Georgia lawns may show cold damage this spring

Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Lawns in Metro Atlanta and north Georgia counties covered in warm-season grasses like centipedegrass or St. Augustinegrass will likely show signs of cold damage this spring as a result of the recent snow and ice storms, says University of Georgia Extension turfgrass specialist Clint Waltz.

“The temperatures were down in the single digits for 60 hours, so we are likely to see some losses, especially in common centipedegrass. Also, there is a lot of St. Augustinegrass in Atlanta, especially in shady areas. You’ll be able to see (the cold damage) when it doesn’t green up this spring,” said Waltz, a scientist in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “There’s still a little bit of a question mark about lawns in south Georgia.”

No protection

Homeowners and landscapers caring for common centipedegrass should not “be surprised to see it come out thin and spotty,” this spring he said. “It’s going to take a some work to get it back into shape over the summer growing season.”

Centipedegrass and St. Augustinegrass have no below ground rhizomes. They grow above the ground through stolons, or runners. This makes recovery and regrowth of these species more difficult.

Waltz says homeowners can choose to turn the cold damage into an opportunity for change.

Tifblair centipede - Georgia Integrated Cultivar Release System
Tifblair centipede – Georgia Integrated Cultivar Release System

“With the potential loss of some centipedegrass and St. Augustinegrass, this would be the year to consider converting your lawn to something more cold hardy like zoysiagrass. Then you won’t have to worry about every ninth year when we get a very cold winter,” he said.

For those who decide to change to a new turfgrass variety, Waltz recommends cold hardy UGA-bred TifBlair centipedegrass or a zoysiagrass variety. “Zoysiagrass is pretty cold hardy species. I’d be surprised to see it damaged,” Waltz said.

Time will tell for bermudagrass

Waltz is unsure what’s ahead for homeowners with bermudagrass lawns. “If you could tell me what the weather is going to be like, I can tell you how the grass is likely to recover,” he said. “If the weather warms up and stays warm, then bermudagrass will probably be fine, but if we get another snow or if it drops down into the teens after we have 30 to 50 percent green-up, the cold snap will cause the grass to go dormant, and it is possible it won’t green-up again.”

Warm temperatures tell the grass it’s springtime, but when temperatures drop, the plant doesn’t know how to respond, he said. If early April brings 65 degree temperatures, the grass will begin to sprout. If a late frost occurs, the new “succulent grass tissue” can be lost, Waltz said.

“Tifway is not a particularly cold hardy cultivar of bermudagrass. TifSport, TifGrand and Patriot are and will likely do fine,” Waltz said.

Homeowners can help their bermudagrass lawn by doing nothing.

“After the cold we’ve had, there is really nothing you can do. Just let (the lawn) green-up on its own and don’t fertilize it,” he said.

Don’t listen to the commercials

Ignore television commercials, radio and print ads that advise fertilizing lawns.

“Don’t listen to the marketing when they say ‘Now is the time to fertilize,'” Waltz said. “When we get into March Madness and you start hearing the personalities that know sports but don’t know about turfgrass tell you to fertilize your lawn, disregard all that.

“Clint Waltz is telling you that when it comes to warm-season grasses hold off on that first nitrogen application until late April or early May,” he said.

Bermudagrass, centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass and Zoysiagrass should be fertilized when the soil temperature is consistently 65 degrees and rising at a 4-inch soil depth, he added. Usually this is late April or early May in Metro Atlanta.

For more on turfgrasses in Georgia, see the UGA Extension website

Text messages & smart phone apps alert Georgians of severe weather

Merritt Melancon is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

For decades families have relied on NOAA weather radios to alert them to hazardous weather conditions near their homes. Updates in technology now give the public options for staying abreast of weather conditions while on the go.

Dozens of smartphone apps and mobile phone alert services now allow you to track storms and receive emergency alerts even if you’re away from your weather radio or TV.

“People should definitely have some kind of notification that can provide them with warning of incoming severe weather when they are outside away from television,” said University of Georgia agricultural climatologist Pam Knox.

Knox notes that while many communities maintain emergency alert sirens, people may not always be where they can hear the sirens when an emergency strikes – especially if they live in a rural area.

Since most people keep their phones with them — while in the car, in the garden or on a hike. These news apps and services can provide life-saving advanced notice when a storm is approaching, Knox said.

The new apps generally fall into two categories: alert services that send texts or emails to subscribers when severe weather is on the horizon and apps that use push alert notifications (whistles, buzzers, sirens) to inform you of bad weather based on your current location.

Alerts by text

Many municipalities and counties are using text alert systems, like Nixle, to alert the public to everything from icy roadways and serious traffic accidents to missing people. For the most tailored information, mobile phone users may want to check with their local police or fire departments for information on local systems.

Mobile phone users may also receive wireless emergency alert text messages through their cell phone provider. These are alerts sent out locally by the National Weather Service and local emergency management personnel. Phone users should check with their carrier to configure their phone to accept these alerts. Visit for more information on the system.

Paid services are also available to deliver emergency alerts to cell phones via text. Free services are provided by commercial weather services like The Weather Channel, which delivers daily forecasts.

Cell phone users can also sign up for a wide range of text alerts from FEMA. Most deal with disaster preparedness, helping people find shelter or assistance after a disaster strikes. Subscribe now at to be prepared for severe thunderstorm and tornado season.

Weather alert apps

The second option for using your cell phone as an emergency alert device is to download one of the many available weather alert apps. There are several options to chose from at the Apple’s App Store and Android’s Google Play., The Weather Channel, Ping4alerts, Weather Underground and The Red Cross offer free apps that will cause cell phones to buzz, ring or vibrate when the National Weather Service issues a severe weather alert.

The Red Cross alert apps are event specific. They send out audible alerts only when tornado or hurricane warnings have been issued. Due to their serious nature, these alerts are sent more infrequently. Red Cross apps also provide disaster preparedness and recovery information.

Advanced weather and emergency apps are available for a fee. Topping the list at the high end are apps like Radar Scope, which for $9.99 provides real-time, highly-detailed weather radar images, to NOAA Weather Radio, which for $1.99 provides audible National Weather Service alerts and reports the closest lightening strike in your area.

While most weather apps pull their information from the National Weather Service, none were created by the service. NWS does maintain a list of suggested mobile products at and operates, a version of its website that is optimized for smart phones.

NOAA has a series of apps for both iPhone and Android phones, but most address wildlife issues and marine conditions.

Tech savvy individuals can read instructions on how to use your mobile device to prepare for disaster at For information from UGA Extension on how to prepare for natural disasters, visit

GA Dept. of Ag. Verification of Lawful Presence requirement & the green industry

Jennifer Davidson, ANR Agent, Muscogee County Extension, UGA

According to the Georgia Department of Agriculture website,

The Georgia Department of Agriculture is required by O.C.G.A. § 50-36-1 to verify citizenship/immigration status for all public benefits issued. All public benefits are defined in the law as certifications, licenses, registrations, state grant, etc. All new and renewal licenses are required to complete a notarized affidavit and provide one form of acceptable documentation as defined in O.C.G.A. § 50-36-1. The department will implement this change online no later than July 1, 2013. As directed by law, GDA will utilize the Federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program operated by the United States Department of Homeland Security.

So what does that mean to the average landscape company? In order to renew your contractor or applicator license, you must send in a copy of one of the approved documentation (usually a driver’s license) and a notarized affidavit (found online at, along with the renewal forms and a check for contractor license or applicator license.

You may mail or fax your affidavit and a copy of your authorized documentation to our customer service center for upload. The Licensing Division fax number is 404-586-1126.

You can also upload the paperwork online ( Click the online log-in tab.  Use the username and password provided on your renewal invoice.  You just have to have the capability of uploading documents.

Will we need to do this on a yearly basis?  No, luckily, documents will only need to be submitted one time. Companies will only have to resubmit when their respected ownership changes.

The folks at the Georgia Department of Agriculture are friendly and available if you need to call or have further questions (404-586-1411 or 855-4-AG-LICENSE (855-424-5423)). Also, contact your local Extension office if you need any other help (1-800-ASK-UGA).

Native Plants of North Georgia app now available

Submitted photo

Merritt Melancon, news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Spring is around the corner, and University of Georgia Extension has a new app to help families and outdoor enthusiasts make the most of those first springtime hikes.

Submitted photoNative Plants of North Georgia, now available for iPad, iPhone and Android devices, is a consumer-oriented field guide of the flowers, trees, ferns and shrubs that populate north Georgia’s lawns and forests.

Stationed in the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest, UGA Extension Coordinator for Union County and the apps’ content author, Mickey Cummings, has spent his career identifying plants for day-trippers, hikers and homeowners in north Georgia.

“I started wanting to create a collection of photographs that backpackers could use to identify plants on the trail,” Cummings said. “All the reference material I was working with was too large to pack, and we wanted something that would be easy for people to use.”

He first developed a hard copy of his guide, a pocket-sized laminated flipbook, in May 2008 to help the public identify local plants on the fly. UGA Extension has sold more than 1,000 copies of that original book and the free online edition has been viewed more than 6,000 times.

For more information visit his site.

Representatives from Southern Regional Extension Forestry, UGA Extension and the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Office of Information Technology decided to use the popular guide as a pilot project in their development of mobile applications for UGA Extension.

The app, developed by application programmer Benaiah Morgan, allows the public to browse photos of plants organized by their blooming periods and includes leaf and bloom descriptions as well as scientific and common names.

Other UGA Extension faculty members have collaborated on apps in recent years, mostly focusing on horticulture, pest management and turfgrass management. However, Native Plants of North Georgia is the first app to be produced by the UGA Extension publications and Extension digital productions team.

All versions of this app are free and ready for download through the Apple App Store and Google Play. A PDF version of the guide is available for free download and the original pocket-sized flipbooks are still available for purchase ($12.00) by visiting

UGA Extension offers hundreds of free-to-download, research-based publications providing information on everything from home vegetable gardening to pest control to native plant identification. For more information about the library of information available visit

Related UGA Extension Publications:

Native Plants for Georgia Part I: Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines

Native Plants for Georgia Part II: Ferns

Native Plants for Georgia Part III: Wildflowers