Weather In The Eastern Transition Zone

By Stanley J. Zontek, director, Mid-Atlantic Region
August 31, 2011

The transition zone, the climatic region where the northern extreme in the adaptation of warm-season grasses (e.g. bermudagrass and zoysiagrass) meets the southern extreme in the adaptation of cool-season grasses (e.g. perennial ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, creeping bentgrass and Poa annua)  is recognized as one of the most challenging areas to grow grass in the United States.  That reputation is intact this summer.   

(1)  Record heat.  The month of July was the hottest July on record and May was record tying.

(2)  Record rainfall.  As of August 26th, the month of August is the wettest in history with more than 13 inches of rain measured at the Philadelphia airport and that doesn’t count the contributions from Hurricane Irene.  If this were snow, we could have more than 13 feet.   

(3)  Hurricane Irene.  Hurricanes that hit the Mid-Atlantic Region are a rarity, but here we go with all the consequences that go with it. 

(4)  An earthquake.  Who have guessed it? 

All of this speaks volumes to the challenges facing golfers and golf course superintendents practically every year that they try to grow grass and play golf.  It is less well known to the average golfer, course official, course owner or any golfer who wonders why the golf course is not in perfect condition at the end of the summer in Philadelphia, Baltimore, metro-D.C. or Richmond, VA.  Prolonged periods of high temperatures, high humidity, drought or excessive rainfall causes problems with grass.   

Gray leaf spot, a devastating disease to perennial ryegrass, and to lesser extent turf-type tall fescues, tends to be more severe following a hurricane.  The spores of this disease are carried by the wind from the south.  In addition to cleaning up debris from Hurricane Irene, turf managers need to be attentive about gray leaf spot affecting the ryegrass this fall. 

The Mid-Atlantic Region agronomists are part of your agronomic support team.  If you have a question or concern, give us a call or send an e-mail.  You can reach Stan Zontek ( and Darin Bevard ( at 610/ 558-9066 or Keith Happ ( at 412/ 341-5922.



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