January 14, 2014

Snow Update

I am happy to report that from the perspective of a turfgrass plant, this winter has been about as close to perfect as we could ask for in ND.  We humans however might have complained that the month of December was brutally cold, with 24 of the 31 days in the month recording a temperature at or below 0.  The average temperature for the month was a lovely -0.6, which was about 11 degrees colder than average, or just plain nasty.

The turf however didn't really mind that cold spell, as it was peacefully slumbering underneath the thickest and most consistent blanket of early season snow that I have witnessed so far in my 3 winters here.  The heavy snow that fell in early December did a pretty good job of staying where it fell and solidifying there before the wind could transport it down to South Dakota.

Furthermore, at least to this point (knock on wood) we have avoided any major warm ups, melts, or rain events that would have turned that snowpack into a wet slush or ice.  This scenario is of course what we experienced in early January last year, which produced an enormous amount of ice on the greens and low spots in the fairways.  We all witnessed how unfortunate that scenario was last spring with the amount of dead turf on the course.

I spent a majority of the day yesterday out on the course evaluating the snow and turf conditions, and even removing some snow fence on the greens that have accumulated what I would classify as "enough".  At some point, there is enough snow to insulate and protect the turf, but any additional snow would just make it that much longer it would take for it to melt off or get cleared off in the spring.  Furthermore, the nice warmup we had over the weekend did just enough melting to turn the snow surface into a solid crust, meaning that it can't be blown around by the wind much more.

11 green, along with 12, 4, and 3 on the west edge of the course next to the
open field are always the first to get destroyed by the wind.  The snowfences
have done a tremendous job holding snow this year.

With almost 2' of snow on the back of some greens however, it was time for
some of the snowfence to come down.

Everywhere I dug into the snow on the golf course was soft and sugary all the way too the ground, which of course is still frozen solid.  This type of snow is absolutely perfect as it holds a lot of air space for insulating purposes, and allows the turf to breathe easily as well.

About a foot of soft and loose snow all the way to the turf.  Pictures
like this help me sleep soundly at night all winter long!

Now, the inevitable part of the discussion that must be brought up when discussing snow in our area, the dreaded "F" word.  While we are still a long way from spring, we did receive quite a bit of snow in December (23"), but there was only .82" of water in it.  The rest of the snowfall from here on out will really determine what kind of flood we will have.  The AHPS should release their first long range outlook by early February, so I will be sure to keep everyone up to date once we see some initial numbers.  But until then, enjoy the winter!