What is the difference between spring dead spot and winterkill? Spring Dead Spot (SDS) is a disease that attacks Bermudagrass in the fall and winter months. The damage is seen in the spring as the Bermudagrass begins to green up again. Circular spots appear that are weak or dead when the grass emerges from dormancy. These circular spots can range from a few inches to over a foot in diameter. In severe cases they will coalesce into one large spot. There is no clear cut control for SDS. Several years ago I researched the products available that control SDS. The option I chose is an organic fertilizer called Nature Safe. A study at Oklahoma State found that Nature Safe gives similar to better control than fungicides (study available at www.naturesafe.com/research).
Results of this study indicate that season long applications of Nature Safe reduce the prevalence of spring dead spot.
Since we began using Nature Safe on fairways, we have had good to excellent control of SDS. I have had several members confuse SDS with spot spraying weeds.
Winterkill is caused by direct low temperature kill. In other words, the cells in the plant freeze and burst. A winter like 2010 can be devastating to warm season grasses in the Atlanta area. The winter of 1995-1996 was the last major winterkill year. Marietta Country Club had to re-grass almost 30 acres in the spring of 1996. So comparatively speaking, we made it through this past winter in good shape. Most of our damage was to sod installed in spring and summer of 2009.
As of June, the SDS areas were well on their way to recovery and expected to fill in within 10 – 14 days. The worst of the winterkill areas were sodded in late May. We aerated and applied extra fertilizer to promote faster recovery in both the SDS and winterkill areas.