Repairing Perennial Ryegrass Damaged by Winterkill

With spring just around the corner, we’re all hoping for a change of pace after this winter in Eastern Pennsylvania. The weather conditions have been difficult for everyone—especially your turf.

Repairing Damaged Turfgrass

Example of perennial rye 'winterkill'

Example of perennial rye ‘winterkill’

Repairing turfgrass that was damaged during the winter is one important spring chore. ‘Winterkill’ is a general term used to define turf loss during the winter.

A combination of factors can cause winterkill, including crown hydration, desiccation, low temperatures, ice sheets and snow mold. Because of the unpredictability of environmental factors and differences in other factors such as surface drainage, the occurrence of winterkill can vary greatly, even on the same property.

Perennial ryegrass having poor low temperature hardiness is most susceptible to winterkill. (Perennial ryegrass is also one of the most common turfgrasses in Pennsylvania.) Maintaining a healthy stand of turf is one of the most economic way of reducing the costs associated with winterkill. Proper plant nutrition levels may also reduce the effects of winterkill, especially proper potassium levels in the soil. Realty Landscaping can provide comprehensive soil testing that can be integrated into your fertilization program throughout the season.

Ryegrass Damage Caused by De-icing Products

Example of de-icing damage

Example of de-icing damage

One of the most common causes of damage may involve de-icing products that were applied to paved areas. Most often, the damage is along walkways or driveway edges where high levels of the de-icing products make contact with the turf.

Excessive concentrations of salts are the main culprit in most situations. Other phytotoxic reactions may occur, however, depending on the product. In most cases, abundant rainfall in the spring will leach the materials through the soil profile, and additional damage at this point usually does not occur.

Damaged turfgrass should be repaired as soon as possible. Remember to make sure the seed makes good soil contact; do not just place the seed on top of the damaged turf. The seed must be worked into the soil.

An additional item to remember is to match the new seed to the existing turf. This will ensure that the repair blends into the existing area with the same texture, color and density. The professional staff at Realty Landscaping will be able to determine the type of turf you have and assist you with any spring turf repairs.

Mechanical Damage to Your Turf

In addition to de-icing damage, mechanical damage may exist on your property. Snow plows and other removal equipment may physically remove or rut the existing turf. In these cases the damaged areas will need to be repaired. Remove dead turf, stone and other debris, and level the area if necessary. This includes filling in any low or depressed areas with fresh soil.

Example of mechanical damage

Keep in mind that spring seeded areas require special care. Avoid pre-emergent weed control products in the repaired areas. This will prevent germination of the new seed.

Also be sure to read the broadleaf wee control labels for proper rates and timing of applications. Typically a minimum of three mowings should be performed before any broadleaf products are applied.

If the budget allows, and if supplemental watering will be available, it is usually best to repair damaged areas with sod. With seed or sod starter, fertilizer is highly recommended to ensure optimal growth and establishment of the repaired area.

Please feel free to contact me or any other team member at Realty Landscaping if you have any questions or would prefer to set up a consultation to review any turf or other landscape damage on your property.

Helpful web links for diagnosing turf damage:

Author: Colin Guerra, PCH, 267.249.0813

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