It’s that time of year where all our turfgrasses begin to stretch, yawn, and wake back up.
Unfortunately, there is still a risk of some areas of turf not waking up.
In lieu of the winter we’ve had this year in the Knoxville area, winter kill is a lingering possibility. There’s no real standard of winter kill diagnosis other than the fact that the turf does not green up come spring. But what actually happened?
Funny you should ask…
“Winter kill” is a general term that is used to define turf loss during the winter. Winter kill can be caused by a combination of factors including crown hydration, desiccation, low temperatures, ice sheets and snow mold. Because of the unpredictability of environmental factors and differences in other factors such as surface drainage, the occurrence of winter kill on turf is variable and can vary greatly between lawns across the county or even across the street.
During the warm days of late winter, turfgrass plants start to take up water (hydrate). Potential for injury exists when a day or two of warm daytime temperatures in late winter is followed by a rapid freeze. The most common time for winter kill associated with crown hydration and refreezing to occur is during the late winter and early spring when there is snowmelt or rainfall and then refreezing of the water that has not drained away. Crown hydration is a problem during these events because ice crystal can form in the crown of the plant, rupture the plant cells and ultimately cause the plant to die.
Winter desiccation is the death of leaves or plants by drying during winter when the plant is either dormant or semidormant. Desiccation injury is usually greatest on exposed or elevated sites and areas where surface runoff is great. This will most likely not be an issue in our area.
The two diseases commonly called snow mold are Typhula blight (gray snow mold) and Microdochium patch (pink snow mold). Gray snow mold requires extended periods of snow cover; pink snow mold can occur either with or without snow cover. Though can cause injury, they often times to not kill the lawn.
So we may be on the tail end of our winter, but for turf managers, the party is just beginning!
So you’ve got winter kill – what do you do now?
Call us first and foremost. Let us put eyes on it and identify what exactly caused the problem. Was it crown hydration? Was it strictly temperature? Being able to identify its cause could potentially help in the long run. Secondly, let us put together a plan to rebuild the lawn. Since often times winter kill only effects a small portion of the lawn, a complete renovation isn’t necessary. A good top dressing and overseeding can repair the issue to leave you with a beautiful lawn come summer.
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