The Big Melt
By David Oatis, director, Northeast Region
March 16, 2015
|Snow and ice are melting,|
but shaded areas are the last to clear, which makes them more likely to experience
damaging freeze thaw cycles.
and ice cover gradually is receding from courses in the Northeast, and
while most courses still are covered in the north, most are free of snow
and ice in the central and southern parts of the region. Now the
challenge becomes determining
whether or not injury has been sustained and whether it is extensive.
have been detected at numerous courses, but that in itself does not
guarantee that damage has occurred. Nonetheless, damage has been
documented in Pennsylvania, New
England and southern Canada, but the extent is not fully known.
This can be a tricky time for turf managers. There often is a strong
desire to take action, but weakened turf can be pushed over the edge by
being too aggressive too soon. Keep the following points in mind as you
- Make sure that no damming occurs as
snow and ice is removed and/or melts. Shoveling drainage channels and using
darkening agents can speed the melting process, but don’t enhance melting
unless the weather is favorable. As Jim Skorulski wrote in the last Northeast Regional Update,
“work with the weather.”
- Turf plants can be closely examined
for signs of life, but the only surefire proof of life comes when they
break dormancy and begin to grow… or not. Incubating plugs is a great way
to get an indication of turf viability.
- Don’t be misled by color; it is not
a foolproof predictor of turf health. Chlorophyll will be preserved by frozen
conditions, so even turf that has sustained considerable injury may
initially appear green and healthy once the snow and ice melt. Green water
flowing off turf during snow and ice melt can be an indication that turfgrass
plant cells have ruptured and are leaking chlorophyll.
- Turf that is in a weakened state as a result of prolonged
ice cover may survive, but its weakened state can leave it susceptible to
a variety of other stresses, including additional freeze thaw cycles and
golfer and equipment traffic.
- Do not open greens too quickly following snow
and ice melt. Soft, saturated soils are more prone to compaction, foot
printing and rutting. Traffic
on weakened turf will
cause more injury.
- Maintenance activities such as
cultivation may be necessary to get seed in the ground if damage
However, weak plants that have nearly exhausted their carbohydrate
reserves are more susceptible to damage
from cultivation processes. It is important to get seed in the ground,
but don’t rush it and push more turf over
- Get the irrigation system up and
running quickly. Dry conditions can be lethal to weakened turf.
- Covers can be very helpful
in promoting growth and recovery from damage, so
get them out and cover known damaged areas right away. Covers also will
protect weak turf from cold, dry winds.
- If you have damage, be prepared
to seed using multiple methods. Drop seeding following hollow-core
aeration combined with slit seeding using newer, less-disruptive
implements are all excellent approaches. Follow seeding with multiple, light fertilizer
applications to promote more growth.
- Planting small plugs (3 inch works well) from your nursery a couple of inches apart in damaged
areas also can help tremendously. The plugs effectively raise the mowing
height which helps protect weak turf and seedlings. Transplanting cores
with soil probes and aerators also works well.
recovery is to keep traffic off
of damaged areas. Opening damaged
greens before they’ve healed will prolong recovery time. Temporary
greens aggravate golfers,
but having to close greens that haven’t healed later in the spring is
even more aggravating. If your greens are open and still
recovering in May and June, you have missed the boat. For the latest
information on the role of potassium in winter damage, check
out the latest blog
post from Dr. Jim Murphy at Rutgers University: http://plant-pest-advisory.rutgers.edu/winterkill-on-annual-bluegrass-dont-skip-the-k/
Source: David Oatis (firstname.lastname@example.org)