Although we put up the mower in the fall and tend to forget about our lawn during the winter months, grass requires a certain amount of protection against the cold weather and wet snow. According to the University of Illinois Extension, snow, excess moisture and mice cause damage to a lawn if not properly cared for in the fall.
Voles, or meadow mice, are around 4 to 6 inches in length and are brownish-gray in color. As mice move throughout the lawn, they eat away at the grass blades and roots as they tunnel through the ground. Most vole damage will grow back in the spring but overseeding the lawn may be required for severe damage, says the University of Virginia Extension.
Preventing Vole Damage
Treating the lawn before the winter prevents the conditions which voles prefer. Begin lowering the height of the mower as the grass goes dormant in the fall, lowering one-third of the blade at a time, until the grass is at a final height of 2 inches. This gives the vole less cover during the winter. Removing leaves and other plant debris from the lawn also removes the voles preferred habitat.
Winter weeds, such as cool season grasses, are of great concern. Cool season grasses such as bluegrass continue growing over the winter months, overtaking the dormant grass. Pre-emergent herbicides, applied in August or September, prevent the germination of the weed's seed. Weeds are of main concern, as insects and disease rarely occur during the winter months, according to Virginia Cooperative Extension.
Snow mold is a disease that appears in the spring. Snow receding as the weather warms reveals mold that is either gray or bright pink in color. Water from the snow that does not drain properly causes the growth of mold on the lawn. Core aerating, a process of removing plugs of dirt from the lawn to ease compaction and improve drainage, performed in the fall will prevent the appearance of snow mold, says Colorado State University.
Overseeding is the process of seeding a cool season grass in the fall to cover patches in the lawn and add color during the winter. Cool season grasses include the grassy weed bluegrass, as it is weather resistant and grows in dense patches. Seeding a cool season grass in the fall ensures good coverage in the spring.