Fixing winter lawn and tree damage

With the snow all melted, we are seeing the effects of moisture and rodents on our lawns, trees and shrubs. In some instances they will recover with some help from us. But in others, damage may be extension and require considerable effort and maybe expense to repair.

Voles are small, outdoor dwelling mouse-like animals. They prefer to live in areas with taller, dense vegetation to remain hidden. But winter’s protective blanket of snow allows them to come into mowed yards. When they do, their activity is readily seen after the snow melts.

Lawns that have vole damage will show long trails where the grass has been chewed down to ground level. If the mice did not chew the grass below ground level, the grass crowns will be undamaged. These areas will regrow without any additional work. The grass will quickly grow to catch up to the same height as the undamaged grass. If, however, the crowns have been chewed, the trails should be lightly raked and grass seed spread in them. The chewed off dead grass can be used as a mulch over the seeded areas to help the newly growing grass. Leaves, straw and commercial lawn starting mulches are also used to help the new grass grow if the chewed grass is gone. Water re-seeded areas once or twice a week until the new grass is established.

Voles and rabbits both can be damaging to trees and shrubs. They eat the bark and expose the wood underneath it. If only a small area of the tree trunk that is chewed, the tree can heal and no action is needed. But if the tree trunk or branch is chewed all around the full circumference, the affected tree or branch above the chewing will die. In the case of trees, replacement might be the best option. With shrubs, the damaged branches can be pruned out and the shrub re-shaped and it will recover.

Snow mold is a problem that shows up on lawns after heavy snow cover melts in the spring. It is a gray, woolen looking covering on the grass. It is usually worst in areas where large snow drifts melted slowly and the ground stayed very wet and cold over a long period of time.

As soon as it is seen, the area should be lightly raked with a leaf rake to remove as much of the mold as possible. If regrowth of the lawn in these areas is heavily affected, seed should be spread in them and watered until new grass is established. Many times the lawn will regrow and recover on its own without any additional seeding. When these areas of the lawn are growing well, normal fertilization, watering and mowing can be done.