March 15, 2009
By Pam Charbonneau
OMAFRA turf specialist

Let’s try to move our attention away from the Cosmetic Pesticide Ban Act for a few moments and talk about what has been good and bad about the winter of 2009.

What has been good?
Fall temperatures fell slowly with lots of sunshine, allowing for good hardening off of the turfgrass plants. In addition, the summer of 2008 was one of the wettest on record and turf looked very good all season long and in good shape going into the winter.  

The ample snowfall and lack of an ice layer means that there will probably be very little winter injury to turf come spring time. The persistent snow cover means there was no chance for winter desiccation this year. Winters with very little snow cover give the wind a chance to draw the moisture out of the exposed blades of grass which leads to a loss of water and eventual turf thinning and death.

And, the snow cover was not in place long enough to result in grey snow mould damage this coming spring.  

What has been bad?

The turf insects that over-winter under the cover of snow have been nicely insulated since mid-November, even though we had some very cold temperatures earlier this winter. Under the snow, temperatures consistently hovered around 0º C and this is a good temperature for winter survival of insects. So far the predicted survival of insects like hairy chinch bug and bluegrass billbug has probably been good. We are losing the snow cover right now (mid-February) but if we get some plunging temperatures, this could kill off some of the over-wintering insects and could lead to some winter injury.  

The relatively long period of snow cover so far has meant that pink snow mould has been actively growing on turf for a good 60 days. This could lead to some lawn snow mould damage, especially in areas where the snow is piled along driveways and roadsides.
The relatively long period of snow cover provided ample time for voles to scurry under the snow, eating away to form grass runways in the turf.

During the mid-winter snow melt, there were lots of leatherjackets up in the turf canopy. So far their winter survival looks good and spring feeding could come early.

Pam Charbonneau can be reached at 519-824-4120, ext. 52597, or by e-mail at