Preventing Frost Damage on Florida Lawns…
Question: What can I do to prevent and help my lawn from frost damage?
Recently planted (sprigged, sodded, or seeded) grasses can expect to be more severely damaged by cold. Due to less root development and more tender and succulent shoot tissue, overall stress tolerance is reduced in grasses undergoing establishment. Therefore, particularly in north Florida, delay fall planting of grasses until spring or early summer. In South Florida, year-round establishment may be practiced, but care should be taken to protect immature turf from occasional cold temperatures.
Fertility can also influence cold tolerance. Late season application of nitrogen will promote shoot growth in the fall, when the grass growth and metabolism are slowing down. This will deplete carbohydrate reserves, which help the grass regrown from any stress, and will also produce new, tender shoot growth that is less able to tolerate adverse conditions such as cold. Therefore, late-season application of nitrogen is not recommended.
Potassium fertility in the fall has been shown to enhance cold tolerance and promote earlier spring green up of grass. Application of potassium at the rate of ? to 1 lb. per 1000 square feet is recommended for the last fertilization of the year. At Heron, we apply potassium all fall and winter long to help this process.
Effects of shade can increase cold damage. Because shaded areas do not become as warm as areas in full sun, injury in these areas may be more severe. Compacted soils also remain cooler than well-drained areas, which increases the probability of cold temperature damage.
Increasing mowing height can reduce cold injury in a number of ways. First, it will promote deeper rooting, which is one factor always associated with greater stress tolerance. It will also allow for production and storage of more carbohydrates late in the summer. In addition, higher mowing heights can create a warmer micro-environment due to extra canopy cover provided by longer leaf tissue.
Because cold damage may initially resemble drought stress, people sometimes feels that additional water may be needed. Overall, correct irrigation practices as described in our lawn care section can alleviate many stresses faced by turf, but as the grass goes into dormancy, water needs are reduced.
Preventing Frost Damage on Florida Lawns… in Orlando and surrounding counties
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