These articles are written to apply to the northeastern
corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this
Winter Damage Difficult
to Predict This Year
March 19, 1998
With spring almost officially here, we can assess winter damage to the
landscape plantings. Overall, the winter was mild, so severe damage is
not expected. There are some types of damage already visible and questions
about the recent cold snap on some plantings.
Let's start with what has been visible in recent weeks. Voles (field
mice) have made runways under the snow in lawns as they feed on grass
blades and roots. Early snowcover helped them. As conditions on the lawn
dry out, rake affected areas. In most situations, the grass will fill-in
quickly as we move into spring. Severe damage may require some overseeding.
Help prevent this damage next winter by continuing to mow lawns until
the grass is completely dormant. Mow at a final height of about two inches.
Also clean up any excessive unnecessary vegetative cover near the lawn.
This past winter was also good for snow mold, a fungus disease affecting
lawns and other turf areas. Snow mold has been visible as circular patches
of matted, straw-colored dead areas in lawns; often merging into large,
irregular areas. These areas may appear moldy. Infection stops as lawns
dry out and weather warms. Reseeding may be needed on lawns with severe
damage. Rake out debris prior to seeding. Be sure the seedbed gets frequent
moisture to insure success.
The questions begin when trying to assess the very cold weather that
arrived in early March. In particular, what will be the effect on those
plants that were advancing along as the result of a mild February? Early
blooming shrubs, for example, may have had swelling flower buds damaged
by the cold. The upcoming weeks will tell the story.
Another area of concern is perennial flowers and strawberries that have
been uncovered since the snow left back in February. Alternating freezing
and thawing of the bare soil with cold nights and warmer sunshine of days
may cause soil heaving that may damage plants. This is why winter mulches
such as straw or evergreen boughs are suggested.
Once again, it is a little early to tell for sure what the cold temperatures
of recent weeks have done to plantings. As we get further into spring,
poor flowering , scattered dieback, and lack of vigor could all be potential
responses of shrubs, some trees, perennials, and strawberries.