Cooler Temperatures in Fall Bring Change
As the days start to get shorter and the nights become cooler, the stress on the turf from the hot summer day’s transition into ideal growing conditions for cool season grasses.
Along with the leaves on the trees changing colors and falling, the stress from the summer heat and possibility of turf diseases begin to decrease as the season changes. This is also time for turf to start preparing itself for winter by increasing root depth as ideal growing conditions return, and the plant begins to become healthier by storing nutrients for the upcoming winter months.
Fall aeration is used to help promote increased turf health as the days become cooler by increasing air flow, improve moisture uptake, reduce soil compaction from peak season and improve fertilizer uptake in the root zone. Fertilizer applied during aeration helps promote root growth and plant health to increase turf vitality through the winter months and help with greening up as temperatures increase in the spring. Keeping the course clear of leaves not only helps improve course playability and pace of play, but helps keep the turf exposed to the sun. Too thick of leaves covering the turf can also prevent any moisture from reaching the soil or suffocate and kill the turf if left in an area for too long.
As nighttime temps drop, the chance for the first frost of the season increases and usually occurs between mid-September and mid-October depending on weather. This creates morning frost delays and acts as the signal for the turf to slow down growing. Frost delays are important to reduce and prevent damage to the turf as it is present because it is the moisture in internal cells of the grass blades freezing. Frost damage occurs when these frozen cells rupture, causing the internal systems of the plant to not function in the damaged leaf blades and die. Frost damage can be recognized by black areas where someone walked or drove, then turning brown as the grass blades die.
Golf in fall can be one of the best times of the year to play due to the cooler temps, decreased water requirements helping to firm up the course, and optimal growing conditions to help stressed areas from the summer grow back.
The illustrations above show the beginning of new root growth on a green as the average temp cools down and growing conditions improve. The new root growth can be seen as the white hair like structures. As the fall season continues, the new root growth will increase as the turf prepares itself for winter.