What Is Snow Mold?
Most signs of spring are the welcome kind, including buds, blooms, warmer temps, and green grass. But gray-colored circles on your lawn? Not so much. Snow mold is caused by cold-weather fungi that primarily affect cool-season grasses. Signs of a problem aren’t noticeable until the spring when the snow melts.
What Causes Snow Mold?
A heavy blanket of melting snow may look really pretty, until it you see the damage it can do to your lawn. Snow mold is most problematic when you receive a heavy, deep snowfall before the ground has completely frozen. All that weight on fragile grass plants, coupled with lots of wintertime moisture, not to mention cover from leaves, long grass, and lawn debris, spells trouble in the form of snow mold. There are two types of snow mold: gray snow mold (also called Typhula blight) and pink snow mold (also called Microdochium patch or Fusarium patch).
Signs of Snow Mold
Signs of both pink and gray snow mold are usually most noticeable in the spring when the snow begins to melt. As the snow melts, straw-colored circular patches ranging in size from a few inches to several feet across appear in the lawn. The grass in these patches is usually matted down and crusty. The patches will have a grayish-white appearance if they are caused by gray snow mold, or a whitish-pink appearance when caused by pink snow mold. Pink snow mold can be more severe than gray snow mold, as it can kill the crown and roots of grass plants; gray snow mold usually only affects the grass blades.
How to Treat Snow Mold
The key to beating snow mold is prevention, as there are no fungicide treatments that work on snow mold in the spring when the snow melts. If you have repeated issues with snow mold in the spring, you can apply a preventative application of Scotts® DiseaseEx™ Lawn Fungicide in fall (usually around Thanksgiving) before the first heavy snowfall.
If you don't apply a preventative fungicide in fall and you find snow mold damage in your lawn in early spring, the first thing you’ll need to do is gently rake the affected areas to loosen any matted grass. This will help the lawn dry and give unaffected grass room to grow.
Repair & Reseed
In spite of your best efforts, dead, dying, or discolored grass may never recover its healthy appearance. In that case, any damaged areas should be repaired using a patching product like Scotts® EZ Seed® Patch & Repair, as soon as the weather permits.
How to Prevent Snow Mold
- Mow Before the First Snow: Extra-long grass is a breeding ground for gray snow mold. Make your last cut of the growing season 1 to 11⁄2 inches shorter than usual (but be careful not to scalp the lawn).
- Don't Let Leaves Pile Up: Because a thick layer of leaves creates a welcome environment for snow mold, use your mower to mulch leaves into your lawn.
- Dethatch: A thick thatch layer produces an ideal home for snow mold to develop. If your lawn’s thatch layer is greater than 3⁄4 inch thick, dethatch in the fall to help prevent snow mold from developing during the winter.
- Go Easy on Nitrogen: A fertilizer containing readily-available nitrogen is great for fast greening, but too much, especially late in the season, can invite snow mold. Instead, apply a slow-release lawn food like Scotts® Turf Builder® WinterGuard® Fall Lawn Food.
- Apply a Preventative Funcigide: While the appearance of snow mold in your lawn is completely dependent on the winter weather, if it has become almost an annual nuisance, you can help prevent it by applying Scotts® DiseaseEx™ Lawn Fungicide in the fall, after your last mowing and before the first significant snowfall.
- Don't Let Snow Pile Up: Snow mold develops under snow cover. When clearing snow from sidewalks and driveways, avoid creating deep snow piles in the lawn that will take a long time to melt when the weather warms.