There’s an adage that states, “you can’t win a golf tournament on Thursday, but you sure can lose it.”  In some ways, the adage holds true for winter turf management.  You won’t guarantee a successful growing season by properly managing turf in the winter, but you sure can set yourself up for a long growing season my mismanaging it.

As the first measurable snowfall of the season arrives in the Midwest through Northeast this week its important to remember a few considerations to keep in mind as we move through the winter season:

  1. Cold Acclimation:  As temperatures drop turf is undergoing a cold acclimation process to prepare for cold months ahead.  During this period turf cells partially dehydrate which helps prevent formation of ice crystals inside cell walls when temperatures drop consistently below freezing.  Excessive irrigation during this period may slow the cell dehydration process.

  2. Fertility: Two recent blog posts have discussed strategies and benefits of fall fertilization.  They can be read here:
  3. Winterkill prevention:  Winterkill is a catch-all phrase that encompasses several environmental conditions that result turf death the following spring.  These include low temperature kill, desiccation, ice accumulation, crown hydration and disease.  Find more information on how to protect turf from each stressor here:   https://extension.psu.edu/winterkill-of-turfgrasses.

  4. Shade:  Shade kills during growing season by preventing turf from capturing enough light energy to drive photosynthesis.  During the winter months sun angles are lower and days are shorter, further limiting the amount of sunlight that reaches the turf surface.  This translates into colder soil temperatures and extended periods of ice and snow cover.  Both of these things can be detrimental to turf health.  Taking steps to increase light availability to these areas will improve turf health in spring and will pay dividends next growing season.

  5. Prepare for spring green-up:  Now is a great time to plan and prepare for coming out of dormancy.  Talk to your Harrell’s representative to formulate a plan to maximize turf health, color, and vigor this spring.  Maximizing turf health in the spring will go a long way in setting turf up to tolerate biotic and abiotic stress in the 2019 growing season.