So far, it’s been an exceptionally mild winter in the UK with record high December temperatures. On one hand is great for us hardy gardeners, but on the other it can have unintended consequences. For example, a sudden hard frost could damage tender plant tissue on newly emerging leaves of herbaceous plants.
Mild winter weather can also encourage the development of fungal diseases in the garden as they thrive on warmth and moisture. Lawns in particular can be susceptible to a disease called Fusarium patch or snow mould. This happens when warmer temperatures are combined with still grey days where light levels are lower because of the clouds, and morning mists linger. The common name of ‘snow mould’ is because it’s sometimes noticeable after fallen snow on the lawn has melted.
Spotting snow mould
It’s a good idea to go outside early in the morning before the dew disappears and take a look at your lawn. If there are patches of yellow-brown grass with dew all around but not settling on those patches this could be a Fusarium patch.
On those patches there may be white mould which can also be pinkish in colour and look like cobwebs or cottonwool on top of those affected areas. If you’re unsure about what you’re seeing, cover the patches overnight and check the same area the following day. If mould is developing under the cover, then it’s very likely the lawn is affected by snow mould.
It’s important to remember that snow mould patches normally only appear in lawns between autumn and winter. If you see those colour patches in your lawn at other times of the year, it’s very unlikely to be caused by this fungus.
Fixing Fusarium patches
It is possible to spray affected areas with a fungicide. However, there is currently only one licensed for use by amateur gardeners and overuse can make the fungal spores resistant to the product. Therefore, it’s best used no more than twice a year.
However, since this is a disease caused by nature why not use nature to deal with the symptoms!
Amazingly often doing nothing and just waiting for the weather to become colder, the wind to blow (to circulate the air) and daylight hours to get longer can be enough to stop patches appearing in the lawn. Existing brown patches should gradually fill in as spring approaches and new fresh green growth occurs.
Create a healthy environment for your lawn
The best way of preventing Fusarium patches occurring in the future is to create a healthy environment for your lawn.
Snow mould loves damp conditions where there’s little air circulating and it’s not too cold. So, spiking your lawn will improve drainage, which in turn helps the lawn dry quickly after dew or heavy rain.
Have a look at what you’ve got growing around the edges of your lawn. If there are overhanging shrubs and trees, prune them back hard at the appropriate time of the year. Then, this should help improve general air flow over the lawn.
When feeding your lawn in the autumn ensure you choose a product that’s specifically formulated to be used at that time of the year and don’t be tempted to use more than the stated dose.
Finally, if you’ve had or are having new turf laid, keep off it as much as possible until its roots have firmly established in the ground and the grass has started to grow well. This is because stress to newly laid turf can cause snow mould patches to appear later in the year during the autumn and winter months.
Now you know what to look out for on your lawn, don’t let snow mould or Fusarium patches get you down. Take steps to keep your lawn healthy by cutting, feeding, and caring for it so to create a strong environment.
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
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