This winter has served up quite a platter of brutally cold temperatures, record snow falls and its fair share of stress on golf course superintendents in the region. While I'm sure we're all ready to hear spring birds chirping, smell fresh-cut grass and tackle spring aeration, let's take a minute to reflect on what our good friend the polar vortex brought to the table over the previous five months.
Could cold temperatures mean a cutback in nematode and other insect populations? Opinions vary, from what I've heard. On one hand, you would think a freeze as deep as we experienced this winter would really cut back overwintering populations. On the other hand, some believe the effect isn't so cut and dry. Some people I've spoken with believe there must be a short period of warm temperatures to stimulate biological activity, and then a drastic drop in temperature that knocks out the emerging populations. Well, at least in the Pittsburgh area, both of the given scenarios have occurred. Time will tell, but I'm sure it would be a welcoming development if nematode populations decreased heading in to the season.
Tree pruning and/or removal: This one can go either way. I've talked with a couple of people who had ice storms take down trees they have been wanting to get rid of for years. See, winter isn't so bad! But on the other end of the spectrum, some guys had trees taken out that they absolutely did not want to see go (see Eisenhower tree at Augusta). Either way, hopefully this winter at least you had the opportunity to get outside and catch up on any pruning that needed attention.
We'll also learn more about ice cover and cold tolerance of bermudagrass. While ice cover is not something new to superintendents around here, and literature widely states that ice can be tolerated for as many as 120 days, it still doesn't ease your mind when your greens are sitting under 4 inches of ice. Until we really start to see grass greening up, any winterkill will remain a mystery. With bermudagrass now being utilized as far north as Philadelphia, this winter will be quite a test of endurance for those courses experimenting with the C-4 grass. Again, time will tell.
Regardless of whether you enjoyed the dramatic stormy theatrics of old man winter, or loathed its existence more than ironing your entire wardrobe of golf shirts, let's keep our fingers crossed that this summer will be the best grass-growing season in memory. Here's to warmer temperatures!