CO-Horts Blog

Monday, March 23, 2015

Spring Already?

Posted by: Deana Wise, Master Gardener coordinator, Broomfield County

I can tell spring is here because I received three different phone calls in the office this week concerning turf diseases. At first I was a little confused, did Kentucky bluegrass break dormancy since I came into the building this morning? Then I thought, Carol was right in her earlier post concerning gentlemen and their engines (see Friday, March 13, 2015). The warmer temperatures had flushed the early birds out and they had old lawn complaints from last summer.

I admit I was a little excited to be receiving my first call as a Colorado Master Gardener Coordinator. I have spent four years as a CMG and have served on the phones for many hours. I am normally fairly confident in my Horticultural knowledge or at least in my research capabilities if I can’t come up with an answer right away. My excitement changed to fear as I realized I was “the expert” now.

My first client (Mr. X) has a large dead spot in his lawn and I attempted to listen, take notes, and recall the correct questions to ask. I tried to remember the Steps of Diagnosis. Step 1- Identifying the plant was easy enough because Mr. X told me what it was. So far so good.

Step 2 involves identifying the pest. This was the reason Mr. X called. I asked him to email me pictures, thinking this would buy me time. Unfortunately, he was very comfortable using modern technology. I had 5 different photos in my email before I could locate my dichotomous key for diagnosing turf diseases.
The mysterious turf disease.
To stall further, I told him I would forward his photos to two of our turf experts (Thanks Tony and Curtis). While awaiting their reply, I finally had time to do a little research. Our experts confirmed my diagnosis of Gray Snow Mold (Typhula). I moved on to Step 3, what type of damage does it do?
Gray snow mold. The best "treatment" is to gently rake and encourage air circulation. (Photo by Tony Koski)
Gray Snow Mold usually requires extended periods of snow cover. Our freaky cold spell kept the snow around long enough for the Typhula to attack. According to NC State Turffiles, “The disease appears in perfect circles or irregular patches up to 3’ or more in diameter. The turf within these patches is white or gray and matted together”. Snow mold can, in extreme cases, cause extensive damage.

Step 4 questions under what conditions will management efforts be warranted? We discussed his treatment options. The turf area affected was relatively small: therefore limited actions needed to be taken.

Step 5 led me to the available management options, are they effective on the pest and when should they be applied? Treatments run the gamut from Cultural (reducing nitrogen and continuing to mow in the fall) to Chemical (fungicide applications). We decided the best course of action was to spread his snow from the driveway around instead of mounding it in one place. He agreed to rake the affected area to allow for better air circulation.

As he hung up, I realized I had handled a client’s question (with a little help from my friends), diagnosed his problem and formulated a workable plan for future containment of the disease. The second and third calls were easier and now I feel confident again. Open the gates, I’m ready.

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