28 January 2015

Poa Patrol

Winter is a busy time for us.  The greens require constant monitoring since the type of grass we have, poa annua, is very susceptible to fluctuating temperatures and ice cover.  We have had a little bit of ice this year, but thankfully due to our efforts we are clear now.

Why do we snowblow?
* Is there ice on the greens?  If yes, then we will remove snow and make every effort to remove the ice.
* Is there a warmup expected?  If yes, we will clear snow to reduce chance of ice forming from the melt.
* Is there more snow expected in forecast?  We may snowblow if more snow is expected, to reduce the overall amount of snow on the greens.  Too much snow and our equipment will not be able to move it.
If there is no ice, and no immediate warmup expected, then we are completely "hands off."

How do we remove ice?
Ice can kill our greens if present for more than 30 days.
* If we have ice on the greens, we will blow the snow off to allow sunlight to get to the ice.
* We can speed the melting process by applying black sand or an organic black fertilizer to the ice.
* In the past, we have used aerators to remove ice mechanically as seen below:

What are the 3 S's of Winter?
* Snowblower, shovel, squeegee.  These three tools are our best friends in the winter.  Preventing ice from forming is our most important job.  Clearing snow to reduce meltwater, popping ice with shovels, and squeegeeing water from the surface reduce the chances of damage to our poa annua greens in the spring.

26 January 2015

Anything Goes in Wintertime

We are no strangers to pulling out all the stops when it comes to removing ice on our greens.  On sunny days in the winter, it is common for some melting to occur.  A few of our greens have low areas that will collect water in the winter because the ground is frozen and won't allow the water to drain through.  In January, this water will freeze and turn into ice that can hang around for a while, putting us at risk of ice encasement (suffocation) injury.  In late winter, these areas are likely to freeze and thaw repeatedly and the turf can be damaged via crown hydration.

We go to great lengths to prevent standing water on our greens in the wintertime.  Reliable surface drainage is critical to avoid melting snow and rain from freezing on the greens surface overnight.  Despite our efforts to improve surface drainage, there are times when even that is not enough.  

We've been using a standard shop vac powered by a generator to remove water from the low areas of our greens for several years, and this setup works better than any squeegee we've ever used.  Squeegees are faster and work great to push off large amounts of water, but they don't get everything, and what gets left behind almost always ends up back in the low areas and refreezes.  But with our shop vac setup, we are able to get virtually all the water off the greens surface and avoid ice altogether.  It even works over the top of the covers.

Anything goes in the wintertime.  And we are willing to try anything if it means saving our greens from injury.

22 January 2015

Express Dual 2000 for sale

Spin grinder.
New bearings in 2013.
We suspect it may need new bushings to better true it up.
Asking price: $1,500 "as is" condition
Cash or certified check only.

20 January 2015

Ice Update

A quick update on our ice situation.

Last week, anticipating a warm up, we removed the snow from all of our greens.  We knew we had ice on five of our greens.  Long term ice cover is deadly to poa annua greens, with damage occurring between 30-45 days of cover.

Happy to report that last Friday, we were able to melt the ice after 13 days of ice cover.  We are feeling good about the current health of our greens.  The clock has been reset.  But we still have a long way to go.

The weekend and Monday was spent pushing water off the greens so that it wouldn't re-freeze.  We are hopeful that we avoided crown hydration injury since temperatures remain cold and the plant isn't taking up water and breaking dormancy.

A video is forthcoming that will explain why we snowblow greens in the winter, and the lengths to which we go to protect our greens and remove ice.  For now, a few pictures to tide you over.

A view of the ice on #2 green after a rain/freeze event January 3.  The covers are permeable and will not protect our greens from ice damage.

The greens with ice were snowblowed on January 15 in the attempt to get the ice to melt.  On #2 green, the situation is complicated by the shade cast by the spruce trees behind the green.  Once in the shade, the ice stops melting.

We applied a black organic fertilizer to the ice on Friday to generate extra heat on the ice.  By the end of January 16, all of our ice had melted.

#2 Green on Sunday, January 18 after a little thaw and overnight rain.  With the ground still frozen, the only way for the water to move off the green is via surface drainage.  However, due to some of the contours on the green, the water gets trapped in pockets and needs to be removed.

That's Lila and Ella Garr sacrificing some Sunday morning TV time to push water off the greens with their dad!  (They stopped smiling after the first green.)

Surface drainage working overtime on #6 Green on Sunday.  These channels help water move through the collar and off the green faster.

Our weekend squeegee team is very well compensated for their efforts!

13 January 2015

Fix Bayonets

Confession time.  I am a history junkie.  Particularly the American Civil War.

There is a scene in the 1993 film "Gettysburg," when Colonel Chamberlain and his men stand worn and weary, holding up the flank of the entire Union Army in their hands on Little Round Top.  Ammunition is low, but the Rebels are still coming.  In a flash of brilliance, Col. Chamberlain announces to fix bayonets, and then leads his men in a risky downhill charge.  That bold move by the Union soldiers was the right call at the right time, and it finished off their Confederate combatants.

Making the right call at the right time is the mark of a true leader.  Superintendents are leaders, and every day we fight a battle against Mother Nature.  In a given day, there are many decisions to be made.  For the success of the team and the club, these decisions require careful planning and must be made at the right time.  The wrong decision at the wrong time can put everyone at risk.

This week there has been chatter in our region of SE Michigan about snow removal on greens.  Some superintendents, anticipating a warm up over the weekend have already begun clearing their greens.  Others prefer the free insulation of the snow that will help protect their turf through the next couple days of severely cold temperatures.  Every property is different, and each property manager has his or her own call to make.  

At Plum Hollow Country Club, we fall somewhere in the middle.  Before this most recent snowfall, we knew we had isolated pockets of ice on a few greens.  Nothing like last year, for sure, but ice is ice.  We know we want to remove the snow when temperatures become warmer and get that ice to melt before it suffocates our turf.  But to remove the snow now is to remove the insulation and leave the greens exposed to an overnight blast of Arctic air.

A decision to remove snow at Plum Hollow comes after a careful consideration of several factors.  We believe it should never be a knee-jerk reaction, or "just because."  Here are some of the factors that your Greens Department considers before clearing snow from greens:

  • Is there ice present on the greens?
  • How long has the ice been there?  (Our maximum threshold is 30 days.)
  • If we remove the snow, will conditions allow us to melt the ice?
  • Is there a risk of damaging the turf if the snow is removed now?
  • What is the short term forecast?
  • What is the long term forecast?
  • What is the reliability of the weather forecast?
  • How long will it take to clear the greens?
  • What are other superintendents in the area doing?
  • What are university experts recommending?
Snow is a great insulator, and right now we are counting
on that insulation to get us through these next few days.
The short term forecast is not conducive to melting any ice, and quite frankly, these next few days are dangerous for us to even be outside.  Tonight, temperatures might hit record lows and we might see some of the coldest air we have seen in years.  Even with the Evergreen covers on our greens, I am uncomfortable leaving our poa annua greens exposed to such low temperatures.  

Right now, our greens are covered with a powdery, 4" layer of snow that is giving our turf that little extra protection over these next two days.  The temperatures look to be warming up over the weekend, but not much above freezing.  Beginning Thursday, we are likely to remove snow, but only to the greens that have ice.  The long term forecast is unreliable at best, but we will continue to watch it and evolve our strategy around the weather.

As I said earlier, successful leaders are those who make the right decision at the right time.  Knowing when to make the charge can determine the outcome of the battle.  For now, we will hold the line.  But it's very likely that come Thursday, we'll be fixing bayonets and making our downhill charge on these greens with the snowblower.

Overnight low temperatures are dangerous to exposed turf.

Even with warmer temperatures over the weekend, we are not expecting a great deal of melt, especially if there is a lot of cloud cover.  To be safe, beginning Thursday, we will clear the few greens we know have isolated pockets of ice to increase the chance to get the ice to melt.