Put your Turf to Bed
It's that time of year again! We need to get ready for winter, so you should put your turf to bed for a long winter's nap. Winterkill can be caused by three things: low temperatures, desiccation, or disease.
As water freezes, it creates sharp crystals that can rupture plant cells. Winterizing practices help the turfgrass store more sugar (and thus less water) in its cells.
If your turf is exposed to wind over the winter, it can be at risk for desiccation (drying up). Cold, dry air currents can pick up water from the turf canopy and carry it away, resulting in water-stressed plants. Whenever possible, avoid exposing the grass once it becomes covered with snow. Snow is a great insulator and protects against desiccation!
Pink and grey snow moulds thrive under cool, moist conditions. These diseases are more prevalent in the golf industry, but outbreaks can still occur on taller-mown turf. The fungi grows and spreads under the snow and large circular dead patches may be found in the spring.
Tips for success:
- Provide adequate drainage. Turfgrass that is surrounded by water in the winter will be prone to internal freezing.
- Remove thatch. This can be the hiding place of disease-causing microorganisms.
- Raise the mowing height. This additional plant material can act as insulation for the crowns.
- Fall fertilization. Make a nitrogen-rich fertilizer application when the turf has stopped growing but is still green. Late-season nitrogen applications promote deep rooting during the fall, so plants go into next spring with deeper, healthier roots. NOTE: Fertilizer applied too early will promote succulent growth in the fall that will make the lawn more susceptible to winter injury. Fertilizer applied too late will be of no benefit to the turf (before mid-November).
- Leave the leaves (when possible). Raking and blowing away leaves destroys habitats that are essential to the survival of moths, butterflies, snails, spiders, and beneficial microbes. Consider leaving a layer of leaf litter on the lawn.