Thursday, January 31, 2013

Golf…in January…and winter watering

Posted by: Tony Koski, Extension turf specialist

While returning from a quick 16-hour (ya, I know…what was I thinking?) visit to Toronto this week, where I taught at the Canada Turfgrass Conference, a flight attendant gave me the “what do you do” question. Invariably, after I explain what it means to be the Extension (first, explain what “Extension” is) turfgrass (no, not that kind of grass…ha ha) specialist for Colorado (“Really? You get paid to do THAT?”), comes "THE QUESTION": “So, you must play golf every day?”.  Wisely, my response depends on who’s doing the asking. “Sure, every day…except for Sunday...that’s my day off” for the flight attendant (she smiles…nods…hands me a Diet Coke…ignores me the rest of the flight). If our Director of Extension? ”Noooo…haven’t played in years…don’t even know where my clubs are” … as he judges my explanation of what Extension is…and makes a mental note to cut my travel budget for next year.

Time for full disclosure: I did play golf last week. In January. In Colorado. 

It was only 9 holes, but I played – and fairly well, for the first round of the year. The remarkably warm weather, combined with lack of snow, got me thinking (between shots) about winter watering.

The lack of moisture (rain last year…and snow this winter) has stirred up memories of 2002: our last big drought year. We are already being warned of the potential for landscape watering restrictions. For our lawns, a dry winter and spring invites turf damage by mites. The best way to prevent (or at least reduce the severity of the problem) winter mite injury to turf is by watering susceptible locations (south- and west-facing lawns) a few times during the winter. While this means pulling a hose and sprinkler around the yard now, it’s better than having to water new sod or seed in April. Temperatures this weekend will allow you to do some effective watering: just enough to moisten the surface, but not so much that you get runoff or puddles – which later turn to ice. In addition to mite prevention, winter watering can mean the difference between success and failure of lawns sodded or seeded last fall. 

Some “experts” will promise that NOT watering this winter and spring will make your lawn “tougher” and that it will form a deeper root system. Well, it’s not true. 

All plants need water to grow. And if the soil is too dry for a root to penetrate, how can it ever grow deeply? This holds true for both turf and trees. So don’t forget to water your trees – especially trees planted last growing season. The trees, turf and their respective root systems will love you. You’ll have great weather and plenty of time to water this Sunday, since you have no reason to watch the Super Bowl this year. Well, ok, maybe I’ll be watching for Kate’s Mercedes ad…


  1. Must be nice to have tenure! The rest of us schmucks were hard at work while you galavanted around the golf course. "Played well"...I'd like to see that! :) I do need to winter water this weekend--but the lure of hitting the links is so appealing...

  2. Thanks for the timely reminder to water trees and those susceptible areas of my lawn. So good to know that full professors can play golf while the grad students are working/studying...or possibly partying. Love the blog; great job CSU hort professionals!