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There's a Fungus Among Us

by Kristin Marino, All About Lawns Columnist

That snow on the ground sure is picturesque, isn't it? Even if you're not a winter person, there's nothing like a blanket of pure white snow to remind you of the beauty of winter.
Snow Mold
What Happened
to My Lawn !!?
It's hard to remember that there is a beautiful, lush green lawn under all that snow, just resting up for its spring coming-out party.

As pretty as that blanket of snow is, however, it also works as a perfect cover for an unwanted winter visitor to do damage to your lawn.

What is this Lawn Killjoy?
  • Snow mold fungus is a lawn fungus that works under the snow cover. You probably won't know you have it until the snow starts to melt in the spring.
  • Snow mold lawn fungus becomes problematic when snow cover is prolonged.
  • Snow mold lawn fungus can take hold when a wet, deep snow falls on unfrozen ground. As Dr. Jenifer Huang McBeath, a professor of plant, animal, and soil sciences at the University of Alaska suggests, a gradual increase in temperature causes a hardier plant. This is essential in the development of snow mold fungus. Unfortunately, we don't have control over when the first snow falls on our lawn or how long it will stay.
How would you like to improve your lawn?
  • Make it greener
  • Eliminate patches
  • Less weeds
  • Make it thicker
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How Will I Know if My Lawn Has Snow Mold Lawn Fungus?
  • Look for circular, matted areas of grass blades that have turned gray, white, or pink and cling together. Snow mold lawn fungus looks damp, fuzzy, and maybe a little slimy, kind of like cooked spinach.

But I Work So Hard On My Lawn All SummerHow Do I Get Rid of This Grass Fungus?
  • If you have heeded my past advice, you used a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer. By doing this, you avoided the lush growth late in the fall that snow mold grass fungus loves.
  • I am certain that you also followed my advice from the last column about giving your grass a good last mow late in the fall. Your grass went to sleep with a good, shortcut. Snow mold grass fungus likes longer grass the best.
  • Avoid piling snow that you have shoveled off walkways onto your lawn.
  • Aerate the lawn in the spring to encourage new growth and grow-out of areas affected by lawn fungus.

If, in spite of your best efforts in the fall, you still find your grass afflicted with snow mold lawn fungus in the spring, try the following solutions suggested by Paula Flynn from the Department of Plant Pathology at Iowa State University:
  • No matter how tempted you are to start fussing with your lawn fungus, wait until the grass has had a chance to dry out before attempting any first aid.
  • Rake the area affected with grass fungus and lightly fertilize to encourage new growth.
  • Give your lawn a grass transplant. Resod the affected area. Thatch is a nice place for lawn fungus to hide. Control that thatch to inch or less.
  • Make sure your lawn has proper drainage. Lawn fungus likes moisture as much as it likes thatch.
  • Next Fall, apply a fungicide specially formulated for grass fungus.
  • Even though it is tempting to be the last one in the neighborhood in the fall with a lush, green lawn, you could be inviting snow mold lawn fungus into your life if a cold wet snow falls onto that lovely lawn.

About the Author
Kristin Marino has been a homeowner for ten years and really does have the greenest lawn in her neighborhood. Kristin holds a bachelor degree in English from the University of Nevada.

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