Two months ago we made the decision to put a cover over the two areas that had extensive work done last fall. Of particular concern was the fact that we seeded on October 4th, nearly three weeks later than we had originally desired. Rain and poor ground conditions simply did not allow us to seed any sooner despite having all of the other work completed with the exception of seeding. What the turf covers allowed us to do was simply extend the growing season and also protect the seedlings from cold or freeze injury. What we did not plan on though was one the top ten warmest winters central Ohio has ever seen.
The turf covers are made out of a woven plastic material that is semi-permeable, allowing air and water to pass through in both directions. The covers create a greenhouse-like effect where heat energy from the sun is trapped underneath and allows temperatures to be in some cases 30°F higher than outside air temperatures. We observed on several sunny days with temperatures in the 40's that the air temperature under the cover was 68°F. In a normal winter we could have expect to extend the growing season an extra four to six weeks into early January when the coldest temperatures and cloudy days would render covers as more of a protection from the elements. Cold and freeze injury, especially to young seedlings, can result in turf loss and having to start over again with a spring seeding. So under normal weather conditions we felt it was in our best interest to both extend the growing season and protect the seedlings through the coldest part of winter. Fortunately, from our perspective normal did not happen this winter, and if fact this time we were on the good side of normal.
It was just warm enough this winter that temperatures under the covers hovered in the 60's most days. Moreover, the higher than usual air temperature under the covers also resulted in higher than normal soil temperatures which were near 50°F most of the winter. 50°F is a critical soil temperature benchmark because for cool-season turfgrasses, such as the L-93 creeping bentgrass that we seeded with, it is the point at which root growth begins. So again, for most of the winter the covers and mother nature created an environment in which leaf and tissue growth, along with root growth continued for much of the winter. Planning, foresight, and good fortune with the weather all had a role in taking a fairway that looked like this on September 16th...
...To looking like this on February 22nd.
As you can see here we began rolling the seeded area just a few days ago in an effort to begin smoothing the surface in preparation for mowing. At this time we do not have an anticipated opening date for the fairway but, more information will be forthcoming as we move in spring. The decision will be based, in large part, on the weather this spring and how quickly the fairway turf continues to mature and fill-in.