0 How to deal with frost and snow

There are many greenkeepers and apprentices who might want find this basic explanation of frosty conditions helpful. We recently spoke to Deputy Head Greenkeeper at Maesteg Golf Club, James Matthewman. Being in a dipped valley in the South of Wales, James is no stranger to cold climates and he offered an insight into what happens when turf becomes frosty.

He started by explaining the leaf and the importance to understand that size does matter. "When you have a frost, below zero, the green will go white and the leaf blade is not able to bend properly so, when people walk on the leaf blade it snaps, instead of being flexible - like in the summer. Therefore, it can't regenerate properly. This is when you get that brown and yellow colour because the turf is damaged."

He went on to explain the importance of differentiating between greens and fairway turf leaf when walking on frosty ground; "More damage is done to the greens than the fairways and the rough, because the leaf is a lot longer on those areas. Therefore, you are still damaging the leaf when walking on the fairways, but there is more leaf to stand on so you aren't snapping it."

However, James did go on to ease fears of the frost as he explained that; "The good news is that it can repair, as long as the right equipment is being used to reseed and drain."

So, what happens after the frost starts to thaw? James reiterates the awkwardness of the solid ground; "Again, the problem is that the ground is frozen and the rain will not drain - especially if it's heavy. If you can do it, then you could possibly close the course until that frost has thawed out by at least three inches deep."

GMA advice for snowfall

Snow clearance is extremely labour-intensive and heavy snowfalls are very difficult to deal with particularly at a grassroots level.

  • Light snow may be cleared by simple methods such as dragging heavy ropes over the surface in a similar way to removing dew. Heavy-duty plastic snow shovels, drag brushes and mats can be used to good effect. Handheld air blowers are also an option. Larger mechanical equipment should be avoided where possible particularly if the ground is thawed below as it may damage the soil and churn up the turf.
  • Larger snowfalls require a significant workforce and time to remove and, whilst postponements or cancellations are never desirable, this may be a more viable option.
  • It is often a good idea to mark a pitch in a different colour if snow is expected during a fixture.
  • If you maintain an artificial surface, please consult the manufacturer's guidance on snow clearance, 3G pitch infills are easily displaced during snow removal and costly to replace or redisperse.
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