So, I found myself wondering what I would discuss for my first post, and it looks like Mother Nature has decided for me: Wow! It's been really cold! I was in Michigan prior to moving down South, so the cold here is not too bad, but as my 4 year old, Alex, likes to say, "Daddy, its super, super, super, super, cold out!" That's kind of what I would like to think the bermudagrasses (esp. ultradwarfs) have been saying too, especially if you're in a situation where covering is a labor-limited situation and might not have been able to put the covers on fast enough. Here in Knoxville, the temperatures have hovered for the last couple of weeks with highs in the low-mid thirties, and lows in the teens. The real question that I am sure is not lost on many of you dealing with these conditions is, "Will my turf be alive in the spring?" The short answer is that we don't know enough to predict with a high degree of accuracy how bermudagrasses handle the cold. The newer varieties with improved cold tolerance (Riviera, Yukon, Patriot, etc.) haven't really seen much of these kinds of conditions since their introduction to the market, so it will be interesting to see how they fare next to standbys like 419 and Tifsport. The ultradwarfs (TifEagle, Champion, Mini-Verde, etc.) have moved somewhat North since the last major cold winter, so that will be interesting to observe too. I suspect that the really wet, soggy conditions at the end of the season, and the cold snaps we have had this winter are going to make for some pretty poor bermudagrass conditions this spring when it comes out of dormancy.
Many of you are probably already thinking, "So, how do I know how bad it will be, and can I do anything about it?" One of the easiest things you can do over the next couple of months will be to collect a few samples from turf areas you are worried about (e.g. shady areas on a fairway, low spots that collect water, etc.) and a few samples from areas that consistently perform well (e.g. well-drained areas, full sun, etc.) and begin to bring them inside and acclimate them to warmer conditions. The first step would be to bring them into an unheated, cold area sheltered from the elements in the maintenance facility. After a few days of slightly warmer temps, move them to an area that is warmer, but still cool (e.g. heated equipment storage areas). Following a few days, move them into a warmer area yet, and finally into an area in the shop that is warm enough that the plants (if alive) will begin to green up. You will need to keep them watered, not saturated, and monitor them for growth. Doing this every couple of weeks over the next few months will give you a good idea whether you will need to reserve some sod or sprigs for re-establishment or if those nightmares you had about whole fairways being dead was really just a bad dream. The important thing is to remember that by having some advanced warning of what you might be in store for will help you prepare your membership prior to any damage, and this will be a silver lining in an otherwise dark cloud.
I am looking forward to posting regularly on the blog, and look forward to hearing from many of you about problems and questions you might have as we tackle what's in store for 2010!