Archive for April, 2014

Dandelions fill a field

Dandelion flowers are bright and cheery even if they are a bothersome weed.

Dandelion flowers are bright and cheery even if they are a bothersome weed.

Dandelions are popping up all over in the fields near Viette’s. I guess spring is really here! The sight of these cheery yellow “wildflowers” reminded me of one of my favorite posts on the Viette View’s blog. I am re-posting it today as a fun (and hopefully informative) spring read.

Happy spring – Enjoy!

I was thinking about dandelions the other day – actually I’ve been thinking about dandelions a lot lately. They seem to be everywhere; the ubiquitous lawn weeds! Actually, I think they’re rather pretty – so bright and colorful in the lawn, like an oasis in a giant sea of green! When we were kids, my sisters and I had to go out each spring and dig up all the dandelions we could find in the lawn. “Be sure to get the whole root or it will grow back,” my dad would say! If only they would just bloom and then go away, it would have saved us from a lot of work! But of course they don’t.

Dandelion seed heads are filled with seeds ready to float away on a gentle breeze.

Dandelion seed heads are filled with seeds ready to float away on a gentle breeze.

They have the nasty habit of going to seed and then spreading all over the place. First you have a few in the lawn, and then you have an epidemic!

And, what little kid can pass up the temptation of blowing on a dandelion seed head just to watch the little “parachutes” float away on the wind? I know I did it – but it sure annoyed the grownups when I was caught in the act!

So … you have this great idea that you’ll chop the dandelions off with your mower before they go to seed. But, after you mow, they’re still there blooming away in all their golden glory. How very frustrating!

Well, here’s an interesting characteristic of dandelions that I never really noticed before. Have you ever watched the progression of their flowering cycle? When they are blooming, the flower stems are relatively short which keeps the flowers close to the ground. This is especially evident when they are growing in your lawn. Dandelions have developed this clever little adaptation as a defense against herbivory – and what is your lawn mower but a giant mechanical herbivore (in a manner of speaking)! Flowers and foliage that grow close to the ground are less likely to be nibbled off by browsing herbivores/lawn mowers.

In a spurt of growth, the stems carrying the dandelion seed heads shoot upward well above the original height of the flower.

In a spurt of growth, the stems carrying the dandelion seed heads shoot upward well above the original height of the flower.

Once the flower closes and the seeds are formed, the dandelion stem undergoes a rapid growth spurt. Seemingly over night, the stems shoot up 2 or 3 times the height of the original flower stalk. Of course this occurs right after you’ve mowed the lawn and the tall, fluffy seed heads rise well above your neatly manicured lawn!

How do they do that?

That’s evolution for you! Survival of the quickest (grower that is)! And there they are, like a bunch of time bombs above your beautiful grass ready explode and spread their seeds with the next puff of wind!

There are products you can use to eradicate these bothersome weeds from your lawn. Pre-emergence weed killers can prevent dandelion seeds from germinating or post-emergence weed killers such as Bonide Weed Beater Ultra or Gordon’s Speed Zone can destroy the weed itself. Bonide Weed Beater Complete and Bayer Advanced Season Long Weed Control for Lawns contain both pre-emergence and post-emergence herbicides. Always read and follow the label directions whenever you use any pesticide!

But before you rid your landscape of dandelions entirely, remember the wise words of Eeyore, “Weeds are wildflowers, too, once you get to know them!”

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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Snow mold on the lawn

Snow on the top of Mother Myrick Mountain - from Mom's deck

Snow on the top of Mother Myrick Mountain – from Mom’s deck

Spring is slowly coming to southern Vermont where I have been visiting with my mom for the past week. This area of Vermont is definitely several weeks behind the Shenandoah Valley but a few sunny days here have edged into the 60’s and the snow is gradually beginning to melt away. There are still a few patches here and there in the woods and along the road, and of course, quite a bit of snow remains on the mountains. But spring is definitely creeping in. The goldfinches that come to the feeders are becoming brighter yellow every day!

When I first arrived, many sections of the lawn were still covered with snow.

Gray snow mold

Gray snow mold covers the lawn.

In places where the snow had recently melted off, I noticed that there were large patches of gray mold covering the grass. I was pretty excited – this was a great example of snow mold and it had been a while since I’d seen this in the lawn. It reminded me of a post we had on our discussion board a few years ago:

Last Spring I had powdery mildew on my front lawn which faces north. It only gets sunlight late in the afternoon. It stunted the growth of the grass but fortunately did not kill the grass. Is there anything I can do to prevent the powdery mildew from recurring next spring?

What they were seeing was probably snow mold rather than powdery mildew. Snow mold is often seen on the lawn in the spring after the snow melts. It is especially common when heavy snow has fallen on unfrozen ground.

A patch of gray snow mold

A patch of gray snow mold

There are two types of snow mold; gray snow mold (Typhula spp.) which usually only infects the grass blades, and pink snow mold (Microdochium nivale) which may infect the crown and the roots of the grass as well as the foliage and can thus be more damaging. With the late winter and early spring snow storms we have had this year, snow mold may be a more common sight this spring.

Snow mold (and powdery mildew for that matter) is generally not a serious problem and fungicide applications are usually not recommended.

The normal recommendation is to simply rake the area lightly to allow the grass to dry more quickly. The raking also disrupts the growth of the fungi.

Snow moldIncreasing the amount of sunlight that reaches the lawn through the selective pruning of a few trees can help reduce the growth of mold and mildew on the lawn.

In most cases, the grass will recover and green up – perhaps just a little slower than the rest of the lawn. However, sometimes small patches of grass may be killed by snow mold. These areas can be overseeded and top dressed with a thin layer of good quality compost in the spring.

As you can see from the photos, Mom had some pretty dense patches of snow mold growing on her lawn but actually after a few windy days with lots of sun, the grass has dried out and the snow mold has disappeared with no treatment at all. The lawn is even beginning to green up a bit!

It’s a balmy 57 degrees right now!

Until next time – Happy Spring everyone!

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