Ask the Clark Gardener

The Eternal Promise of Spring

Roellyn Armstrong
Chairperson, Fanny Dwight Clark Memorial Garden, Inc.

As I begin this article on the anniversary of the announcement of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, I am reminded how every gardener views the advent of spring. Last spring was different, as we were about to enter a year of horrible loss, without any real sense of when we would ever exit such horror. But at least it was spring and summer would follow with many outdoor activities. Little did we realize how dark our tunnel would become with the coming of winter. Dark and cold as winter always is, the season just served to reinforce our isolation and despair. Holiday activities were curtailed or cancelled, and families remained apart. But spring always has the meaning of new beginnings, and this spring I think we can really feel that this will be the case. And while the way ahead is still full of challenges, we have learned how resilient is the human spirit as it searches for meaning and hope. And nowhere else is the search for meaning more obvious than in the wonders of nature and the certainty of annual renewal. So while we could only look through the gate at the beautiful display of tulips lining the path in Clark Botanic Garden last year, this year we can actually stroll the path and contemplate a more normal year. With the promise of a better year, we can look ahead to resuming some of our traditional activities.

I finish this article on the second full day of spring, when there is frost coating all the grassy surfaces and car windshields. So maybe I will put off removing flannel sheets from the beds, and I likely will continue to use the car seat heater whenever I drive. But the pansies that were purchased when spring seemed so close last week are already planted in the window boxes, and the daffodils are looking ready to burst. So while I was a bit over-eager last week, I did get out all the garden furniture, set back the landscape lights timer, get all the porcelain pots ready for planting, and I am now poised to truly welcome spring. And so I close this article with my customary wish:

Hoping to see you soon in the garden (albeit at a safe distance with a mask on,


An Unwanted Gift of This Winterís Snowfall

Roellyn Armstrong, Chairperson, FDCMG, Inc.

snow mold patch on lawn after Spring thaw

This winter left behind a horticultural reminder of what snow can do to our lawns. If your lawn looks like mine, scattered patches of straw-colored dried grass, you have snow mold. And while I had always known of snow mold, I had never had the unpleasant evidence on my turf. Because the heavy snow falls came before the ground was solidly frozen, and because the snow covering lingered for a period of time, the appropriate environment was created for snow mold to thrive.

Snow mold is a type of fungus and a turf disease, usually affecting cool season grasses, that damages or kills grass after snow melts, typically in late winter or early spring. Its damage is usually concentrated in circles three to twelve inches in diameter, although yards may have many of these circles, sometimes to the point at which it becomes hard to differentiate between different circles. Snow mold comes in two varieties: pink or gray (white). The gray or white variety damages only the blades, whereas the pink is more damaging because it can affect both the roots and the crown.

Snow mold most often occurs when there is a heavy, deep snowfall before the ground has completely frozen. All that weight on fragile grass plants, coupled with lots of wintertime moisture, not to mention cover from leaves, long grass, and lawn debris, all provide the perfect environment for snow mold. The fungus that causes the mold remains inactive in the soil in the form of spores. It is always a good practice to cut the lawn quite short for the last mowing before winter. Leaves should also be removed. Cleared snow should not be piled high on the lawn. (Good luck with that!)

If you have snow mold, once the snow has disappeared, gently clean the areas infected by removing the dead grass. Improve drainage. Gently rake the infected areas until you remove the mycelium. Remove any thatch. Keep mowing your lawn. Only use light fertilizer to encourage healthy turf growth. Unfortunately the fungi will remain dormant in the soil as resistant spores, easily surviving until the next ideal opportunity. A fungicide can be applied to the lawn in late fall. Use only slow-release nitrogen fertilizers.

Hoping to see you in the garden soon.


Remember, if you have a comment or question, send them to me at And come for a visit!

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