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Winter Woes and Your Lawn

by Dawn West, All About Lawns Columnist

Perhaps you're breathing a sigh of relief even now -- "Ah, the snow has finally fallen. I don't have to worry about my lawn until spring." I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but just a little worry will go a long way. Without a bit of care, your lawn could fall prey to some nasty winter woes, making its spring return a little less glorious than you might have hoped. Here are a few of the prime winter pitfalls and how you can save your lawn from them.

Just because your lawn will be dormant for a few months doesn't mean you should completely ignore it. Here are a few winter woes to watch for.
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Snow and Grass = Fungus?

If there's a heavy snow early in the season in your area, early enough that the ground hasn't had a chance to freeze before it's covered, your grass may develop a fungus come spring. Fusarium Patch and Typhula Blight both appear when snow starts melting above unfrozen soil. The spots may be grey or yellow and may develop a layer of cottony white or pink, but whichever type of fungus occurs, prevention is the best medicine. Mowing your lawn late into the fall, until the bitter end (and by bitter, I mean the cold of November. Brrr!), will make sure there's not a mat of grass for the fungus to prey on.

Salt and Grass are Enemies

Sodium damages your soil, which translates directly to problems for your lawn. So before you spread salt this winter, consider your grass.  Salt is great at eliminating ice, but even if you're careful when you spread it, the salty water will spread out into your lawn. Shoveling before snow turns to ice is an option, as is spreading sand, but sometimes salt is simply the best way to go (better some bad soil than a bad fall). To treat the ensuing soil troubles come spring, spread some gypsum in the damaged areas. Just remember, though, less salt equals happier grass.

Winter can be a nice break from yard chores, but keep your lawn in mind now and again, snow and all, and you'll be happier come spring.

About the Author
Dawn West B.A. holds a B.A. in English from Harvard University and teaches writing at Oregon State University.

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