Winnipeggers dealing with worst spring grass in decades

Lawn care companies in Winnipeg are fielding calls from homeowners facing brown and damaged grass.
Winnipeggers are facing one of the worst springs for lawn damage in nearly 30 years, despite all the rain. 1:58

Winnipeggers are facing one of the worst springs for lawn damage in nearly 30 years, despite all the rain.

Ross Yarnell hopes hopes to turn his brown grass back into a fecund green lawn.

"It needs a lot of work," he said. "It's pretty splotchy right at the moment — a lot of bare spots." 

Lawn care companies are fielding calls from homeowners whose grass is brown or patches are missing entirely.
Ross Yarnell rakes up a mess he hopes to turn back into a lawn soon. (CBC)

"There's not enough hours in the day and the phone is ringing off the hook. It's very busy and there's lots of damaged lawns out there," said David Hinton, owner of Weed Man lawn care.

"People are concerned about the look of them. We have such a short season as it is [so] people want to get out there and have a nice lawn right off the bat."

Hinton has been in business for 28 years and said this is one of the worst springs for damage.

Another lawn care company, Green Drop, said it, too, is being inundated with calls.

Both companies said a combination of things is likely responsible for putting stress on the lawns — the long, cold winter, two previous summers with a lack of moisture, and the chinch bug.

The chinch bug is a tiny insect that sucks the moisture out of grass and spreads toxins through the blades.

As for the winter kill, "that can happen if you have a lot of ice or water that is freezing and thawing, freezing and thawing on the lawn," Hinton said.

"That can break up the crown of the grass plant and cause that plant mortality."
Many lawns in Winnipeg are in mid-April condition, even though it is mid-May. (Sara Calnek/CBC)

Many lawns are in mid-April condition, even though it is mid-May, he said, adding that aeration and slow-release fertilizer can help the grass recover.

In April, Manitoba's Minister of Conservation and Water Stewardship announced forthcoming limits on pesticide use.

"Chemical pesticides pose a risk to human health," Mackintosh said.

Only approved bio-pesticides and lower-risk products will be allowed once the legislation is enacted next year.

Hinton expects under the new legislation his business will still be able to use pesticides to kill the chinch bug, but said they'll have to pay for a more expensive version to treat other lawn ailments like dandelions.

"People will have to expect to pay more for the same kind of results," Hinton said.

Even if the law leads to a stiffer bill, Ross Yarnell said he doesn't mind paying more.

"I think that's probably good for the environment, anything we can do to improve the environment is beneficial," said Yarnell.