A recent presentation I made for the Turfgrass Seminar at Michigan State University.
20 October 2014
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that, in a year where nothing has come easy, our greens aerification has become more complicated than ever due to the weather. As of this writing, we still have 4 greens remaining to be aerified: #12, 15, 17, and 18. The rainy, cloudy, and persistent wet weather has certainly dampened our aerification plans this fall.
|Sand channels create avenues for easy root growth |
and for water to drain.
We were able to aerate a few greens each day through the week last week, which helped us immensely. We are running out of time! This is not the ideal time for greens aerification, as the days are shorter, the ability to heal is greatly diminished, and the presence of frost and other weather factors can delay or cancel our plans altogether.
This morning we had plans to finish the "final four" greens. However, we got rain early this morning and we are expecting more rain this afternoon. Punching the greens is the easy part; the cleanup and working the sand in always requires the most time and labor. And unfortunately, we need perfectly dry conditions for the sand to fill into the holes. Wet sand will not go down the holes, and if the green is soft the holes will close up when we start moving machinery around on them. So the entire process will be for naught if we attempt this in wet weather.
Our next dry day looks like Wednesday. We plan to finish then, so we will have temporary greens on these final four holes for most of the day. The greens will reopen for Men's League at 4:30pm. Special thanks for the patience and understanding of our membership for allowing us to keep this process going.
14 October 2014
Mother Nature must not be a fan of aerification. After a great jump on greens aerification on Sunday night, the weather took a turn for the worse and we had to halt operations. Punching the greens is the easy part; working the sand into the holes is the most time consuming part, and the most important. The sand needs to be dry, otherwise we can't work it into the holes. Luckily, Tuesday morning we were able to finish what we started. Which at this point, amounts to just under half the course. The front nine (with the exception of #5) and the practice green are finished. The rest of the greens will be completed a few at a time when the weather conditions improve, and likely through the week.
10 October 2014
07 October 2014
Building healthy turf for winter has already begun. As we inch ever closer to the season's first snowflakes, there is a lot of preparation that has to be done to help guard our greens against what early prognosticators are predicting will be another brutal winter for us.
October is all about growing strong, healthy turf that is better able to survive snow, ice, and low temperatures. While we ultimately remain at the mercy of Mother Nature, there are some things we can do to give our turf a fighting chance.
- Raise mowing heights. A higher height of cut will give us a healthier plant and deeper roots with more of an ability to store energy for the winter. On October 1st we raised our mowing height from 0.120” (1/8 of an inch) to 0.140”. After aerification, we will raise the height again to 0.160”. On November 1st we will arrive at our final mowing height of 0.180”. So what does this mean to you? Slower green speeds. But healthier turf heading into the winter.
- Fertility. Keeping the plant well-fed and supplied with nutrients will ensure healthy turf. While we try to keep the greens pretty lean through the summer to minimize growth and maintain fast green speeds, in the fall we need to take the opposite approach. You can’t starve your turf into the winter and expect it to stand much of a chance against the elements.
- Aerification. On Monday, October 13 we are scheduled to aerate the greens. This year we are deep tining to a depth of almost 14”. We will follow the deep tine with a tighter, 1/2” hole to a depth of 5”. The holes are then filled with sand. The goal of this aerification is to incorporate as much sand as possible into the greens profile, creating avenues for root growth and better drainage. Since aerification is happening so late in the year, and we have less than 12 hours of sunlight a day, we do not expect the holes to fully heal in 2014.
- Improve surface drainage. In the winter when the ground is frozen, water must be able to quickly leave the greens surface during a melt or it will result in ice accumulation. Most of our greens have good slope from back to front, but over time the collars build up from regular topdressing and can hold this water back. We plan to core aerate, collect the cores, and then roll the collars to help lower them. In some instances, sod may be removed, the area re-graded, and then laid back down.
- Covers. Last winter we covered 3 greens with permeable Evergreen covers and they made it through the worst winter on record relatively unscathed, despite poor drainage and shade issues. Part of this was due to vigilance and frequent snow removal, but these greens on average had much less ice than the rest of the greens. This winter we plan to cover every green on the golf course, and very likely before Thanksgiving. Covers are no guarantee against winterkill, but they are definitely a little added insurance. Covers will not prevent ice accumulation or crown hydration injury, but they will protect against drying winds, low temperatures, and mechanical damage from shovels and snowblowers.
Keep some of this in mind as you get those last rounds in this season. We are mindful of the lessons the past winter taught us, and we are adjusting our plans accordingly. Beginning with strong turf and slightly slower greens.