Now that spring has finally arrived and our lawns are starting to green up, this would be a good time to take a walk around your lawn to see how it fared the winter. Your lawn has a number of winter enemies. Some are mechanical, some are chemical and some are diseases.
The most obvious, if you had a plowing contractor, would be divots in your lawn. Divot damage depends on how much snow you had and how frequent and how deep it was. If you had just a little snow, the plower could likely push the snow to the side without having to push it on to the lawn. When we have a lot of deep snow, the only place to put the snow is in the lawn. This is when divots from the edges of the lawn end up in the middle of your yard. The easiest fix is to replace the divots just as you would on a golf course. If that is not possible, the lawn edges will have to be renovated.
Chemical damage is usually the result of road salt. Salt, sodium chloride to be exact, is very toxic to plants. When spread on the road, salt mixes with the water it creates from melted snow and ice. Passing vehicles then splash it on adjacent lawns and other landscape plants. If the grass in your tree lawn (the area between the curb and sidewalk), or even further into your front yard, is brown and appears dead, wait for the rest of the lawn to green up before taking any action. If that grass is dead, rather than just dormant, it will have to be replaced. I suggest replacing it with a hardy mixture that can withstand the onslaught of salt water. The good news is that some highway departments have turned to ice control products that are less toxic to plants.
If you have brown spots or patches in your lawn, they indicate the presence of a fungal disease. Brown patch is one of the most common. Look for six inch to 20 inch diameter patches in which the grass is brown. It may have a purplish-gray “smoke ring” border with green grass in the center.
Dollar spot is another common turf disease. Shapes are irregular on most lawns, but are silver-dollar sized on really short grass like putting greens. Look for white cob-webby fungus on dewy grass. If you look closely, the grass blades should have straw-colored lesions with reddish-brown borders.
You will know you have a disease called fairy ring if you have an arc or circle of lush green grass and/or toadstool or puffball mushrooms. There may also be a ring of dead grass. Fairy rings usually occur in the same place each year, with the ring expanding outward.
Leaf spot is the last fungal disease, and infests lawns most during cold, wet, overcast weather in spring and fall. Look for gradual browning and thinning of grass. Small, dark- brown, purplish or purplish-red colored spots may also appear on the leaves from the early spring to late fall. As these lesions increase in size, their centers may fade to a straw or light-brown color. The spots are usually surrounded by narrow, dark, reddish-brown to purplish-black borders.
If you have any of these diseases, the first thing to do is to rake out the dead grass. If the area is small, the healthy grass will fill in the open areas. If it is larger, you will have to reseed. Don’t apply a fungicide because they are not effective against lawn diseases. Rather, be judicious in your fertilization and watering. Most fungi thrive in a high nitrogen, wet environment. If mushrooms are present, manually remove them, especially if you have pets or small children, since these fungi may be poisonous.
When reseeding, use a fungus-resistant variety and overseed the whole lawn. Also, mow high. Set your mower at about three inches.
If you need help nursing your lawn back to health, just contact our office and talk to one of our lawncare professionals.