Spring Brings Messy Lawns

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Spring may have sprung, but it will be hard to forget a long winter after you look at your lawn.

Saturated grass, downed tree limbs and snow mold are all effects of a brutal winter that MSU consumer horticulturists are finding hard to top.

"There's been some very severe low temperatures this winter, there were heavy winds, heavy snow loads, so we will see damage later in the spring," said Consumer Horticulturist Bob Bricault.

"There hasn't been a thaw," agreed Consumer Horticulturist Rebecca Krans. "We've had lots of snow and wind, which causes drying, desiccation of tissues."

Snow mold, which forms under snow cover, plagues Dana Davis's lawn in Mason. The horticulturist's yard is dotted with brown spots. But it looks worse than it is, Davis said.

"It's not a big deal," he said. "Usually a light raking and the grass will recuperate and a little fertilizer."

Occasionally, the grass will require some reseeding, Davis said, but the bigger pain will be in clearing up damage from salt and plows, something that could also make a dent in the checkbook.

"Peoples' budgets have been crunched because of snow removal," he said. "So this cleanup and all this snow is really challenging peoples' budgets."

But for many lawn companies, the cleanup can't start for several more weeks. Davis says he's expecting his employer, Outdoor Specialties, will be pushed back 2-3 weeks.

"In the green industry, it just means when the weather's nice we've gotta hustle a little harder to get caught up," he said. "It's always a challenge. Mother Nature's not often kind."

At Royal Lawn and Landscaping, all the tools stand at the ready, but idle, as Landscape Manager Brandon Thurston waits to see what the weather does.

"There's a lot of waiting going on right now," he said. "Spring's definitely on a delay."

Some bushes on the grounds suffer from some extra frostbite and some sod is saturated, but the bigger problem is the downed tree limbs.

"What was important was taken care of and the rest is sitting on the curbside," he said. "There's a lot of properties where tree limbs are laying all over the back yards and so we can't get them out because they're frozen to the ground right now."

Many of the limbs have been down since a December ice storm. But Royal is waiting to take care of those too. Soft grass conditions make it difficult on the equipment Thurston's company uses.

"I don't see the lawns looking too bad as far as health concerns because we had such a thick snow that tends to be an insulation," he said. "What we will see more of is plow damage and ruts from the trucks that have driven on the lawns where they shouldn't."

Horticulturists say you can do much of the lawn work yourself, but be wary of over-pruning. Leaves may have died, but the buds on the ends of branches may still be alive. A little waiting could save some branches.

There is value in hiring a company to trim your trees though, horticulturists say. A jagged wound on a snapped branch can cause rotting and decay. Professional trimming leaves a clean cut and keeps insects and decay out.

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