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Winter Turf Tips

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Winter turf injury is very common and can be caused by a variety of different factors. Winter disease, freezing and turf kill can combine to cause permanent damage. As winter approaches, it is important to take steps to care for golf courses with warm and cool season turfgrasses. Both climates can experience damage and disease if not properly cared for during the winter months.

Cool Season Turfgrasses in the North

As golf course superintendents know, they must prepare for unique challenges from winter weather. Here are a few winter care tips for cool season turfgrasses:

  • Aerate and fertilize the turf before the first frost to continue good growing conditions into the winter and reduce thatch buildup.
  • Consider seeding creeping bentgrass in the fall over spots with thin turf. Creeping bentgrass is more resilient in winter weather.
  • Manage soil moisture throughout the growing season and winter months with hand-held moisture meters and supplemental irrigation to prevent wilting or winter desiccation. The FieldScout™ TDR 350 Soil Moisture Meter measures soil moisture in a matter of seconds and has integrated Bluetooth to share data remotely.
  • Remove all debris, such as sticks and leaves, from turf. Both can damage the turf and create conditions for disease if they become too wet.
  • Avoid repeated traffic over the same site by establishing pathways of concrete and asphalt and utilize landscape designs to channel the flow of foot traffic.
  • Continue to check soil compaction. Too much soil compaction can cause poor drainage, increased standing water and more runoff. Devices like the FieldScout™ SC 900 Soil Compaction Meter can be used to measure soil compaction across the course.
  • Raise the height of cut on ultra-dwarf putting greens by 25 percent heading into the fall. This needs to be done while the grass is actively growing to realize benefits. Raise the height of cut by another 25 percent heading into winter dormancy.

Warm Season Turfgrasses in the South

In the transition zone and southern United States, golf course superintendents plan for warmer winters than the north, but they still utilize preventative measures to protect their turf. Consider these warm season turfgrass winter care best practices:

  • Add more potassium to turf in the fall to protect bermudagrass growth throughout the winter.
  • Consider overseeding the grass with Kentucky bluegrass to keep grass green if grass goes dormant.
  • Treat winter weeds as they appear to prevent spread. Make sure soil is over 55 degrees before putting down weed control treatments. A soil thermometer can be used to confirm that turf will not be damaged. Spectrum® Technologies line of WatchDog™ 3000 Weather Stations also can help provide site-specific temperature data across all areas on the course.
  • Dormant turf should still be watered, but at lower levels than when it is active. The FieldScout™ TDR Portable Soil Moisture Meters makes irrigation easier by measuring the amount of water each area receives.
  • Manage soil moisture throughout the winter months with hand-held moisture meters and supplemental irrigation to prevent wilting or winter desiccation.
  • In the southern most climates, dormant turf can be edged and trimmed in the winter to keep the course in playable condition.

Winter weather and temperatures can cause damage to all turfgrasses. Spectrum® Technologies’ measurement technology can help ease the transition into winter by providing quantifiable measurement data that removes the guesswork from monitoring temperature, soil compaction, soil moisture and weather conditions.

To learn more about how our measurement tools can keep turf healthy all winter, contact the experts at Spectrum® Technologies today at 800-248-8873 or