December: In Like A Lamb, Out Like A Lion?
December 4, 2009
The surprisingly mild late fall weather has been interesting to say the least. On one hand, the extended growing season has been a blessing for those dealing with project work or who have had to establish new turf this fall. The juvenile plants have had at least some opportunity to establish a root system and produce tillers that will improve their chance of surviving the winter ahead. The comfortable weather also has increased golf activity that may be helpful for those operations desperate for revenue.
|Warmer than usual weather has forced the staff at Rivermead Golf Club in Gatineau, Quebec to install winter protection covers over the greens later than usual. Permeable plastic air tubes are being placed over the surface and will be used during the winter to vent the greens, which will be covered with an insulating material and an impermeable fabric to protect against cold temperature injury.|
The warmer weather also can be a challenge as we look ahead to winter. Mild weather conditions raise legitimate concerns over the cold temperature hardiness levels of turf plants as we head into the winter season. Last year’s December ice storm and widely fluctuating temperatures are still fresh in the mind of many New England superintendents who experienced extensive turf loss and tree damage during that period. We have to assume the warmer weather has impacted the processes that produce temperature hardiness in turf plants. However, turf can rapidly acquire cold temperature hardiness in the fall with the right conditions at hand. A return to normal December temperatures in the next several weeks should be sufficient for plants to gain normal levels of hardiness. Temperatures in the 30°- 40° (0°- 5°C) range with some exposure to colder, below-freezing temperatures, coupled with a stretch of drier weather will probably be required before the turf obtains a more-typical level of cold temperature hardiness.
The installation of winter protection covers has also been impacted by the fall weather. Some golf courses have delayed installation, but others have had to move forward in areas where the window for the application is so short. The goal is to install the covers as late as possible, but prior to deep frost setting in the ground or the first significant and persistent snowfall. This is especially important where impermeable covers and insulating materials are used to protect greens. The success of those covering systems depends on maintaining a stable environment with temperatures at or near the freezing point. A week or so of cold and dry weather conditions prior to the first heavy snow would be welcomed at this point for those installing the more elaborate winter protection cover systems or for golf courses where covers are already in place. Otherwise, it may be a very busy winter and spring season ahead. Hopefully, the lion’s roar will not be heard.
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