It has happened, the first frosts of the season. It’s a bittersweet time for every gardener as we look back at our successes and failures throughout the growing season. However, now is the time to start planning for the next year. As we get busy with fall gardening chores, it’s easy to forget about the lawn, but there’s still a few things we need to do.
As the weather cools and daylight hours shorten, some grasses go dormant before others. This can lead to brown patches in your yard. This is a fairly common occurrence, especially if you have a mix of grass species making up your yard. For example, I have a large patch in my front yard where a removed tree stump was planted over with a different mix of grasses from the rest of the lawn.
One of the main problems facing lawns over the winter is “snow mold”. Snow mold is caused by a number of fungal infections that can take hold during the winter. It is characterized by brown to silver patches that tend to be circular. Lawns left too high for winter, along with leaf debris or excessive thatch are prime candidates for snow mold growth.
Avoid snow mold development by cleaning up leaves (they’re garden gold) and removing other debris. If your lawn is tall, one last mowing might be in order before winterizing your mower. Also, avoid packing snow on the lawn during the winter. Slowly melting areas are more prone to snow mold growth.
Another problem that can show up during the winter is damage from voles and field mice. I’ve been fighting voles in my backyard for the last couple years. These critters will leave a series of winding trails in the grass as they burrow under the snow cover. Cleaning up leaves and mowing until the end of the season will discourage these little guys from setting up shop. In addition, remove dead plant material from landscape beds as this can provide them with additional cover.
Finally, one last consideration is salt damage. Avoid plowing or shoveling snow with high levels of deicing salts onto your lawn. Clear the snow before applying salt, and only use enough to get the job done.
On the bright side, we’ll soon have some free time that usually devoted to mowing during the summer. Following these tips will help get your lawn ready for its long winter nap. It’ll also help ensure the grass is greener on the other side.