Cold Damage to Turf

This year, warm season turf has had a difficult time greening up.  Clint Waltz, the Extension Turfgrass Specialist at the University of Georgia, sent an e-mail to us regarding cold damage to turf.  An excerpt of his e-mail is below.  This information should shed some light on your current situation if your turf is experiencing slow green up this season {May 2014}.

“I’ve had a number of questions from you and practitioners regarding grass that has failed to green-up this spring.  With variations among four different warm-season species, multiple climatic conditions, and because of the wet conditions leading to a likelihood of disease, there is much to be said on the topic of “winter kill”.  Some relevant and factual, some not.  In many incidents there are circumstances and extenuating factors that make a specific diagnosis difficult. If there were a year for winter kill, after the cold conditions this past winter and early spring, this would be the year for it.I’m going to provide some bullet points on observations and potential recourse.

Dr. James McCurdy at Mississippi State has written a good blog on winter kill in his state <https://blogs.msucares.com/turfgrass/2014/05/09/winter-kill/>.  Over the past 30 to 45 days I’ve seen many of the same issues in Georgia so my comments would be consistent with his.

  • In many cases bermudagrass has greened-up and is beginning to grow.  I’ve seen a few lawns and pictures of some bermudagrass that is still brown.  Patience may be the key with bermudagrass.  Soil temperatures have only been conducive for growth for about two weeks.  Remember bermudagrass has rhizomes, below ground stems, that were likely well insulated by soil.  Warmer temperatures and time will likely be suitable for bermudagrass recovery.  Check for extenuating factors like shade and ask questions about how long ice or snow remained on the lawn / grass.  I have seen some incidences where sledding occurred and the brown tracks are consistent with the path of wintertime fun.
  • Hybrid bermudagrass have recovered better than common-type (i.e. seeded) bermudagrasses.  The commons are recovering; all be it slowly.
  • Zoysiagrass have fared well, but are slow to resume active growth.  See my comments for bermudagrass regarding soil temperatures and patience.  Remember, zoysiagrass is inherently a slow growing species, so recovery is going to take time.  It too has rhizomes and with time will regenerate itself as environmental conditions become favorable for growth.  To help, vertical mowing (i.e. verticutting) can aid in getting light and warmth to the soil surface.  This cultural practice can help remove dead leaf material and speed recovery.
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