Where Did All The Grass Go?

Each year we look forward to the white snow melting into lush green grass and garden beds. With such a harsh winter all we are seeing this Spring is mostly brown, yellow, and orange. Severe low temperatures, ice, and continual wet conditions caused by snow and the subsequent melt have wreaked havoc on grass and bedding plants. There are a few things you can do now that will spruce up your landscape for this season and you can also take preventative measures for future seasons.


First let’s address the lawn. Most lawns took a real beating this winter. In an earlier blog I wrote about the effects of snow mold. However snow mold isn’t the only thing that causes yellow or white grass. Rake up any and all dead grass and debris on your lawn. You may notice even the green grass will rake up. The soil has been overly saturated for so long that the roots of the grass have mostly rotted off.

After raking you may or may not want to aerate. Local garden centers sell aerating shoes that you can slip over your sneakers, walk back and forth on the lawn and aerate without the need of a heavy machine. You may need to put topsoil in areas where there has been erosion or where there are bare patches. Place a good quality seed mix in a spreader and apply according to directions. After seed application you need to install seed covering like Salt Hay, EZ Straw, or Penn Mulch. If you are going the organic route then lightly apply compost as the top dressing.


The most important things to remember when putting down seed are watering properly, mower blade height, and temperature. Keep the seed evenly damp until it germinates and reaches two and a half inches. At that point you only need to water the new grass heavily once a week. Set your mower blade to two inches and mow. Seed will only germinate when air temperatures are at a steady sixty and seventy five degree air temperature. You may apply seed earlier but remember that it won’t start growing until temperatures are correct.


To prevent Snow Mold or yellow/brown grass make sure you remove debris from the lawn in the fall. All twigs, branches, acorns, and especially leaves. Be sure to fertilize the lawn with the proper fall fertilizer. Do not use a high nitrogen fertilizer as it will feed winter mold. Most importantly get your lawn trimmed to one inch on your last mow. Excess grass cause patchy lawns and could cause Snow Mold.

Now let’s address those yellow and brown leaves on your evergreen trees and shrubs. Remember evergreens keep their leaves or needles all year round. Most evergreen trees will have a Seasonal Needle Drop where needles will turn yellow or brown and fall off. Seasonal Needle Drop is a natural occurrence of older needles shedding due to weather conditions. For example, the Eastern White Pine sheds a third of its needles every three years in the summer. In the winter it will lose needles every two years. Many other evergreen trees follow similar shedding patterns.


brown_grassThough this is mostly a natural occurrence it is not the only cause. Fungal disease is one of the causes. Long wet seasons cause a wide spread fungal outbreak. You can detect fungus by seeing brown spots on new growth. Mites and needle miners also cause damage such as brown needles and webs. Treating these conditions should be done by a professional as chemical application is an exact process and can cause additional damage if improperly done. Oil sprays in the fall and spring will help with prevention year round.


Evergreen shrubs and trees can experience what we call “Winter Burn”. Plants need to take in water much like humans or they dehydrate. Photosynthesis, the process that keeps plants green needs water to produce energy. If the ground is frozen, no water can be absorbed and they turn orange, brown or yellow and become brittle.


If at all possible trim off any of the “Winter Burn”. Sometimes the yellow leaves can be trimmed off trees and shrubs. In this case yellow is not bad because it is not a severe winter burn. Trim the yellow off as much as possible. A product called Ironite can be applied to return the green color faster to your plant. Orange and brown leaves and needles are not as easy to deal with. In this case the damage may be too severe to just 'trim it out'. You should replace the tree or shrub with a plant less likely to be affected by “Winter Burn”.


To help plants with harsh winters have your professional spray your trees and shrubs with a plant anti-dessicant. I stress that you hire a professional to apply the anti-dessicant spray as it is toxic to some plants. Also, create a 'fence' using burlap which will act as a wind barrier in areas where trees and shrubs are exposed. Burlap can also be directly wrapped around the plants.

Biosphere has a staff of professionals who are experienced with resolving these issues. Contact us to make an appointment for a complimentary consultation.


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