A Mold for all Seasons: Winter – Snow molds.
People tend to only think about mold in warmer weather; the more humid times like spring and summer. Why would they think about mold in the winter? Freezing weather, snow, and ice kill things like bacteria and fleas, right? However, winter doesn’t stop mold.
Snow mold is a type of fungus and a turf disease that damages or kills grass after snow melts, typically in late winter. There are many different kinds of snow mold- pink snow mold, grey snow mold and more.
Grey snow mold is commonly found in those turf areas of greatest snow accumulation, such as along driveways or over the brink of a hill where snow drifts tend to accumulate. The most notable symptoms are white crusted areas of grass in which blades are dead, bleached, and matted together. These bleached areas range from several inches to several feet across. The chief diagnostic feature of grey snow mold is the presence of hard pinhead-sized fungal bodies called sclerotia. These light to dark brown sclerotia are embedded in the leaves and crowns of the infected grass plants.
The good news if you get grey snow mold is that it doesn’t affect the grass itself. So, grey snow mold may make your grass look really ugly, with colors and spots of yellow, white and/or brown. But, it’s not a permanent disaster! Your beautiful, green grass and lawns can be resurrected without some TLC (tender love and care).
Pink snow mold is the super bad guy of the snow molds. Pink snow mold doesn’t just destroy the grass blades but gets down and dirty. This particular snow mold attacks the roots and crowns of grass which leads to far more problems than just an ugly looking, brown yard.
Now that we know what snow molds are, it’s time to discuss how to prevent them. Both can be prevented using the same measures, but there are cases where if pink snow mold grows you will have to use more aggressive treatments.
Mold is relentless and perseveres! Mold growth can occur no matter the season. It’s just as important to watch and prevent mold in cold weather as warmer weather and humidity. Snow mold actually even exists in the summertime. It is just dormant during this season, and why grass and lawn maintenance is so important in the summertime. Maintaining your lawn and grass in the summer time by doing things such as mowing and raking is a way to keep the snow mold at bay and reduce the amount lying hidden in your yard. Both grey and pink snow molds are able to survive the summer months. Grey snow mold (also called Typhula blight) is caused by Typhula spp., while pink snow mold (also called Fusarium patch) is caused by Microdochium nivalis. Grey snow mold survives hot summer temperatures in the soil or in infected plant debris, while pink snow mold survives as mycelium or spores in infected plant debris.
A spore is the walled, single- to many-celled, reproductive body of an organism, capable of giving rise to a new individual either directly or indirectly. Essentially the germ, germ cell or seed of a plant.
Mycelium is the plural of mycelia, the mass of hyphae that form the vegetative part of a fungus. Some people consider mycelium synonymous with fungi, and it IS close so it’s easy to see why. Compare mycelium to mushrooms to better understand what they are. When growing mushrooms, prominent yellowish threads or veins are a sign that the mycelium had started to grow and been killed.
Raking and mowing your lawn may not be enough for preventative care. Chemicals may be required. Manage the thatch layer to avoid accumulations of more than ½ inch. Fungicides are a popular method of chemical care to prevent pink snow mold, which you use to treat your lawn right before the first big snowfall. Fungicides are biocidalchemical compounds or biological organisms used to kill or inhibit fungi or fungal spores. For grey snow mold, you can use fungicides but the most effective way is raking to promote drying and prevent growth.
Once the snow has fallen, you can still take preventative measures. Our primary concern in cities and neighborhoods is plowing the streets and shoveling driveways, sidewalks and more. However, this creates huge piles of snow that take longer to melt and make great little homes for breeding more mold. The best practice is not to pile large amounts of snow in one area if you can help it.
If it’s too late to prevent snow molds – here is how you can treat these menaces.
First, rake out remaining snow piles or places where ice covers the lawn. This will help the remaining snow and ice melt quicker. Then use a lawn rake to fluff up the grass in the areas affected by the snow mold. If you wish, you can aerate the lawn. These two things will help air circulation that in turn will help the lawn dry out and breath, which should lead to a slow but steady recovery.
According to the Best Green Services for “Recovery – The lawn has dried and there is presence of snow mold. It’s Okay.” The Snow Mold fungus, for the most part, is only a cosmetic issue. With regular fertilizing and proper mowing, the disease should go away on its own in a few weeks. Remember, the disease is only affecting the grass blade at this point. Fertilizing will help it push new growth and “outgrow” the disease. Think of it like getting a nick on your fingernail. The nail will wear the sign of the nick until it grows long enough and is cut off. There are a few things you can do to expedite the recovery process. Take a gentle rake to the affected areas. Be careful not to tear out all the grass. Remove the excess “brown” grass into a dust bin or yard waste bag. Raking the loose grass out with allow air to circulate the affected area and fluff up the recovering turf grass.
On the bright side, if your lawn and grass is victimized by one of these snow molds, you can visibly see the areas most targeted by these bullies. You will have a better idea which areas to really treat, monitor and maximize your preventative care methods.