Defend Your Turf from Winterkill

Sodium Knockout 5-0-0, pH Reducer, Essential Plus 1-0-1, 0-0-25 Liquid Potassium, TKO Phosphite 0-29-26, Recover RX, Nitro-30
December 2014

Winter came much too early to our customers in the Midwest region. On November 10th it was a balmy 71 degrees in St. Louis and by the 18th it was struggling to get out of the teens. While the cold weather caused mere discomfort for some, turf managers are probably losing sleep worrying about how their turf will fare this coming spring.

Cool season grasses should be fine, assuming a sound fertility program was already in place. However, warm season grasses, like Bermuda grass as well as ornamentals, didn't get the time to acclimate to the sub-freezing temperatures that occurred before winter officially began. Judging from the turf damage we saw last year, when freezing temperatures arrived a month later than this year, we believe winterkill will be a real issue for turf managers in the Midwest region this spring.

At Growth Products we have the expertise and the products to help turf managers sleep a little better at night. More importantly, we have the strategy you'll need to build healthy soil and combat the effects of winterkill on your turf when spring finally arrives.

Soil Aeration and Soil Testing

Core aeration and spiking should be a part of that initial strategy. These cultural practices, if done early in the spring, will set the stage for more efficient nutrient uptake, and will allow oxygen to reach beneficial microbes in the soil, important for nitrogen fixation (creating available N) in plants. Soil microbes break down thatch, release tied up nutrients, help ward off disease, and excrete ammonium ions (readily absorbed N by plants).

Building and maintaining healthy roots is at the core of a successful turf strategy. Before a strategy to improve and maintain healthy roots is deployed it is imperative that the soil and water be tested.

Soil testing should include a paste extract test. This test will determine the nutrient content in the soil, particularly calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium and micronutrients. It will also measure the soil pH, which ideally for turf is 6.3, but this may vary depending on climate and other conditions. A balanced pH will ensure availability of micronutrients that in turn make major nutrients - nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous - available to plants.

Determining the percentage of sodium and organic matter in the soil, which can be humus or thatch, is also done through soil testing. A high sodium reading is a good indication of a compacted soil. Growth Products' Sodium KnockOut 5-0-0 will reduce the salinity of the soil and ultimately reduce the effects of compaction.

Testing the Waters

Water is the turf manager's single biggest input, particularly when tank mixing pesticides. It's important to have your water tested often because issues with water will create issues with your soil, eventually affecting the condition of your turf.

For instance, water with a high pH reading can cause the efficacy of the pesticides to be greatly reduced, a condition known as alkaline hydrolysis. The solution to this condition is to buffer the water to a pH of 5.5 or 6.0 before adding the pesticide. Growth Products' pH Reducer, a natural citric acid solution, is a great product to use for this purpose.

Building a Healthy Soil to Combat Winterkill

Snow on Golf CourseGrowth Products' research and development team has come up with products that are in tune with current understanding of soil and soil biology. The products below will go a long way towards reducing the effects of winterkill and building a healthy soil.

One of our most popular and beneficial soil-building products is Essential ® Plus 1-0-1. Essential is a combination organic soil amendment, soil conditioner, and bio-stimulant. This product is kind of a "Jack of all trades", feeding beneficial soil microbes, improving the plant's physiology, encouraging rooting, and reducing salinity in the soil.

Potassium plays a critical role in helping turf overcome winterkill, and other environmental stresses by strengthening cell walls. Our 0-0-25 Liquid Potassium and TKO Phosphite 0-29-26 are good choices for adding potassium. Since potassium is easily transported through the soil profile it is important to keep an eye on potassium levels. Recover RX (3-18-18) is another product to use for strengthening a plant's roots and also its immune system with the powerful active metabolite Salicylic Acid.

Now that you've considered the strategy to overcome the effects of winterkill it is time to start thinking of what you will need to green up the turf. Growth Products' Nitro-30® SRN (30-0-0) will do the trick. Our proprietary nitrogen fertilizer is an 85% slow-release nitrogen product with a salt index of 5. When used according to the recommendations on the label you need not worry about turf burn.

In our 30 years in the turf business we have never seen such cold temperatures occur this early in the season. So contact us today, we would be happy to help you implement a strategy to not only combat winterkill but to build a sound fertility program for healthy turf and a restful sleep!

CalciumCalcium is probably one of the most misunderstood nutrients. By weight and volume it is used more than any other nutrient. Calcium plays a major role in plant physiology by strengthening the physical structure of the plant and helping with disease resistance. At its ideal level in a soil test, it should be at 68% of base saturation. Use Cal-Tec 9% to deal with calcium deficiencies and to reduce sodium in the soil.

The calcium to magnesium ratio is also very important. Magnesium should be 12% of base saturation. Together, calcium and magnesium should be a total of 80%. Magnesium stimulates chlorophyll production when present in an available form. Use Cal Mag Max 7-0-3 for keeping the Ca/Mg ratio in check.