Snow Mould and Spring Lawn Care
Our lawns take up the majority of our yard space. Even with popular tastes favouring perennial beds and edible gardens, turf care is still important to care for our yards as a whole. With winter fading, and a new season of growth approaching, here are some tips to have a lush and healthy turf.
It’s easy for the temptation to set in as soon as the snow starts to recede and you can see your lawn peak out! For a lot of us eager gardeners, our first instinct is to grab a rake and leap into action – sometimes even when our yards are still caked in ice.
You must resist this instinct. Working your lawn while it’s still wet and recovering from the winter can do much more harm than good. Heavy feet can compact the soil or break emerging shoots. All of your early work could end up being for nothing if you damage your grass and give the weeds a head start.
Snow mould (typhula blight) is very common for us, thanks to our long, snowy winters. It can be ugly to look at – fungus forming silvery-grey patches on the lawn – and it can be tough on seasonal allergies, but, thankfully, it goes away as your lawn dries off. Unless it’s thick enough to choke your grass or cause you discomfort, don’t even bother raking it off, let time work its magic.
If you’re itching for something to do as the lawn dries, consider sharpening your mower blades. Waiting while your lawn is in plain sight can be tough, but improving the condition of your mower will set you up for a summer with a healthy lawn. Sharp blades will shear the grass instead of tearing it, resulting in healthier turf. While you’re working, remember to change the oil, spark plug, and filters regularly, too.
For the most impatient and keen gardeners among us, the waiting can be hurried by spreading out leftover snow from the shady spots of your lawn. Your lawn will dry sooner, more evenly, and you’ll be left with less snow mould in the most protected areas of your lawn.
Raking and Top-Dressing
Once the thatch is dried, your lawn is ready for you to “spring” into action! Give everything a good rake, especially with older lawns or those that have a half inch or more of thatch. You don’t need to clear all the thatch, but excessive amounts can be a breeding ground for pests and mildew.
Once you’ve got your thatch down to a healthy quarter inch or so, you can work on nurturing your lawn. Top dress any sparse areas right away so your lawn still has a chance to beat out the weed seeds that are swiftly germinating.
Top Dressing How-To:
Start by throwing a quarter or half inch of potting soil across sparse patches. The organic nutrients in the soil will help feed your lawn for the upcoming growing season. Top seed over your new soil – if your area has a lot of hungry birds, dusting some more soil over your new seed will disguise their lunch.
Fertilizing and Aerating
Spring is all about giving your lawn what it needs to be healthy and lush all summer! Aerating your lawn pulls plugs out to give your lawn’s cramped root system some air. Whether you rent a machine yourself or hire a company, this is great for the long-term health of your turf. Aeration is an especially important step in lawn care for older lawns or those that have been compacted by high traffic.
Fertilizing gives your grass the fuel it needs to grow healthy and strong. Your grass won’t be awake and hungry as soon as the snow melts. Fertilizing your dormant lawn is not only a waste of time, effort, and money, but it could end up giving fuel to weeds that wake up quicker in the spring.
You’ll have the best results if you wait to fertilize when your grass is green and growing. If you’re an eager gardener, this could be a tough task for your patience, as it won’t be for a while after the snow melts.
Thankfully, the days of blasting your lawn with a high-nitrogen mix and a hose are over. Most lawn fertilizers are now slow release, so they will feed your lawn steadily over weeks and months, and you won’t have to worry about burning your roots.