We may think of Winter as being a time of dormancy in the garden, but despite appearances, things are very much still active in the lawn, both above and beneath the soil. Although at a slower rate, grass continues to grow, detritus breaks down, and the pupal stages of insects grow and develop.
This means that it’s important to keep an eye out for the signs and symptoms of various lawn problems over the colder months. Not least because any damage they cause now may not be fixable until Spring if left untreated for too long.
But just what are the biggest winter lawn pests and problems you need to be aware of?
Fusarium patch, known more commonly as pink snow mould, is a particularly pernicious fungal disease that can quickly take hold of large portions of the lawn. While the name suggests it occurs only after snowfall, that is just one species. Many varieties thrive in mild weather, meaning your lawn can be particularly exposed to it in the autumn and early Spring periods too.
The best thing you can do to try and prevent it is to be vigilant with the rake, keeping foliage off your lawn.
Darren Evans, Balmer GM's lawn product expert for Burnley Depot, says: “Without a doubt, the most common cause of a damaged lawn in the winter is due to uncleared leaves. Any leaves left lying on the lawn not only causes the sward to thin but also limits light and air movement which creates a perfect breeding ground for diseases such as fusarium patch. Given the right conditions, this turf disease can quickly spread across the lawn causing significant scarring, which will be slow to recover in the Spring".
A quick and easy way to remove leaves and debris from your lawn is with one of our battery or petrol leaf blowers, we stock the full range of Stihl leaf blowers & vacuum shredders in store and online.
Image: A tell-tale sign of snow mould (aka fusarium patch) is small yellowish patches of dying grass that turn brown and spread rapidly.
Red thread is an extremely common type of lawn disease that is most prevalent during wet Summers, when lawns may be deficient in nitrogen, but it can also occur in the Winter too. While its Latin name is laetisaria fuciformis, it gets the common name ‘red thread’ from the slimy pinkish strands that bind to the blades of grass of infected areas.
These are an obvious indication of the presence of the disease, if you spot them you'll need to carry out a lawn fungus treatment which begins with scarifying the lawn with a scarifier at your first opportunity followed by a treatment of fungicide formula to control the fungi and spores while preventing reinfection.
Image: Red thread is an extremely common type of disease where the lawn may be deficient in nitrogen
Chafer grubs and leatherjackets
While we may think of leather jackets and chafer grubs as being autumnal issues, they overwinter in the soil and can cause massive issues later on. Darren says: “Quite often, the sign that something more sinister is going on under the surface of a lawn is most apparent at the end of the year, when what you may have thought was dry patch, doesn’t recover. This may be a sign that chafer grubs or leather jackets are feeding on your grass roots.”
Many lawn lovers don’t consider moss to be an issue. But the truth is moss easily out competes grass and will take over an entire lawn during a wet and mild winter, as it thrives in these conditions. The best way to prevent moss is to carry out a scarification treatment in the autumn and to minimise shade being cast onto the lawn by pruning back overhanging branches.
Finally, perhaps the most damaging problem you may find over the winter is simple soil compaction. Heavy usage of the lawn while the soil is wet results in it compressing. Not only does this prevent grass growth, but it also leads to water not draining properly, which can lead to pooling on the surface, encouraging disease.