The Dog Days of Summer

July is a fun month.  We have the 4th of July and fireworks.  The smell of BBQ is often in the air.  Baseball is always on everyone’s mind.  It all just screams summer time!

 As July comes to an end, it is not without a sense of joy to see it pass.  July has the potential to be a scorcher.  In some parts of the country it has proven to be just that.  However for us, it has been somewhat of a mellow year. 

The long hours of intense heat and sunlight.  The fine line of how much water or how little to put out.  The high disease pressure… the aggressively managed turf just waiting to croak at a moments notice.  It only makes sense that we say adios to July and anxiously await fall and its more comfortable temperatures!

It’s Tournament Time!

Summer time is a fun time of the golfing year because every weekend you get to see beautiful courses on the tv challenging the best golfers in the world.  Events like the U.S. Open and British Open really do get the golfer in all of us going!

So, it is no surprise, most clubs and courses host their own events in the summer too!  It is that time of year when we get to lay out the red carpet and show everyone what perfection looks like at our place.

No detail is left out.  Everything from freshly edged cart paths to beautifly manicured fairways, not a grass clipping to be seen… everything is perfect.  So, it would stand to reason, what does it take to get ready for the big event?

With events like the U.S. Open, the planning starts years before the event even takes place.  It is not that dramatic here, but it definately begins long before the tournament signup sheets are printed.  Months out, we are applying fertilizer and various chemicals so they are in full effect at the right time.  Countless extra man hours are added weeks prior to the tournament.  The days leading up to it, green speed is increased, irrigation times are reduced, little extras like logo painting or stencil painting is added, anticipation is building.

As the tournament comes to an end, and the compliments continue to pour in.  It is time to take a step back and look at how the whole thing came together.  Then begins the next step… start planning for next year!

The Evolution of a Putting Green

Most superintendents tend to notice the most minuscule changes or details of a golf course on a daily basis.  What was different from the day before?  How was that different from an hour ago?  What is that going to look like tomorrow?

Chances are, they remember things that happened the same time a year ago… or multiple years ago… often known to say, ”Remember when?” or “Remember that time?”

But what about the small changes that happen every day for over 30 years ?

This is discovery was made recently when an irrigation technician asked me for some PVC glue.  The timing of the request was unique mostly because we were not in the ’season’ for fixing irrigation problems or making repairs.  I ventured out to see what was going on and to lend a helping hand.

The sprinkler was about 4 inches below the desired level.  The irrigator was going to raise the sprinkler.  This is common, because raising the sprinkler or leveling it increases the sprinklers efficiency.  He discovered that the swing joint was already at its maximum, hence, needing to add an extension.

This is a green side sprinkler.  Twice a year we aerify greens and topdress them.  All the extra sand is pushed off to the sides of the green.  This green was built in the year 1979.  Much like the rings of a tree, the levels of sand are an indicator of years gone bye.  I would estimate around a foot of sand has been added to the original level since its original construction.

Enjoy!  The next time your out working or playing a round remember, it is not the same golf course you were on the last time you were there.

Why do Golf Courses Aerate Greens?

The greens are putting so perfect and true.  Then they have to go and mess them up by aerating them.  This alone can be one of the most frustrating things a golf course superintendent can hear.  For the record, yes, freshly aerated greens are not the most desirable putting surface to play on or hit into.  Now let’s move past that point and discuss the benefits.

Aerification is a very labor intensive maintenance practice of pulling a plug of soil, thatch, and grass out of the ground by means of a machine equipped with a row of hollow tubes (tines).

Typically there is 3% – 5% of the surface and soil being displaced.

The main goals of core aerification are: relief of soil compaction, reduction of the amount of thatch, and it creates the ability to change or improve soil profile.

By filling the bare holes in with sand, also called topdressing, you create air pockets, aiding in relief of compaction.  Roots thrive and grow deep in these areas. Oxygen and water move easier and are more readily available.  It also makes it easy to incorporate soil amendments and fertilizers.

So the next time you are out on the course and want to express your displeasure with recently aerified greens, understand that it is a ‘necessary evil’.  Golf course superintendents think of it as preventative maintenance, much like changing the oil in your car… if you don’t change it , sure you car will run, but how long and how well and with what cost?

For further reading on this subject, here is a link to GCSAA’s website: Why aerify?

What is crabgrass and how to kill it?

For starters, crabgrass is a nasty little weed once you get it in your lawn. No, not as nasty as the guy shown to the right. For most people, they are plagued by its annual appearance and are unsure as to how to get rid of it. The most common crabgrass you will likely encounter are: Large Crabgrass (Digitaria sanquinalis) or Smooth Crabgrass (Digitaria ischaemum).

Crab Grass

Both of these can thrive in areas that most grasses do not fair very well. Once established, they can be difficult to get rid of. A single crabgrass plant can produce as many as 150,000 seeds in a single season!

So, how do we kill it or keep it out? The first trick is hopefully the easiest and makes the most sense. Start with a healthy, lush lawn. Dense lawns that are properly fertilized, watered and mowed at the correct height should be your first defense. How does this work? The lawn acts as a shade, and blocks out the sun for the newly emerging crabgrass seedlings.

Remove by Hand

If some of them do manage to break through, do not worry. You still have options. Look no further than good old fashioned manual labor! As the crabgrass gets bigger, pick it out with a garden spade or by hand. If there is simply too much to pull out, you may want to consider using a postemergent herbicide. Be careful to read all the instructions on the label and follow them carefully. It may take several applications depending on how big the crabgrass has become.

So you didn’t catch the crabgrass early enough. Don’t give up hope. It will die off with the coming winter. Next year you may consider a pre-emergent herbicide. Wait too long and you may face the same problem. All those seeds left behind lay dormant in the soil until the soil warms to 50-55 degrees. Depending on where you live, this is typically in the first part of March or April. A pre-emergent herbicide forms a chemical barrier at the soil surface. Any seedlings trying to poke through are killed.

Simple enough? Make sure to not to do any soil cultivation or aeration until the fall. This will break apart that barrier you put down and make your efforts useless. Now for aerification… that is a different topic to be discussed later on.