Monday, March 17, 2014


There is no debate that this winter has been one of the most extreme on record. Record cold temperatures and snowfall have occurred across North America. The pertinent question though, is what does this mean for my greens?

   Bentgrass greens are still in a safe range and the main factor that could affect turf loss is freezing/thawing cycles as this weather warms up. Poa annua greens are, for many Ontario superintendents, approaching a critical time frame for continuous ice cover. We won't know for sure the extent of damage until the spring warmth thaws things out. With this looming disaster, now is the time to develop a proactive plan to remove ice and have a recovery program if damage has occurred.

   Many superintendents are dealing with layers of snow, ice, snow, ice and more ice. The current cold allows machinery to safely remove all but the lowest ice layer safely. Utilise a tractor, snow blower or hand shovels, but get the cover cleared so the ice against the turf can be tackled as things begin to warm.

   Once the snow and mid layer ice has been removed, apply 10-20 lbs/1000 Sustane 6-3-3. This is a composted product and does a better job absorbing sunlight and heat energy while being completely safe for turfgrass. Any product that remains on the turf will stimulate spring recovery and add humus and nutrients to the soil. It is imperative this is done prior to a sunny day. Results are not as good if the weather is cloudy.

   The Sustane will melt and perforate the ice, allowing for removal of water and loose ice. Use a squeegee or shop vac for water and plastic hand shovels to remove ice. Make sure you have made some drainage channels to allow water to flow away from the green surface during the day, rather than puddling and freezing at night. Also be cognisant of  causing any physical damage to the newly exposed turf. Be gentle with shovels and foot traffic. Remember, the turf is at its most fragile at the end of the winter.

   There is an added benefit of this process; if turf loss occurs you will have an answer for green’s committee members who ask "what did you do to prevent this death?"

   The looming spring weather doesn't look good. The Great Lakes have record ice cover and will act as a giant air conditioner well into early summer. This may have a profound impact on recovery of damaged turf. Growth will be slow and seed germination a challenge. So what options are there for recovery?

   New turf can only come from seed or sod. Weak turf can only be stimulated with warmth and nutrients. That's the basic facts. With this in mind here a few suggestions:

   For weak turf apply Grigg Brothers NutriGreen 5-10-5 and Ultraplex to stimulate plant respiration and photosynthesis. Covering with a Hinsperger perforated 12 yr radiant green cover can stimulate warmth. For damaged turf areas utilise your nursery with square plugging tools from Standard and Miltona that transfer the rootzone along with the turf. If no nursery is available consider sodding but be prepared to do some extra maintenance to keep it healthy through September. Regular mini-tine aeration, extra wetting agents and careful mowing height decisions are critical.

   Seeding is an option when combined with mini-tine aeration, deep verticutting, and a quality over-seeder. Temperatures will dictate success so plan on using Hinsperger 12yr radiant covers or delaying the process until late May/June. Regular foliar applications will help the young seedlings have more vigour.

   The decisions you make over the next 4 weeks may greatly influence the success of greens survival. Budget and proper information to your boards will dictate the success and speed of recovery if turf damage does occur. Talk to us at Allturf for more feedback and budgeting details. we have the experience both as sales reps and greenskeepers.

Good Luck