This spring season has certainly been more winter than spring. I’ve even heard it described as it being January 74th today. One thing is for sure though…all of this cold weather is a cause for concern for our poor home lawns.
First and foremost, those states where southern turfgrasses are grown are the ones that concern me the most, as damage is likely to happen later this spring or summer. Thanks to the warmer weather those states experienced in February, the turf came out of dormancy and started to green up and could have even been mowed a few times. But since then, with the colder weather making its return, lawns have entered back into dormancy or at the least, a semi-dormant state.
When this occurs, the sugars and carbohydrates don’t totally convert into the more cold-tolerant starches, like what typically happens in the fall just before the winter dormancy period. This can be quite stressful for southern grasses, such as Bermudagrass and St. Augustine, and can lead to damage later on, or at minimum, a thinning of the turf.
Centipedegrass may also experience issues this spring, and just like St. Augustine grass, it may take a lot of time to recover since neither of them have below-ground rhizomes. They both grow above the ground through stolons, or runners. This makes recovery and regrowth of these species more difficult.
Other issues, such as cold and drier-than-normal air, increase the risk of damage, specifically in southern turfgrasses, drying the crowns of the plant out completely. Also, possible damage may occur from standing water. In certain cases, there was rain right before the cold weather hit and all that stagnant water froze in and around the crown of the plants, causing damage or weakening the plant.
When it comes to the more northern states, on the other hand, there is some concern for damage with the Tall Fescue and Bluegrass species; but typically, the damage isn’t near as bad as it is with southern turf. If the temperatures warm up enough to allow the water to thaw between the plant’s cells, then the cells will re-hydrate and if it gets cold again, and a hard frost occurs, Freeze Damage can occur.
Freeze Damage looks a lot like random white streaks or bleached out areas. These discolored areas happen when young, tender new growth freezes after a cold snap. This will usually last for only a short period of time before it recovers and grows out.
So, what can you do to help the grass in the meantime? Be aware that excess foot and vehicle traffic may worsen the effects of cold damage, so stay off damaged turf until the soil and plants have completely thawed. The healthier the turf, the more stress it can handle, so last year’s applications will help.
Keep those lawns healthy,