Pinus strobus (or White Pine which is the common name) is a very popular coniferous tree. Some might even say iconic as when we travel to the Muskoka’s this prevalent tree is used as a logo in many forms for many businesses. We have many of them throughout the golf course. This time of year I receive a lot questions about the White Pines. Many people think that they are dying from lack of water or fertilizer or have a disease, when in fact they are going through a very natural process.
Each year the White Pine puts out new growth, which means new needles. So it loses last years needles and they fall off. Right now last year's needles are very yellow and are falling all around the bases of the trees. Just as our deciduous trees lose their leaves, the pines shed and grow new needles in their yearly cycle of growth. A close look at cedar trees revels the same cycle of shedding old growth. There is no concern for any of these trees.
Every year, right after Thanksgiving, there are a couple of immediate changes that affect all members playing the golf course. The more obvious of the two is the addition of artificial mats to the blue and white par 3 tees. All of our par 3 tees are extremely undersized for the amount of play they receive. By asking all member to use these artificial mats we are able to stop any more damage from occurring to these tiny tee decks as we move toward winter. It also gives us the opportunity to get seed soil mix to all damaged areas and start the healing through new growth before the weather turns the turf areas dormant. We feel very strongly it is a necessary evil in order for us to provide better course conditions for spring opening.
The other change is an increase in the height of cut on our greens, which ultimately means a slower putting surface. Once again this is necessary for the over all health of the putting surfaces. A longer leaf blade going into winter makes for a stronger grass plant that will be able to store more carbohydrates for the long Canadian winter. Just like a hibernating bear, the turf is still alive and respiring all winter, which requires a certain amount of stored food to feed off through the winter. The longer leaf blade will also help protect the crown of the plant from bitter north winds that can cause desiccation. The turf can handle the death of the leaf blade, just as humans can live without a finger or an arm. The crown of the plant is the main part that new growth is produced, so this is the part of the plant that must be protected at all cost.
The last three winters in this part of the world have really not been winter at all. So far this fall we have seen more frost mornings than we did in the same time in the previous 3 falls combined. I hope this means a return to a traditional winter where we get frost in the ground by early December and a good 10cm snow fall before Christmas. This is the ideal conditions for the turf providing the temperature stays consistently below the freezing point……………but………………it’s probably too soon for me to be talking about winter quite yet. Let’s hope we have some awesome fall golf weather over the remaining season.