Turf Toughie: How snow cover effects spring thaw

By |  March 16, 2017 0 Comments

True or false: Soils protected with thick snow cover will thaw more quickly than open fairways and greens?

tree-in-fog-snowThe point of this question is whether a thick blanket of snow helps keep things underneath frozen.

The answer is “true.” Soils that are well insulated tend to thaw more quickly in the springtime than their bare counterparts, says Mary Tiedeman, soil scientist at Florida International University (where, we imagine, they do not get a lot of snow!). Thawed soils are far better at taking in and storing meltwater than frozen soils. If snow melts before the soil has thawed, the soil cannot absorb the water. Instead, ponds of water will form, or it will run off the surface of the land, leading to water erosion.

Winter weather can be hard on plants and soils, especially in areas with minimal snow cover. Unfortunately, no one can predict the timing and amount of snow that will blanket their golf course. Bare soils are defenseless, as they have no protection from wind, rain and runoff. Snow acts as an armor to protect soil from wind and water erosion. Erosion not only harms soil systems, it also contributes to air and water pollution, Tiedeman says.

Adding mulch will help protect landscaping plants from further damage in late-winter freezes. Any bare soil should also be covered. Come spring, plan to restore fertility and help rebuild aggregates that have been damaged by erosion.

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