Fielding Questions: Snow mold, low-hanging branches and moving asparagus
Q: As the snow is melting, I’m noticing snow mold. Can I do anything to prevent it now or should I wait until it dries out? — Lauren Thompson, Moorhead.
A: Thanks for sending a great photo, showing what is likely gray snow mold. Snow mold is a fungus disease that develops under snowcover, and the longer the snow remains, the greater the risk of spread and damage.
As soon as receding snow reveals the web-like mycelium of snow mold, fluff up the grass area with a leaf rake to aerate the matted grass and remove mycelium. Lightly raking the area will increase exposure to air and help stop the spread of the fungus. Small areas of snow mold usually disappear following the drying effects of raking.
If left unchecked, snow mold can destroy grass crowns, requiring reseeding. To decrease the likelihood of snow mold, mow lawns short in late fall. In lawns bothered repeatedly by snow mold, preventative fungicides containing chlorothalonil or similar labeled ingredients can be applied shortly before winter’s first snowfall.
Q: I would like to remove two low-lying branches on our beautifully shaped green ash tree. The branches are about 2 and 3 inches in diameter, and are just at the height to hit me in the head when mowing. I’m hoping to remove them, but would it be better to wait? — Fred Lehmkuhl, Perham, Minn.
A: Pruning of trees like green ash is best done while they’re still dormant in late winter or early spring before the trees begin to leaf out. Removing the low-lying branches now in early April is fine, and is greatly preferred rather than waiting.
When removing larger branches back to their point of origin on the trunk, it’s important to make the cut just beyond the branch collar, which is the slightly raised ring of tissue on the trunk from which the branch arises. The raised collar contains healing cell tissue that neatly closes and seals large cuts.
There are two mistakes to avoid: If the pruning cut is made too flush against the trunk when removing a branch, the raised collar is destroyed, removing the ring of healing tissue. Oppositely, not pruning back to the collar leaves a stub that dies back, opening the way for disease. Cut back properly, wounds heal best without pruning paints or sealers.
Q: When is the best time to move asparagus? — Alden Lieberg.
A: Asparagus can be moved in early spring, as soon as the frost leaves the ground and you are able to dig. Doing so as early as possible increases the success rate. Waiting until asparagus spears emerge from the soil is risky.
Asparagus plants are visible while they’re still dormant by the dried fernlike tops left intact over winter. The younger the asparagus bed, the easier the plants are to successfully transplant. Old plants in a long-established bed have thick crowns and deep roots that are more difficult to move.
Iowa State and Michigan State Universities mention a low rate of survival when trying to move old asparagus plants, but when I was young, that’s how we started our asparagus bed, by transplanting old asparagus from the farm to our in-town garden. Move the plants while they’re still dormant, dig deeply and replant at the same depth as originally growing.
If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at ForumGrowingTogether@hotmail.com. All questions will be answered, and those with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.