Jack Frost Is Already Nipping December 15, 2010 By Todd Lowe

Frosts can cause a temporary “tiger stripe” pattern on bermudagrass roughs.  

Our region has already experienced two days of frost and several nights of low soil temperatures that has caused bermudagrass and seashore paspalum to lose color.  As John Foy reported in the previous Florida Regional Update, weather predictions for this winter are colder and drier than average, and so far these predictions are true. 

Bermudagrass generally goes completely dormant in North Florida during the winter months, but most of our region remains warm enough to experience some turfgrass growth and a light green color.  Temperature has the greatest impact on turf quality on Florida golf courses, as lower soil temperature causes decreased growth and color, while warmer temperatures encourage turf growth. 

Temperatures fluctuate continually in our region during the winter play season, as several days of cold are often immediately followed by warmer weather. This roller coaster swing of temperatures causes putting green color to temporarily change from light green to brownish green.  Dark substances, such as black-dyed sand or charcoal, can be applied to putting greens on a regular basis to increase heat retention and improve consistency and color throughout the winter play season.  Although color diminishes as temperature decreases, putting speed increases during the winter play season.  Golfers should focus more on better putting green playability than on diminished color at this time of year.

Applying liquid nutrients through a sprayer is an excellent cultural practice for improving golf course fairways during the winter play season.  Inexpensive products that contain iron and manganese enhance turf color without producing an abundance of turfgrass leaves and stems.  Products that contain nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, or “complete” fertilizers should also be applied occasionally to enhance turf growth during upswings in soil temperatures.

With drier than average conditions forecasted, periodic monitoring of soil moisture is recommended.  Reduction in soil moisture can result in drought-like symptoms, which is difficult to detect when the turf is semi-dormant from low soil temperature.  Soil probes or moisture sensors should be used, especially as temperatures rise.

Colder is a relative term, and I am hopeful that earlier predictions are for slightly lower temperatures as compared to an average winter.  The Farmer’s Almanac predicted colder temperatures this past winter and it ended up being one of the coldest on record in our region.  Florida golf course superintendents are hopeful that similar conditions will not be repeated in 2011.

Source:  Todd Lowe, or 941-828-2625