University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Winter Damage Concerns

April 12, 2001

Winter damage to lawns and shrubs has been a common concern this spring. While the significant snow cover did help insulate the soil, it led to more damage from voles and rabbits, along with snow mold on lawns. Some of these problems will improve as the weather warms, others unfortunately will not.

Many shrubs and even some smaller trees are now showing extensive damage from the gnawing of rabbits and voles, or field mice. This damage will not go away. If damage goes all the way around the stem of a shrub, portions above the damage will die. Fortunately, most multi-stemmed shrubs will send up new stems and eventually the shrub will return to its original size. Voles may also have damaged bark on evergreen shrubs such as junipers. Look carefully at the bark on any branches that suddenly turn brown in the coming weeks.

Also scout shrubs and trees for damage from heavy snow and ice accumulation over the winter. Stems and branches may be cracked. Sometimes the injury is very visible. In other situations, the cracks may be very fine and damage may not become apparent until later in the season when the branch suddenly wilts and dies. Keep this type of damage in mind if such problems show later this spring or summer.

Voles have also made runways on the surface of lawns as they fed on grass blades and roots under the snow. Most of this damage should fade quickly as lawns start to grow with warmer weather.

Questions also have been frequently asked about snow mold on lawns. This is those circular patches of matted, straw-colored "moldy" areas in lawns; which may merge into large, irregular areas. Much of this will also fade away as lawns dry out and weather warms. Reseeding may be needed on lawns with severe damage. Rake out debris prior to seeding. Be sure the seedbed gets frequent moisture to assure success.


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