Winter Protection, Projects and Peace of Mind

By Keith A. Happ, senior agronomist, Mid-Atlantic Region
December 12, 2012

 (L) Pruning to manage tree growth is integral to efficient, effective turf maintenance programs. Winter is a great time to take action and manage the trees. (R) Topdressing heavily during the late fall and early winter is a great way to insulate the turf prior to cold temperature stress. Greens are still playable if weather allows and topdressing will provide long lasting benefit.


One of the questions posed recently is, “Can I apply too much topdressing on the greens prior to winter weather?”

Answer: Yes, there is a point of limited returns. Burying the grass (completely) is not the strategy to pursue but applying 1/16th to 1/8th inch of sand is not uncommon. It takes 17 cubic yards of sand to cover an acre to a depth of 1/8th inch. This is about 23 tons of sand! It provides insulation, protects the crown of the plant, offers a smoothing effect and will help to create a firmer surface on which to play. These are good benefits for both the short and long term. More and more superintendents are topdressing aggressively prior to winter. Naturally, the sand is brushed or lightly dragged into the canopy with the knowledge that winter rain or snow will work the sand down into the profile. It may require some degree of experimentation at your course but topdressing to protect the turf this winter is a great strategy.   

Portions of the Mid-Atlantic Region have been dry this fall and this has resulted in development of Type II fairy ring. While this is a superficial problem, it can lead to more severe problems particularly, if we experience extended dry winter and spring conditions. As the organic matter decays (this results in a nitrogen effect that stimulates the development of the green ring) the thatch can become more difficult to wet. The thatch could repel water rather than hold it for plant use. Treating this fall with surfactants, combined with sight specific venting of the problem area will help a great deal. Fall applications of a surfactant could help maintain a more consistent level of soil moisture resulting in fewer problems next season.

Many courses have elected to conduct a survey of their trees and determine a long range plan of action. Managing the trees will help to manage turf health and its performance. The fall and the winter is a great time to act by selectively removing unnecessary trees that compromise growing conditions. Pruning trees helps to maintain the critical balance between trees and turf. Knowing that growing environments are being maintained for the benefit of the grass offers peace of mind.

Always remember that the agronomists of the Mid-Atlantic Region are part of your agronomic support team. If you have a question of concern, especially now, give us a call or send an email. You can reach Darin Bevard ( at 610-558-9066 or Keith Happ at ( at 412-341-5922 

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