By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A lot of people are enjoying this unusual winter warm up, but it may not be good for your front lawn or your favorite golf course.

A lack of snow and a fluctuation in temperatures can put a lot of stress on grass.

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Experts say they are worried about dormant grass freezing in February, which in turn could make for some ugly lawns this summer.

“Some yellowing and black. That’s cold damage for these tulip bulbs,” University of Minnesota extension educator Julie Weisenhorn.

Weisenhorn is witnessing something she usually doesn’t see until mid-April. Tulips and daffodils are waking up way ahead of schedule.

“The worst-case scenario would be a really big freeze where the temperatures really drop. Anything exposed above the soil would probably die back,” she said.

A big temperature drop back into reality would be bad for golf courses too. With colder temperatures likely to return later this week, greens have become a concern for golf courses. They have to protect them so there isn’t permanent damage.

Sam Bauer is a turf grass expert with the University of Minnesota.

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“On Wednesday we’ll be putting covers out [on greens] to act as a snow cover and insulate that grass,” he said.

Bauer says snow acts as insulation for grass. Without it, snow mold can develop. A lack of snow cover in February could mean an ugly lawn in June.

“We can form ice crystals in the cells of our grass and they burst and it dies. That’s a phenomenon called crown hydration,” Bauer said.

While putting greens can be covered, and some mulch can help plants, Bauer says your front lawn is on its own for now. And it should be okay as long as this extreme warm-up doesn’t turn into an extreme cool down.

“Right now I’m not pushing the panic button. I’d say be patient,” Bauer said. “Definitely don’t want to go out there and do anything to your lawn right now. Be patient and wait to see what Mother Nature deals us.”

Bauer says the good news is that Kentucky blue grass stays in dormancy for a long time. That means it stays protected from any sudden freezing, longer than most grasses.

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Also good news, the soil temperature is still too cold for weeds to germinate.

John Lauritsen