Clark Talks Turf: Winter is Coming

By |  October 25, 2012

The golf and growing seasons are winding down in much of the country, while in southern locations, the primary golfing season is just getting cranked up. Up north and in the northern part of the bermudagrass belt, putting green grasses are showing signs of dormancy including a slower growth rate and a gradual loss of green color.

Now is a great time to raise the mowing height on bermudagrass, creeping bentgrass and annual bluegrass greens that are entering dormancy. Green speed is always fastest in fall thanks to Mother Nature, so golfers will still enjoy fast greens while the grass gets a break from a higher height of cut. The extra leaf area will increase carbohydrate production which the turfgrass plant will use to develop a deeper, more extensive root system and storing more carbohydrates which will help the plant survive winter and kick start green-up in spring.

The higher height of cut will help the plants cope with traffic during the winter months when there is no growth. And for superintendents who are planning to paint dormant bermudagrass the extra leaf area will intercept more colorant, leading to a better looking putting surface. The extra leaf area in fall will help dormant bermudagrass greens from having excessively fast green speed in spring as the turf canopy gradually wears away over the winter due to traffic.

Keep topdressing on a regular basis all fall as long as the grass continues to grow. Organic matter will accumulate anytime the grass is growing so continue with light, frequent topdressing all fall until the grass is dormant.

For superintendents who are getting ready to overseed, good luck on a smooth fall transition and a great start to the winter golf season.

Clark Throssell, Ph.D., research editor for Golfdom and a turfgrass scientist, can be reached at

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