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Experts’ Insights: (Turf) cover talk

By |  October 28, 2020 0 Comments
Turf covers (Photo: Bill Kreuser, Ph.D.)

Turf covers can be used to prevent situations where desiccation, low temperatures and ice can kill the grass. (Photo: Bill Kreuser, Ph.D.)

When it comes to implementing turf covers, it all comes down to what (turfgrass) stress superintendents are dealing with because that’s going to help them figure out what type of cover they need and how to manage taking them on and off, according to Bill Kreuser, assistant professor and Extension turfgrass specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“It’s just getting people to think about what stress are they trying to prevent,” he notes. “In the Great Plains, it’s desiccation. In the Southeast, it’s low-temperature kill on the bermudagrass that can’t handle hard freezes in the winter. In the Great Lakes and throughout Canada, it’s minimizing water on that surface to prevent crown hydration issues or prevent ice from accumulating on top of the grass and suffocating it.”

In the Great Plains, Kreuser recommends a more permeable, mesh-type cover that’s woven so that when it snows or rains, the moisture will go through the cover and rehydrate the plant.

On the other hand, in the Great Lakes and Canada, impermeable turf covers are recommended.

“Those covers are more like a tarp, and that keeps the water off. Sometimes, they’ll put straw or bubble wrap underneath that to get some air in there so that plant can breathe during the winter,” Kreuser says.

Turf covers are often used during the winter in high-value areas like greens and tees.

The other half of the battle, Kreuser says, is deciding when to put covers down and when to remove them.

“The trick with covers is you don’t want to put them on too early or take them off too late,” he says. “In research from a couple years ago, we took them off late, and they were bright green, but a day and a half later, the temperatures went into the 20s, and all that bright green grass that broke dormancy was killed. The plant was able to regrow new leaves, but it took weeks to recover.”

He advises superintendents to monitor the grass growth and put covers down when the grass has stopped growing and temperatures hit around the freezing mark. He recommends removing them before the grass starts to regrow in the spring.

Headshot: Bill Thompson

Headshot: Bill Thompson

Evergreen Turf Covers

Bill Thompson
Sales manager

Superintendents need to consider many factors in choosing the right cover for their course as their position can very well depend on the performance of the cover. Whether for winter protection, new course construction, renovation projects and frost protection in the Transition Zones, there is a cover with a budget for you. Greens covers can be made in one piece. The construction should be easy to work with and come with the appropriate amount of sod staples. The covers should be lightweight but strong and able to outlast the warranties provided.

Headshot: Garry Sullivan

Headshot: Garry Sullivan

Green Jacket

Garry Sullivan
Vice president of sales

When it comes to turf covers, which type — impermeable or permeable — is best? Studies by well-known universities confirm that by keeping the moisture away from the turf crown, we are able to increase positive results needed to avoid crown hydration, ice damage and desiccation. A calculated light transmission property (UV resistant) that blocks out the sunlight helps to keep turf dormant during the temperature fluctuations that have become more the norm than the exception. If you are looking for a simple frost protection or to accelerate soil temperatures and encourage turf growth, permeable covers will work well.

Headshot: Jeff Mondor

Headshot: Jeff Mondor


Jeff Mondor
Vice president of sales

Winter growth blankets are an ideal product to extend your course’s growing season and to promote an earlier turf green-up. So, what needs to be considered when using these covers? First, although the base fabric used to manufacture covers is relatively light, the larger the cover, the heavier and bulkier the cover becomes, making the positioning and removal potentially difficult if you don’t have the needed manpower. Another consideration is your irrigation. Washouts can occur if water is turned on and your irrigation heads are still covered. Also, you need to be aware of where you’re placing turf stakes to make sure they don’t hit unseen mechanisms. Furthermore, these same stakes need to be accounted for when removing the covers, making sure none are left behind. Storage is the final consideration when using growth covers. Make sure the covers are dry before folding and storing them indoors.

Headshot: Ken Newcomb

Headshot: Ken Newcomb

Par West Turf Services

Ken Newcomb
Vice president

The single biggest agronomic factor to consider when choosing a turf cover is breathability. Does that weave offer a balance between generating warmth and allowing water/air penetration through the cover? Outside of the agronomic factors when considering turf covers, the one thing that doesn’t get factored in enough is labor. Typically, labor is cut back in the winter when covers are needed, and some types of covers require more labor to install and remove than others. You can get an effective and high-quality turf cover that requires half of the labor to install and remove than others because of the weight and design. Remember, these covers are sometimes sitting out in the harshest elements. You want to make sure the cover is made of the highest quality, especially for the investment you are making in them. Is your turf cover made from an inert fiber that prevents water, chemicals or dirt from adhering to it? Is the weave tight enough to prevent grass from growing through it? Is the fabric UV protected? Can you get custom sizes to match your greens? Is the manufacturer reputable and does it stand behind the product with a warranty? Does the cover price include storage bags or pegs?

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