Thursday, July 11, 2013

Addressing thinning greens

There was a comedian that once said, “Everyone’s always talking about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it!” Last summer we were all talking about the extreme heat and drought, over the winter it was the lack of any winter weather. If we were to look back over the last 10 years, we probably wouldn’t find many of them to have been what any of us consider normal. Weather is constantly going through cycles of extremes. The only question might be how many years between cycles? Personally I think it’s not worth worrying about. As a turf manager I focus on what we have right now and what might be coming in the next day or two. Beyond that it’s not worth spending too much time thinking about. The main thing that stands out for this summer is the amount of rain we have received. No doubt you have heard of the 121mm that the city of Toronto recently received. I was shocked when it was reported this was more than fell during Hurricane Hazel in the 1950’s. Many city clubs are devastated. If you have not seen pictures it is impossible to describe. I know Islington Golf Club has announced they are now closed for the rest of the 2013 season. There are serious issues at Weston, Lambton, Royal Woodbine and Markland Woods just to name a few.

Whitevale has had it's share of rain related events. This photo from 2005 shows the flooding we dealt with after a major summer storm. But it was nothing compared to what my associates in the city are dealing with at the moment.

Clearly we here at Whitevale have faired MUCH better, despite the continuous storms. Depending on where you look you can appreciate that the club is in the best condition ever. But focus on the challenges we have had and you might think some greens are in big trouble. The thin areas on some greens is directly caused by heavy rains and our restriction on excessive aeration so we don’t interfere with play. After last years disease infections we put together a preventative spray program this past spring to go on the offensive for these diseases. This has been working well; however, we have been hit with three different diseases over the last two months due to the extreme weather putting abnormal stress on the turf’s root system. We continue to work with the control products available to us despite the cost. Some keen eyed members can even see the slightly different colour to the greens which is caused by some of these fungicides.

 On top of these challenges, we have also seen a thinning on the areas we have sodded in the past. You have heard it before, but the greens and collars that are showing signs of stress and thinning are all areas that have been sodded with turf brought in from another location. Greens 4, 6, 11, 12, 17, the collars on the front of 4 and 5, all sodded in the past. This sod has a layer of soil which is never the same as soil where it is laid in a new location causing a layer. This layer affects water movement causing moisture to be held up in the upper root zone reducing oxygen levels and promoting bacterial activity that is also oxygen depleting, and causing foot traffic stress to show. This makes for unhealthy soil and stress on the roots of our turf. The consistent rain event this summer has added to this depletion of oxygen. These thin wet areas are now prone to algae growth, which some mistake for moss. As things begin to dry out the algae will dry up and die making these thin areas even more visibly “off” until turf growth can fill back in.

 It’s impossible for us to do anything about a rain event, but we can try to help dry out the root zone. I use the aerifier with ¼ solid tines to poke holes in the greens surface. We do this every two weeks to all greens all season long. Additional “venting” events take place on these problematic greens. The small holes help, but don’t solve the problem. The only thing that will is aerification with hollow tines which pull a core. This will physically remove some of this layer. Unfortunately, this also disturbs golfers and is a dangerous process during the heat of the summer. So until the shorter cooler days of September arrive we take the bandage approach and save the surgery for later. Sometimes I also use the Hydro-ject as it uses gentle water jets to make a hole that oxygen can get in without any physical damage to the green. It may be hard to believe but a spring aerification with ¼ `` tines and a fall event with ½ `` tines only impacts about 7% of the surface combined.  Ideally I need to do this process 10-15 times to remove our damaging layer.

Rest assured, we are constantly baby sitting these unique green sites and when the weather turns cooler, and dryer I will be able to push a healthy recovery program again. What can you do to help? Pick up your feet on the greens and focus on the positives while I handle the heavy lifting.

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