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That's a good question. It's been a very cold winter so far, and our heating bills are a reflection of that. In fact, 2013 was the 6th coldest year on record in Tulsa, after several of the hottest years on record. We experienced a very cool spring, mild summer, and a cool and even cold fall. When will we ever experience that "normal" year?

The last time we had significant winterkill of bermudagrass was 1990 I believe, and that was a bad one. Bermudagrass, since it is a warm-season turf, can sometimes be damaged by extreme cold temperatures, especially in the northern finge of it's habitat here in Tulsa. If you drive just 100 miles to the north, you won't see much bermudagrass, as it is too cold. We had some winterkill two years ago, but it was nothing like 1990. That year, we had a sudden drop in temperatues in early December, down to about -5, before the turf was really in full dormancy. That caused large areas of bermudagrass to die, with more brown grass than green in May as the turf should be greening up. That was the year that I lost alot of my remaining hair I believe. I was amazed, that so many customers thought we were to blame for their half dead lawn!

Mother Nature will do what she wants to do, and sometimes that will affect living things, such as turf. The good news is that with this early January deep-freeze, the bermudagrass was well into dormancy. We've also had some decent fall and winter moisture, so that helps. Dry soil is more prone to turf damage. The temperatures got really low up in Bartlesville, but with 5" of snow cover, that helps insulate and protect the turf roots. Another factor is the longevity of cold temperatures. If the temperature stays very cold for many days, the chances of winterkill will increase.

There are so many factors, such as turf variety, soil type, moisture, mowing height, and overall turf health. One's chances are better with properly fertilized turf, mowed high, with good soil moisture, and with good soil. We really won't know how our bermudagrass has fared until late April and early May, as it comes out of winter dormancy. And, we have alot of winter left also.

I received a good e-mail from the University of Arkansas Turf Dept. yesterday, which has good infomation on the possibility of winterkill. I've provided that with a link to more inforamtion here:

University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture

Turfgrass Science Program (

It’s cold folks. We haven’t had winter temperatures this low for a few years, and so it’s been a while since we’ve had to think much about winterkill on our warm-season grasses. Back in 2010, Drs. Richardson and Patton put together a very nice, comprehensive, four-part Turf Tip on winterkill:

Part I: Predicting the damage: What causes winterkill and how can we estimate our losses?

Part II: Preparation and recovery: What should you do or not do this spring to help your turf?

Part III: Planning and planting improved cultivars for a better future.

Part IV: Practices to enhance winter survival.

Those tips will are still relevant today and I encourage you to check them out at: Let’s hope things warm up soon and that our warm-season grasses come through okay. However if they don’t, these tips will help you deal with the consequences of this severe winter weather.

Here’s to warmer weather!

Doug Karcher

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