Yes it's that time of year again. Time for that bucking bronco Wild Horse to finally slow down and take a nap. It was a really great year for golf at Wild Horse. The course came through last winter superbly and conditions were excellent all year. We hope you enjoyed your many rounds out here this season.
Winter can be a stressful time for turf with its cold drying winds and unpredictable nature. We have discussed previously the hazards of wintertime and it is usually an anxious time for us as we have to "take what we get" for weather. There are no guarantees to winter survival and many variables that might factor into the turf's vigor come spring, but we do a few things that hopefully help our turf winter well.
1) Fall Aerification--We want a strong healthy plant going into winter and this process helps build a good root structure that can support a plant through stressful times.
2) Fall Fertilization--Once again this helps build a healthy plant.
3) Less Mowing--As you noticed this fall the grass got longer and shaggier which was by design. The more leaf surface area a plant has the more carbohydrates it can produce. These sugars accumulate in the crown of the plant creating a sugary antifreeze which protects this critical growing point from freezing.
4) Heavy Topdressing--This serves to protect the crown of the plant from cold temps and dehydration much like a blanket protects you from the winter chill.
5) Fall Irrigation--Although grass plants have very little activity during the winter season, there could be warm spells during our winters that turf might actually uptake some water so ample soil moisture can be beneficial.
6) Winter Irrigation--This helps maintain crown moisture levels. UNL Turf Team has done some research recently that shows a critical level of crown moisture must be maintained to prevent damage.
7) Snowmaking--This once again acts as a blanket to protect the plant from severe cold. Also maintains a proper crown moisture level.
8) No Golf- Traffic can create more stress on the turf and while it may now directly injure the grass, the added stress can be the tipping point between life and death. There has been research that shows that excessive traffic can compromise crown health by crushing/damaging it enough to loose valuable moisture.
So there are several practices we perform to keep our turf plants happy and healthy through the winter. Is one more key than another? Probably not, but together these steps can help get our turf through its most stressful period of the year.