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

Preventing Winter Lawn Problems

October 25, 2001

Last winter was a rough one for lawns, as evidenced by lots of damaged lawns last spring. While the type of winter weather cannot be controlled, there are a few things to help prevent lawn damage this coming winter.

Snow mold disease was very common on lawns last winter. Remember all the crusty, moldy, dead patches early last spring as the snow melted away? Heavy snow cover, especially early in winter, favors this disease. Other factors favoring snow mold include lawns left too tall going into winter, excess debris such as leaves, excess nitrogen fertilizer, shade, poor drainage, and excess thatch.

Avoid heavy snow mold development by cleaning up fallen leaves and other debris off your lawn. The final mowing should be made once grasses have stopped growing, with a height in the 2 to 2 1/2 inch range. Also avoid packing down snow cover on lawns, as slowly melting areas may be more prone to snow mold early next spring.

Another winter lawn problem that was very visible last spring was vole, or field mouse, damage. These animals leave a series of winding trails in the grass as they burrow under snow cover. Cleaning up leaves and mowing until the end of the season will help minimize damage. In addition, remove any excess vegetative debris near lawn areas or landscape plantings, as it could be cover for voles. Voles also may damage low growing shrubs, such as junipers.

Finally, one last problem to consider this winter is salt damage to lawn grasses. Avoid shoveling or plowing snow containing high levels of deicing salts onto turf areas, as high levels of salt will lead to turf damage next spring. Try to clear snow before putting down salt and only use enough salt to get the job done.


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