As the snow melts, a little earlier this year, there will more than likely be some damage to your lawn that happened during the winter. Two of the biggest problems are voles and snow mold. Snow mold is simple to deal with if identified property. Voles are a nuisance and can be tough to rid out of the lawn and landscape.
Let’s take a better look at voles, which are common during the winter because they use the snow as cover to mover around. Below is an image of the tunnels they create above the surface. This is a sign that there is vole damage, which can be easily confused with moles. Moles will stay below the surface and are not active in the winter. These runway looking paths can be severe, where the grass has died off. Or just mild damage where the grass is flattened.
Voles look like mice, but have longer fur and shorter tails. They are stubborn and can create communities of up to 300 voles per acre. They are herbivores and come out at night to feed on vegetation. There is winter damage because they navigate through the snow, protected from predators so they can create a good amount of damage in your lawn.
Vole control is difficult and unfortunately almost futile when it comes to trapping or any chemical baits. So start with these tips;
- take away the food source (excess vegetation)
- take away protection like wood piles and grass clippings
- keep the lawn trimmed, cut short at the end of the season
- wrap trees and shrubs to prevent them from being eaten
Mold damage – Typically snow and dampness will create a brown looking lawn. It will be matted down and appear to have killed the grass. Often times a simple raking and good fertilizer program will quickly fix the issue. And with most molds, a little sunlight and dryer weather may be all that is needed. Don’t go overboard with extra treatments or fungicides. They are often not needed.
One cause of snow mold is when certain areas of the lawn are covered more than the rest, causing these areas to matte down. If there are leaves and piles of grass clippings left behind and then covered with snow, this will probably lead to mold. The big pile of snow that takes the longest to melt may be an area of concern. Sometimes the snow pile cannot be avoided, but the left over leaves and grass is a big no-no. Your technician should yell at you if it is seen. Please request a late season drive by from your lawn tech and he can let you know if your lawn is ready for the winter.
There are simple ways to avoid snow mold, and also some easy fixes, so don’t stress too much about it. First off, the lawn has to be clean and cut short at the end of the year. Make certain all leaves are gone and the grass is cut down to about 2 inches. This will help with the vole issue as well. Secondly, proper nitrogen applications are necessary, avoiding quick release products at the end of the year. All of our products are slow release. And our winterizer application does not force a growth spurt, but goes into the soil to make sure the roots get the nutrients for the winter. Finally, controlling the thatch layer is important. You can do this through de-thatching and aerations to loosen up the soil. Allowing the ground to ‘breathe’, increasing airflow and oxygen into the base of the grass will reduce the likelihood of snow mold.
The proper ways to fix both these problems is to rake and fertilizer. If needed, seed the areas. The vole issue may be an ongoing fight for a while. An outdoor housecat will probably work wonders, they tend to get all the little critters away from the house. And the snow mold can easily be prevented and remedied.
Last week we went over lawn mower maintenance, and next week will be on lawn mowing techniques. The single most important post we send out all year is to ensure the lawn is cut properly. Keep an eye out for that post and we look forward to talking to you. Thanks,