Northeast News Update December 2, 2010 By Jim Skorulski

The staff at Hillsdale Golf and Country Club in Mirabel, Quebec spreads straw that insulates the putting green turf from lethal temperatures in winter. Timing the installation of the cover systems is done as late as possible in fall to allow the turf an opportunity to gain cold temperature hardiness before being covered. The straw layer is covered with an impermeable fabric to maintain its insulating ability and keep the turf as dry as possible. 

The first day of December brought heavy rain and warm temperatures to much of the region. The weather event, though short lived, illustrates the challenges turfgrass managers face as the season transitions from fall to winter. Wide temperature fluctuations and rain can impact the winter acclimation process and complicate management decisions.  Weather impacts are probably greatest in northern parts of the region where the transition window is often short and less predictable. Mangers use long-range weather forecasts and rely on their intuition to time winter fungicide applications and install covers. Push the envelope too late and you might find a permanent blanket of snow in your way. Move too early and take the risk of a fungicide failure or poor success with winter covers. The turf’s condition in spring can often be linked to the weather conditions that occur during this transitional period.   

So what is the ideal weather scenario for the transition between fall and winter? It would provide a period of seasonal-to-below normal temperatures and below normal precipitation.  A little frost in the ground would be ideal, followed by a deep blanket of insulating snow. A quick look at the ten-day forecast for much of New England and points north is favorable, with colder temperatures and drying conditions that should be ideal for the hardening-off or acclimation processes that are integral for the turf’s winter survival. Most turf managers in the northern parts of the region have their winter protection covers in place. Superintendents intending to use covers further south will be able to take advantage of this favorable weather to install covers and finish late topdressing and other work as their golf courses dry out.

Late fall weather conditions in New England are seldom perfect. We continue to work around the weather events as much as possible, knowing that ultimately we are at its mercy.  A recipe for a successful winter management program requires equal parts of knowledge and good fortune. Being able to put the grass to bed in a dry and cold condition improves its ability to survive the cold winter temperatures that lie ahead. Perhaps this year’s weather transition into winter will be a more traditional one. We can only hope.                

Upcoming Events 

  • NJ. Green Expo Turf and Landscape Conference, December 7-9, Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City, NJ
  • Empire State Green Industry Show, January 11-13, Rochester Riverside Convention Center, Rochester, NY.

Northeast Region Green Section- Dave Oatis, Director; Adam Moeller, Agronomist Jim Skorulski, Senior Agronomist