The good news: Most of the record snowfall from a brutal winter has finally melted, and you can see your lawn again.
The bad news: It doesn’t look so hot.
At a recent seminar at Dundee Gardens in Hanover Township, Steve Leyland of Jonathan Green lawn-care products addressed the common concerns of winter lawn damage.
Homeowners will say their lawn is dead, he said, but that is not true.
The next two to three weeks are the best time to start thinking about preparing the lawn for the months ahead, he said, as the temperature extremes begin to moderate and the chance for snowfall lessens.
American homeowners spend about $6.4 billion a year on lawn care, according to the Professional Lawn Care Association of America. They buy seed, fertilizer, herbicide, lawnmowers, string trimmers and other equipment.
Brooke Yeager of Wilkes-Barre is one of those people. He came to the lawn seminar armed with a notebook and some concerns.
“Your lawn is actually pretty resilient,” Leyland told him and several others. “With a bit of knowledge, your lawn will look as good as it did before or even better.”
The three main concerns are gray winter mold, pink winter mold and winter kill, Leyland said. This winter has been especially harsh on lawns due to the excessive snowfall coupled with extreme temperatures, from subzero to record highs.
Snow mold, the biggest problem most homeowners will face, is a fungal disease that looks like circular patches of dead and matted grass. There are two types: gray and pink. Pink, which resembles cotton-candy fluff, infects the crown of the plant and can cause more severe injury than gray, which infects only the leaf tissue.
But Leyland offers hope. “Even with the winter we had, what I’m seeing is more gray snow mold than pink snow mold,” he said.
He recommends lightly raking the soil to pull oxygen through. “Oxygen is the most important thing for your lawn,” he said. “Then put fertilizer down to grow out the mold.”
Winter kill is when moisture in the plant freezes and expands, blowing out the cell wall and killing the plant. The causes? Ice cover and snow cover. If winter kill occurs, the lawn may need reseeding.
First, a test should be performed to determine soil pH level, Leyland said. With a balanced pH level between 6.0 and 6.8, lawns thrive and weeds are reduced. Weeds thrive in acidic soil, with a pH below 6.0.
Leyland said fertilizing lawns with soil below these levels can waste up to 71 percent of your fertilizer.
All fertilizers applied to the lawn, whether organic or traditional, are acid and will reduce soil pH levels over time. Decay caused by soil microbes produces organic acids. Calcium, or a lawn product, applied to the soil reduces hydrogen levels, and the calcium carbonate promotes the neutralization of acidic soil.
The next crucial factor is temperature. Yard work should not begin until the ground temperature is 55 degrees. If the ocean temperature is 55 degrees, so is the soil temperature. If you can’t check the ocean temperature, Lenny Griglock, a Dundee Gardens associate, said, “Just look for blooming forsythias as your guide. Once you see them, you know it’s warm enough.”
Seeding may be necessary if your lawn is damaged, Leyland said, noting spring is the second-best time to seed. Fall is first.
Summer is probably the most stressful time for lawns because of heat, humidity, drought, increased insect activity and fungal diseases.
“If your lawn can survive June, July and August, it’s in great shape,” Leyland said.