It is a common grass disease that can affect any grass, and is caused by lack of air circulation and a damp environment found under a cover of snow or wet leaves. They will appear as patches of matted and dying grass once the snow melts, but they are easily treated.
Fortunately, good lawn care practices are also a great preventative tool against the problem. We take a closer look at the symptoms of snow mold and what can be done to prevent or treat it as part of your winter garden care.
What is ice mold?
There are two culprits when it comes to snow mold. Pink ice mold is known as Microdocium patchalso known as Fusarium patchwhile also called gray snow mold Typhoid blight. While gray snow mold usually only affects grass blades, pink snow mold has the ability to kill the crown and roots of turf.
What does snow mold look like on grass?
As mentioned earlier, you likely won’t notice any symptoms of snow mold until the snow melts. While snow isn’t always harmful to the grass itself, it can hide a nasty secret underneath that begins to surface when temperatures rise.
“Warning signs to look for during cold weather are the appearance of mold in a thin, thread-like form that resembles cotton wool or spider webs,” says Chrissie Handley, an online lawn care specialist. “As the snow begins to thaw and you begin to prepare your lawn for spring, you will begin to see rough areas or circles of brown where the grass has been choked and died.”
These patches of dying grass can range from a few inches to several feet wide, and will be matted and discolored. The coloring reveals the type of ice mold you’re dealing with. Gray ice mold will have a gray or white color, while pink ice mold will be more pink or white in color.
Any type of grass is susceptible to snow rot. Gray snow mold is “the most common type of snow mold seen on residential lawns,” says Mark Marino, owner of Lawn Phix in Massachusetts, while pink snow mold often affects turf like creeper grass commonly seen on lawns. Golf instead. From home lawns.
Chrissy Handley is a lawn care specialist and offers personalized advice on turf placement, maintenance and general lawn care online.
How to prevent snow mold on lawns
Good maintenance and lawn care can help effectively prevent snow mold. Preparing ahead for winter can help your lawn look lush throughout the fall and also boost your chances of making it through the colder months unscathed.
This includes final mowing before winter to reduce the length of the grass before the frost arrives, as tall grass can encourage rot as airflow is restricted when tall stems are covered in snow.
Loosening the lawn also removes dead material that can be a breeding ground for snow mold, and aeration can help promote drainage and air circulation through the lawn. Chrissie Handley also adds: “You should rake your lawn often to prevent the buildup of leaves and debris, and if possible, try to remove snow from your lawn during periods of heavy snowfall.”
If you feed your lawn in the fall, be sure to use a specific, slow-release winter lawn fertilizer, such as Scotts Turf Builder WinterGuard available at Amazon, rather than a summer feed that is too high in nitrogen.
“A fall application of potassium is critical because potassium plays an important role in strengthening the plant before dormancy and preventing disease,” recommends Mark Tappan, agronomist for Simple Lawn Solutions.
Preventive fungicide treatment in the fall can help if you’ve had snow mold problems before. Using a product like Scotts DiseaseEx Lawn Fungicide, available at Amazon, can help prevent problems from returning.
How to treat snow mold on grass
If you notice the warning signs of snow mold in the spring when the snow melts and you start thinking about cutting your grass again, there is a simple method you can follow to help combat the problem.
“To get rid of snow mold, wait until the snow melts, the ground thaws and dries, then gently rake the affected areas,” says Mark Marino. “This will help separate the grass blades, make them longer, and promote greater air circulation which is vital for curing.”
Any damaged areas should also be replanted after the snow mold problem has been addressed. Planting grass seeds will promote the growth of healthy alternative grass to fill in bare spots.
Mark Marino is the owner and operator of Lawn Phix in Massachusetts, and he sees a lot of snow and snow mold. He is passionate about caring for soil health and improving grass nutrition, creating the perfect environment for grass to grow
Will the ice mold go away on its own?
Snow mold should begin to fade as temperatures rise and the soil dries out. Regular lawn care habits such as proper fertilization and regular mowing will help eliminate fungi, which die off once temperatures rise. Shoveling sections with a spring rake, available on Amazon and many other retailers, and mowing to shorten the grass can help get rid of snow mold faster.
When you start mowing your lawn again in the spring, don’t cut it too low. Choosing a mower height in the spring will avoid needlessly weakening the grass this early in the year, which can encourage weeds and turf moss to establish and become established.