Last updated: March 17. 2014 9:41AM - 1345 Views
Randy Drinkard Contributing columnist

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Lawns in Troup County and surrounding areas that are covered in warm-season grasses like centipedegrass or St. Augustinegrass might show signs of cold damage this spring as a result of our recent cold weather, according to UGA turf scientists.

Other types of warm-season lawns, such as hybrid bermuda and zoysiagrasses should be less affected by cold temperatures, whereas cool-season grasses like tall fescue and ryegrass should not be affected at all.

Temperatures dropped into the single digits for 60 hours or more in January and February, so we are likely to see some damage, especially on common centipedegrass lawns. There are also a lot of St. Augustinegrass lawns in the Troup County area that may be damaged by recent cold temperatures.

“You will be able to see the effects of cold damage when your warm-season lawn doesn’t green up normally this spring,” said Dr. Clint Waltz, a turf specialist at the UGA Experiment Station in Griffin, Georgia.

No protection

“Homeowners and landscapers caring for common centipedegrass and St. Augustinegrass lawns should not be surprised to see their lawns come out thin and spotty this spring,” Waltz said. “It’s going to take some work to get damaged lawns back into shape over the summer growing season.”

Centipedegrass and St. Augustinegrass have no below-ground rhizomes. They grow above the ground through stolons, or runners. This makes recovery and regrowth of these species more difficult.

Waltz says homeowners can choose to turn the cold damage into an opportunity for change.

“With the potential loss of some centipedegrass and St. Augustinegrass, this might be the year to consider converting your lawn to something more cold hardy, like zoysiagrass,” he said. “Then you won’t have to worry about every ninth year when we get a very cold winter.”

For those who decide to change to a new turfgrass variety, Waltz recommends cold hardy UGA-bred TifBlair centipedegrass, or a zoysiagrass variety.

“Zoysiagrass is a pretty cold hardy species. I’d be surprised to see it damaged,” Waltz said.

Time will tell for bermudagrass

Dr. Waltz is unsure what’s ahead for homeowners with bermudagrass lawns.

“If you could tell me what the weather is going to be like, I can tell you how the grass is likely to recover,” he said.

“If the weather warms up and stays warm, then bermudagrass will probably be fine, but if we get another temperature drop down into the teens after we have 30 to 50 percent green-up, the cold snap will cause the grass to go dormant, and it is possible it will be slow to green-up again.”

Warm temperatures tell the grass it’s springtime, but when temperatures drop, the plant doesn’t know how to respond. If early April brings 65 degree temperatures, the grass will begin to sprout. If a late frost occurs, the new “succulent grass tissue” can be lost.

“Tifway is not a particularly cold hardy cultivar of bermudagrass. TifSport, TifGrand and Patriot are, however, and will likely do fine,” Waltz said. “After the cold we’ve had, there is really nothing you can do. Just let the lawn green-up on its own and don’t over-fertilize it.”

Also, be careful about fertilizing warm-season grass too early. Wait until your warm-season grass is about 50 percent green before applying fertilizer. Waltz recommends that when it comes to warm-season grasses, hold off on that first nitrogen application until late April or early May.

Bermudagrass, centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass and Zoysiagrass should be fertilized when the soil temperature is consistently 65 degrees and rising at a 4-inch soil depth. Usually this is late April or early May in the Troup County area.

For more information on growing turfgrasses in Georgia, see the UGA Extension website

Randy Drinkard is a retired technical writer for The UGA Center for Urban Agriculture and ANR Agent for Troup Cooperative Extension. The Troup County Extension office is located at 114 Church St. in LaGrange and may be reached at 706-883-1675, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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