Preventing Winterkill on Golf Course Turf

Preventing Winterkill on Golf Course Turf

Preventing Winterkill on Golf Course Turf

The first snow has fallen in many parts of the northeast. With this weather, many golf courses are closed for play for the year. Even with the course closed, superintendents and caretakers still have to be proactive and take care of the course turf. Preventing winterkill on golf course turf relies on vigilance and careful planning before severely cold weather hits. Icy and cold conditions can have a very detrimental effect on turf. Golf course winterkill is a very common issue and can cause several problems such as desiccation, disease, and ice encasement. Our article this week will focus on preventing winterkill on the golf course.

Preventing Winterkill on Golf Course Turf

Make sure your turf is healthy before cold weather hits.

Late fall and early winter are optimal times to prepare your course turf for extremely cold weather. Turfgrass will be a lot healthier in spring if it is allowed to store up carbohydrates before the growing season. If turf is unhealthy, it will be more susceptible to winterkill and injury. Practices such as increasing mower blade height, proper irrigation, and aeration can all help in preparing the turf for harsh winter weather. It doesn’t hurt to also test the soil so you can apply the correct amendments before harsh weather as well.

Turf that grows in a shaded area is more prone to winterkill.

Winterkill affects plants that are the most susceptible first. Turf that is growing in shaded areas is not as healthy as turf that grows in the sunlight. In addition, ice is more unlikely to not melt in shaded areas which can cause ice encasement. Thinning tree canopies or removing them is an easy way to prevent this.

Apply a fungicide to prevent snow mold before winter.

Superintendents should always have a plan for Snow Mold prevention as it is one of the most common types of winterkill. There are two types of snow mold, pink and grey. Grey snow mold is more likely to occur in the winter after extensive snow cover. The pink type tends to show up in fall with wet and cool weather.

Improve drainage to prevent winterkill.

Crown Hydration is a common injury in turfgrass growing in poorly drained soils. During winter temperature swings, surface soil temperatures rise and thawing may take place. The soil beneath the surface does not thaw and water does not drain from depressions. This turf becomes super-hydrated and when the water refreezes during a rapid drop in temperature, the turf dies. Drainage can be achieved by regular aeration and proper grading of your soil.

Covering golf course greens can help them stay healthy in the winter.

Greens are often considered the most important part of the golf course. Because of this, some superintendents opt to cover them over the winter. Not only do the covers prevent winterkill, but they can also encourage the germination of newly planted seeds. The covers create what is called “The Greenhouse Effect” which allows the growing grass to breathe and retain heat and moisture even on the coldest of days. Many superintendents also say that the covers help them open the course quicker in spring.


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