Ohio ó Chances are your lawn is looking a bit
bedraggled after this rough winter.
not surprising. Between brutally cold temperatures and
drying winds, turf took a beating this year.
it will come back just fine, but a little TLC can
prevent problems, reverse damage and let your lawn green
up faster, lawn care experts Melinda Myers and Joe
what they recommend.
in the shade and other places where snow and ice linger
is susceptible to snow mold, a fuzzy, pink or gray
fungus that can damage or kill grass, said Myers, a
horticulturist, garden writer and radio and TV host
whose books include "The Ohio Lawn Guide."
mold likes moist environments, she said, so itís a
good idea to lightly rake grass in those vulnerable
areas to fluff it and allow light and air to penetrate.
A leaf rake will work fine, Myers said.
crowns of the grass plants are still alive, so the grass
can come back, said Rimelspach, a turf grass disease
specialist at Ohio State University. But Myers
recommended taking action now, before you see signs of
people notice it when the grass is dead, which is too
late," she said.
snowblowers and shovels can do a number on grass,
especially along driveways and sidewalks.
areas may need to be reseeded or sodded, Rimelspach
said. He recommended doing that as soon as possible, as
long as the soil isnít frozen or very muddy. You want
to give the new grass as much time as possible to mature
before summer arrives, so it can better weather the
stresses of high temperatures and dry spells, he
most pre-emergent weed treatments also prevent grass
seeds from germinating, you need to be careful about
applying crabgrass killer if youíre doing a lot of
repairs, Myers said. She suggested skipping the
crabgrass treatment this year or at least avoiding newly
you can use a new weed-killer called Tenacity,
Rimelspach said. The product, made by Syngenta, is a
selective herbicide that kills certain weeds but not
are hard on grass. So is dog urine.
two might not seem to have much in common, but both
contain salts that can burn grass.
the ground was covered with snow so much of the winter,
Myers said, many dogs tended to stick with one potty
spot. The salts in dog urine are largely nitrogen, and
when theyíre concentrated in a small area, they can
damage the grass in much the same way excess fertilizer
the case of both deicer and dog urine, the remedy is the
same, she said: Water the area well to flush out the
salts. Or hope for heavy spring rains that will do the
job for you.
the damage is significant, those areas may need to be
reseeded or sodded, Rimelspach said.
FOR VOLE SIGNS
through the grass are signs of damage by voles, which
are rodents that feed on plants. Theyíre often
confused with moles, but voles tend to tunnel along the
ground surface in winter, under the snow, instead of
going deeper underground.
said you can repair their damage by tamping down the
raised areas and reseeding, if necessary.
arenít a major threat to turf grass, she said, but
their presence in large numbers could signal trouble for
the landscaping plants they like to feed on. So if you
have a lot of surface tunnels, consider it a warning
sign that you may need to control the vole population to
protect your trees and shrubs.
rolling the lawn to level bumps caused by frost heaving
is a practice that has fallen out of favor, Rimelspach
said itís not harmful if itís done right.
danger is compacting the soil, so use a lightweight
roller and do the job just once, he said. You donít
want to steamroll the lawn or keep packing it down.
LOW, BUT JUST ONCE
care experts routinely advise homeowners to keep their
grass fairly tall, about 3 or 4 inches. Taller grass has
more green leaf area exposed to the sun, where itís
available for the photosynthesis process that provides
fuel to keep the plant healthy. Tall grass also shades
the soil, making it harder for weed seeds to germinate.
Rimelspach said the first mowing of spring is the one
time you can make an exception. Mowing lower removes the
brown material, which hinders new growth from pushing
through and acts as an insulator to slow the soilís
warming, he explained. Cutting the grass short will
probably encourage the lawn to green up faster, he said.
only one time," he cautioned. After that first
mowing, be sure to move the mower blade back to its
higher position and keep it there.
most turf grass toughed out the winter, grass that was
stressed or immature when the severe cold hit might not
have survived, Rimelspach and Myers said.
might find dead grass in areas where the lawn typically
struggles, such as shady areas. And if you put in a new
lawn late last fall, those seedlings may have been too
young to survive the extreme cold, Rimelspach said.
assume your lawn is dead just because itís brown,
however. Exposure to bitter temperatures and loss of
moisture from the grass blades may have caused the grass
to turn brown, but most grass plants are alive and will
rebound quickly, Rimelspach and Myers said.
lot of it is going to be waiting and seeing," Myers
said. "... If your lawn was good and healthy
(before winter), you probably have nothing to worry
THE RIGHT THING
Myers and Rimelspach stress that the best way to keep
your lawn healthy is to follow good lawn-care practices.
means not only mowing high, but mowing often. Ideally
you never want to cut off more than one-third of the
grass blade at a time, so thereís always enough leaf
left for photosynthesis to take place.
conceded that can be tough in spring, when the grass
grows fast and rain can be frequent. "You just have
to do the best you can," she said.
your mower blade sharp so you produce a clean cut that
heals quickly. Ragged cuts leave wounds that stay open
longer, making grass more vulnerable to disease.
the clippings on the lawn, unless theyíre in heavy
clumps. They supply moisture, organic matter and
nutrients that are essentially free fertilizer, Myers
follow an appropriate fertilization schedule. Myers said
that for many lawns, one fall feeding is enough,
preferably around Halloween. If you want to beef up the
lawnís vigor, you can also fertilize around Memorial
Day and Labor Day, she said.
chemical or organic can be used. Organic fertilizer
works more slowly and is often more expensive, but
"they can all be fine," Rimelspach said.