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Turf Dormancy

Turf grass going dormant is typically associated with extremely cold temperatures. When temps drop below freezing for an extended period, we accept that our beautiful lush green lawn has slipped into hibernation for a long winter nap. In some cases, here in the South, it could be a short winter nap. As soon as the temps start to warm, little green grass shoots begin sprouting and soon they are everywhere. As we crank up the mower's engines and welcome spring head-on, how soon we forget we ever had a brown lawn? Have you ever thought much about why turf grass goes dormant?Kelly Kopp, a water conservationist and turf grass specialist from Utah State University Extension Services, explains dormancy is the physiological process that grasses use to protect themselves from extreme cold and heat such as a drought. This state is characterized by a complete cessation of growth along with brown or dead grass blades. The grass blades are not as much of a concern as the crown of the grass plant. By entering dormancy, grasses are protecting their crowns for future recovery. The crown is at the soil surface and it is the point from which the grass blades grow up and the roots grow down. As long as the crown remains alive, the grass can recover once temperature and moisture conditions improve. Raising the mowing height and leaving the turf blade long will help to overshade and protect the crown even if the top blades are crisp and brown. Recognize that when heat and drought reach a certain level, no amount of water is going to coax the grass out of dormancy. However, as temperatures drop and moisture increases, the grass will recover naturally.

- Lauri Neelley, Landscaping and Turf Specialist

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