Hyde Park Est. 1909, A Donald Ross Design

Monday, January 6, 2014

Extreme cold: what does this mean for the turf?

Over the next few days an Artic air mass will be inundating much of the Midwest, South and East coast with extreme cold with temperatures in the single digit range and wind chills that will reach close to -30F. This extreme cold will pose some serious challenges for turfgrass survival, especially the Zoysia grass.

Turfgrass, in general terms, similar to the human body enjoys moderation. The fairways at Hyde Park are composed of Meyer Zoysia, a warm season grass that thrives well in warm humid climates. Unfortunately, Zoyisa grass cold tolerance hardiness is lower compared to cool season grasses such as creeping bentgrass. There are several types of winter kill, however with this large temperature swing (30F) I am going to discuss the possibility of low temperature kill. Low temperature kill occurs when ice forms inside the plant, however this is most common in early winter when the plant has not had the chance to adjust or harden off for the cold months ahead.

The recent rain ahead of the cold temperatures has left standing water on many of the fairways, ice formation will occur and may damage the plant. Areas on the fairways that have higher levels of shade, compaction, or poor drainage will have a increased chance to be impacted by the extreme cold temperatures. Also, the newly laid Zoyisa sod from the fall renovation of hole 13 has a greater chance of being impacted, because it did not have time to establish roots due to dormancy. Hopefully, before the onset of the cold temperatures a blanket of snow will help insulate and moderate the soil and canopy temperatures. As you can see from the photo below the snow was melting quickly on Sunday evening.

Historically, the last significant winterkill damage at Hyde Park occurred in 1996, when there was a warm December followed by extreme low temperatures in January with no snow cover. (Figure 1. Excerpts of July 1997 USGA visit) With that said there is no granantee that turf will be lost but the chances have increased. We will monitor closely and keep the membership updated.

One of the most important ways to prepare the turf for the winter is to grow healthy turf. Some of the key building blocks of our program include:

  • Eliminate cart traffic on dormant turf
  • Higher mowing height prior to winter to protect the crown of plant
  • Aeration and Topdressing
  • Proper fertilization
  • Tree removal
  • Added drainage

The picture below shows how much green is still evident in the Zoysia even in January.

Figure. 1 (Excerpts of USGA site visit 1997)

 

If there are any questions please do not hesitate to contact me via email at: grounds@hydeparkcc.com

Regards,

Pat O'Brien

Grounds Superintendent

 

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