out a rake, a soft rake. You don't want to get a hard rake, and start ripping out the soil and disturbing things. Just get a soft rake and kind assist it in freshening up the area, you know, just run it back and forth a few times, get any loose debris, any junk out of there and just kind of rake it so that... Help the grass stand up and have fresh...allow air and oxygen to get down to that root zone. You can also do a spring aeration, again, that can help loosen up some of the air flow and that will help as well. And sometimes...I also recommend, sometimes an aeration can help loosen up the oxygen and decrease the fungus, the issue that it has.
If you have a really bad case and it's just killing off, like we said, sometimes the pink can attack the, the crown and the roots of the grass. You may want to just get a stronger rake, a dethatching rake or a little dethatcher if it's a large area, run it over, pull it out, clean it up, and then put some overseed in early in the fall. And that will help to kind of fill it in. But most cases, a soft rake, you know, clearing the area of debris will really help and allow it to just kind of work itself out.
As far as a life cycle. The fungi remain inactive in the soil in the form of a resistant fungal, a spore can easily surviving the high summer temperatures, but they're not active so you don't see it, right. So, if you have this constantly the fungi can be in the soil and then it just comes activated by all the snow and the things we've talked about.
And then you'll notice it in the spring. When the snow cover melts, the active fungal infections will continue to thrive and spread until the surfaces dry out or the temperatures are steady above 45. So again, get air to it, allow it to dry, freshen it up with a rake. You know, get some sunlight on those, on the area. And you should, for most of the times, maybe 8 out of 10 you've solved your, your gray or pink snow mold problem. The other, very few times you may have to look at applying a fungicide in the fall.
So that's it. It's not too bad. It's not too deadly of a fungus here in Utah, but be aware of it, know what it is, make sure you can see it, identify it, and then do what I have said to help, to help prevent it from spreading and you should be good. Hope you guys have a great day and I'll see you on the next episode.