WHAT IS WINTER KILL?
Written by Paul Blessing - Turf & Horticulture Manager
Though it is hard to say what a normal winter is like in North Carolina, it is safe to say that there is concern for our warm season turf types (Bermuda, Centipede, Zoysia, St. Augustine) this spring. In November and December of last year (2021), we only had 2.5 inches of rain. This means our soil moisture was significantly below average at the end of the year, and that trend is continuing into 2022. When you combine the limited rainfall with very warm soil temperatures at the end of last year, many of our warm season turf varieties did not go into complete dormancy.
When turf does not go into complete dormancy, and there is an abrupt drop in temperatures (like we experienced in January) it could be a recipe for winter injury or kill. The problem is we will not know the extent of winter damage until the turf greens up this spring.
Where would I expect to see loss? Shady areas close to tree canopies and north sides of buildings, where there is just enough light for warm season grass to grow but with a weakened root system, low-lying areas that hold water for extended periods of time, and high traffic areas will all suffer. If you notice uneven turf, this is sometimes observed as Spring Dead Spot which is a fungal disease that causes death, and typically occur in the same areas year after year.
Using fungicides in these areas isn’t the complete answer. It is important to try and mitigate these areas by improving sunlight exposure levels, so it doesn’t continue to occur year after year. This is done by pruning or removing trees, leveling areas in turf that are uneven, installing drainage in areas that hold water. In some cases, where warm season grass continues to struggle it might be best to either remove the turf and naturalize the area, or use a cool season turf (Tall Fescue) that requires less light. Remember, if there is less than 4 hours of direct sunlight, we don’t recommend trying to grow any type of warm season turf.
If you would like more information on Turf Management, please reach out to your local GreenView Partners representative.