Freezing Temperatures Are Not All Bad” December 12, 2012 By David A. Oatis

The holidays are upon us and the winter solstice is just a week away. The book can just about be closed on another long season. Hopefully your fall projects are nearing completion, because irrigation systems have been blown out and maintenance crews are shrinking. Day length will be at its shortest point of the year in another week, and frost is arriving with ever more regularity. Greens are being closed and many have already been covered. The dreaded “temporaries” have been prepared, and winter golfers already are ready to complain about the unfairness of temporary greens. So what does all this mean?

Freezing temperatures are good. We need deep freezes to kill certain pests and to relieve compaction. I’m sorry for the frost on your windshield and for the temporary greens, but freezing temperatures are good for golf courses in the Northern states. Keeping play off of dormant turf helps eliminate another stress, and may help your turf perform better next year.

With the shortest day of the year comes the knowledge that the sun is at its most southern position when it rises. It also is at its lowest angle. This is extremely valuable information for superintendents trying to evaluate where tree work may be needed. Golfers sometimes scoff at the importance of winter sunlight, but turf that doesn’t receive enough light from October through March usually has more problems. The hardening process is adversely affected and the turf goes into the winter weaker. Turf that goes into the winter with less vigor won’t come out any stronger. In fact, just the opposite occurs. Winter shade translates to more snow and ice accumulations, and worse by far, more freeze thaw cycles which cause crown hydration injury. Let there be no mistake: winter shade and the occurrence of winter damage are closely aligned. So if you want to reduce chances of winter injury and get your weaker turf off to a better start next year, trees may be the answer. Sharpen up the saws and plan tree work accordingly. By the way, a new chain saw makes a wonderful Christmas present!

For superintendents in the northeast, it’s time to catch your breath and to begin recharging worn down batteries. Even the easy years are difficult, and 2012 was not an easy one. It was an extremely long season with lots of extremes, and that translates to physical and mental stress. In a nutshell, we all need a break. So does the turf. 2013 is just around the corner, but we can worry about that after the holidays. Now it’s time to give thanks for blessings received, and to put your feet up for a day or two. We can begin talking about New Year’s resolutions in a couple of weeks, but for now enjoy the holidays, and may next year be the best ever!

Source:  Northeast Region Green Section- Dave Oatis, director; Adam Moeller, agronomist Jim Skorulski, senior agronomist