Success with Off-Season Sodding

SodClint Waltz, Extension Turfgrass Specialist, University of Georgia. This info is edited from a longer article which can be read here.

Dormant transplanting of trees and ornamentals in the Southeastern United States is a common practice. Warm-season turfgrass sod can also be successfully established during dormancy.

Recommendations for normal sodding also apply to off-season sodding.

  • Successful transplanting is highly dependent on healthy sod, which is difficult to determine when the sod is dormant or overseeded.
  • Rootzone preparation is critical for success. Loosen the soil to a depth of 6 inches by tilling before sodding.
  • During site preparation prior to turf establishment is the best time to take a soil sample to determine pH and nutrient needs. Correction of soil pH and soil nutrient deficiencies is more effective when lime and fertilizer are incorporated into the soil before sodding.
  • Next, level smooth and moisten the soil. The soil should be lightly watered, but not saturated. Ruts from foot traffic or equipment can occur when soils are too wet and are difficult to repair after the sod is laid.
  • To prevent drying and potential cold injury of roots, install sod within 48 hours after harvest. This also allows the radiant heat from the earth to offer the sod some protection from cold injury when compared to turf exposed to the elements on a pallet.
  • Sod should be laid tight and rolled to minimize creases. If creases are apparent after sodding, top dress the sod to fill low spots, conserve moisture and potentially retain heat near the soil surface.
  • For best survival, avoid winter desiccation and low temperature injury. Dessication can be a significant problem since the warm dry winds of late winter and early spring increase the demand for water, but the combination of low soil temperatures and a limited root system will reduce the plant’s ability to obtain water.
  • Direct low temperature injury can be a problem because the crowns, stolons and shallow rhizomes may be killed. Unfortunately, newly sodded turf lacks deep rhizomes and the expansive root system necessary to recover from winter stresses.

Research and practical experience has shown that warm-season turfgrasses may be successfully sodded during the off-season (October-April) when the grass is dormant or slowly growing. However, the cooler climates in and north of Atlanta may damage some turf species. More winter injury has been observed on zoysiagrass and centipedegrass as compared to bermudagrass sodded in the fall or winter.

  • Overseeding sod with ryegrass may reduce warm season turf vigor and quality. While overseeded turf may look appealing during the winter months, during the spring the more heat-tolerant perennial ryegrasses can compete with the warm-season turf for water, nutrients and light. This can cause a poor spring transition and delayed green-up of the warm-season species. This is more common in ryegrass that has been heavily fertilized in the spring.
  • To assist spring green-up and stimulate turfgrass growth, fertilize with 1.0 to 1.5 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet once night temperatures consistently reach the mid 60s F. Also to further encourage warm-season species growth, lower the mowing height. This practice opens the turfgrass canopy, allowing more sun to the permanent warm-season species while stressing the overseeded grass. Resume accepted maintenance practices once conditions are favorable for warm-season turfgrass growth.

In summary, successful sod transplanting depends on proper soil preparation, good soil-to-sod contact, avoiding low temperature injury, and most importantly – proper water management to prevent desiccation. For more information, see these resources or contact your local UGA Extension Office.

See the original article here which has more information

Lawns in Georgia

Protect landscape plants from winter temperatures

Frank Watson is the University of Georgia Extension Agent in Wilkes County

Landscape plants get plenty of attention during the summer, but they need protection during Georgia’s winter months. Rather than trying to keep plants warm, gardeners should help protect plants from wind, snow, ice, drastic soil temperature changes and heat from the sun on cold days.

Reducing water loss can protect evergreen plants. All plants transpire, or lose, water through their leaves. Evergreens continue to lose water during the winter, so the plant’s roots must be able take up moisture.

Homeowners are more conscious of watering shrubs during the summer and often neglect to water plants during cold weather. Roots absorb moisture when it’s available, but during a dry period or even when the ground is frozen, moisture isn’t available. The plants continue to transpire water, drawing moisture from living cells. If too much water is released, the plant’s cells die, causing the plant’s leaves to turn brown and die.

High winds and warm sunshine on cold days result in a higher rate of water transpiration. Protection can be offered by relocating susceptible plants to a sheltered location. Also, provide them additional water during dry periods or prior to expected hard freezes.

An additional layer of mulch is also recommended during winter months after the first freeze. Mulch will reduce water loss from the soil, aid in transpiration and reduce “heaving” of the soil as the ground freezes and thaws. Soil heaving, or frost heaving, occurs when soil swells during freezing conditions and ice grows towards the soil’s surface.

To protect plants from cold damage, University of Georgia Extension horticulturists recommend following these six steps:

  • Plant only varieties that are hardy for the area. Buy plants using the USDA hardiness zones.
  • Given a choice, plant less-hardy plants in the highest part of the landscape. Cold air settles in the lowest area.
  • Protect plants from cold wind with a fence or a tall evergreen hedge of trees or shrubs.
  • Shade plants from direct winter sun, especially early morning sunshine. Plants that freeze slowly and thaw slowly will be damaged the least. The south side of the house, where there is no shade, is the worse place to plant tender plants.
  • Stop feeding plants quickly available nitrogen in late summer to allow them to “harden off” before cold weather arrives.
  • Plastic covering provides excellent protection. Build a frame over the plant or plants, cover them with plastic and secure the plastic to the ground with soil. Shade plastic to keep temperatures from building up inside. Plastic traps moisture and warm air as it radiates from the soil and blocks cold winds. Do not allow the plastic to touch plants.

For more information on how to care for ornamental plants in the winter, see the UGA circular Winter Protection of Ornamental Plants.


Winter near average for Georgia in spite of some cold mornings

Pam Knox serves as University of Georgia Agricultural Climatologist with UGA Department of Crop and Soil Science

Released March 20, 2014. See original article here.

Despite some bone-chilling days with single digit lows, Georgia’s winter was about average in both temperature and precipitation.

This winter, which climatologists define as Dec. 1 to Feb. 28, was actually the 57th coldest out of the past 119 winter seasons. This means that 56 years were colder than the 2013-2014 winter season and 62 were warmer. This places it just about right in the middle.

Georgia’s winter precipitation was ranked 67th out of 119 years, which means that 66 years were drier and 52 were wetter.

The near-normal average temperatures this year were the result of a combination of the scattered days with above normal or record-high temperatures that some parts of the state experienced and the periods of frigid weather that brought very cold temperatures to northern parts of the state.

This was the first time that such cold temperatures have been observed in Georgia since the winter of 1995-1996. Periods of very cold weather were more frequent in the 20th century than in recent years.

The winter conditions provided plentiful chill hours for peaches across Georgia. The fruit should be in great shape as long as a late frost after blooming does not hurt the development of the peaches this spring.

Cold conditions have reduced the average size of Vidalia onions this year as well as cut stands by up to 25 percent. Overall, however, supplies are considered to be very good.

Lawns in north Georgia with warm-season grasses like centipede may see some damage due to some of the extreme low temperatures.

Some insect pests may have been cut back by the cold weather, but many are well adapted to shelter in the coldest conditions and the rapid swings in temperature may not have provided long enough cold conditions to cause a significant dent in their populations.

Other impacts from this winter’s weather include the damage to timber in the mid-February ice storm. The ice caused widespread power outages and tree damage to north central and eastern Georgia, particularly in the Augusta area.

While the state is starting to shake off the chill of the last few months, Georgians can expect cooler and wetter than normal conditions across Georgia for the next two weeks, based on predictions from the Climate Prediction Center, NOAA.

Gardeners should also remember that a late frost is still possible and perhaps more likely than in other years because the state is in a neutral weather pattern — one not affected by La Nina or El Nino.