Monday, March 31, 2014

Tree Management Plan

We had a couple removals today, one that will lead to improved conditions for a green and surround complex and the second to protect everyone from a hazardous condition.  We still have one more removal on the right of #16, an old Siberian Elm that we were planning to remove but we believe it has a family of squirrels inside of it.  I expect no further removals this season unless something does not leaf out this spring and we will decide if removal should occur immediately or can wait until next winter.

The first tree was the very large oak on the east side of #17 green that had a large void in it that I assume was from a lightning strike many years ago.  During the shade study that I have made over the last few years, #17 green would not receive full sun until 10 a.m. each day.  We are evaluating a couple of ornamental trees to go back in the general area where the removal occurred but the species will be much smaller so they will not interfere with the morning light that the green needs.

The second tree was next to 18 tee and had lost a large part of the crown of the tree last fall.  Gamma tree topped both trees to a pole and our staff will knock the trees down on Tuesday.

Shade on #17 green at 8:54 a.m.

Gamma tree removing rest of limbs from tree.

Finishing off the removal.  Our staff still need to remove the stub on Tuesday.
The staff cleaning up the sticks and cutting up the logs from the removal.
The view from the green at the end of the day.

The wound that went up the first 15-20' of the tree. 

The close up of the crown of the tree at 18 tee.  The whole center of the tree was damaged and exposed.  The larger limbs coming off that same area could have fallen without warning.

A pull back view of the tree and its damaged crown.

The topped tree waiting for our staff to remove to the ground.

This tree was right behind the tree we are removing.  The limb on the lower left goes over the cart path and tee.  A limb fell from this tree and weakened the other limb to the point that it needed to be removed.

The finished product after removal. The removed tree is in the background.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Aerating Rough

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be pulling cores in the rough.

Core aeration benefits the turf in a number of ways.

  • Break up thatch and stimulate shoot and root growth.
  • Allows oxygen into the root zone of the turf.
  • The aeration holes will allow water to penetrate into the soil more quickly and deeper. The holes also provide tiny reservoirs to hold moisture in place.
  • Wet areas will dry out more quickly because air can get into the soil helping to dry it out more quickly.
  • Opening up the soil can release some nutrients to the root systems of the plant that were tied up in the soil.
  • Over time, the soil will assist in filling small voids in the turf surface improving lies.
Once we pull the core, a drag mat will go back over the area to help break up the soil so there is less mess for you to content with while you play. Rain will help blend the soil back to the surface of the rough as well.

Below is a video showing the aerator in action.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Update on Greens Aeration

The staff rolled and mowed the greens on Monday.  It would be great if we received a little rain on top of this aeration and topdressing but it has stayed away over the last few days.  I did water the greens through the weekend until Sunday night.  Due to cold temperatures, I've keep the water off over the last couple of days until the warm up starts again later in the week.  Thunderstorms later in the week could help us a great deal in our recovery.  We have gotten a nice green up from the fertilizer application and the warmer days last week.  We will do a dry mow this week which means we only mow when its dry to prevent sand being pulled up from the green surface.  Pulling sand up into the upper leaf canopy will negatively effect ball roll and will reduce our mowers potential for getting a clean cut.

 Three green, 3/10/14 first mowing
Eighteen green, 3/25/14 after mowing four time and aeration.

Growing Degree Days, Poa Management

The work that we do here at Glen Echo is not necessarily set on a calendar.  There are seasonal schedules and as long as products are applied within a couple of weeks, there are not issues.  There is one early season application to our greens which is timed to within a day based on scientific models.  The model uses growing degree days to determine the date to spray our greens to suppress and or reduce the amount of poa annua seed heads that are produced.  As you know, the seeding of poa annua in the spring to early summer can lead to ball roll not being as smooth as we would like to see on our golf greens.  The production of more seed heads also increase the seed bank for poa annua.  Millions of seeds are produced and can be viable in the soil for years just waiting for some thinning of turf to encourage more poa to germinate.  Seed heads are not just produced on greens surfaces, they are produced in the 100's of millions underneath the mass canopy of trees that run along our fairways and roughs.    

Growing degree days are formulas which take the average temperatures for the day and subtracts them from the base number used.

I.E.  The base number for poa annua seed head suppression is 32 degrees.  The high was 38 and the low was 28 yesterday at our weather station. so the mean/avg temperature for the day was 33. Subtracting 33-the base of 32 = 1 growing degree day.  This number is then added to an accumulating total that begins normally around the end of the 2nd to 3rd week of February.  If the number would be negative for a day which it could if the mean temperature is below 32, you have no growing degree days for that date.  Currently we are at 344 growing degree days.  The range to spray is normally around 300 growing degree days, more or less depending upon the year.  The spray we use suppresses or reduces seed heads from about 50-80% depending upon if your timing was correct.  I sprayed 1/2 our greens on Friday and the other 1/2 on Saturday morning. The poa annua on a green, the more potential for seed head production.  This is one of the reasons we are trying to encourage sun on our greens.  Bent grass is a sun loving plant and poa annua likes it shady and moist.

Growing degree days models are also used for other weeds such as crabgrass germination and broadleaf weed applications.  Bluegrass weevils and grub control of beetles are a couple of insects that can be monitored using growing degree day models.  Farming relies heavily upon growing degree day models as well in planting of crops and applying pest control measures.

We will make a second application of the growth regulator products twenty one days after the first application.  The spray we use is a mixture of Primo which is our main growth regulator product for greens and Proxy which reduces the seed head formation.  With early season aeration in March, our seed head suppression application usually falls around the time of aeration. It can delay healing slightly but I think it might only delay it a couple of days at the most.  This season, a majority of our aeration was finished five days before the application of this product mixture.

Seed heads that are produced do have a tendency to be shorter and tighter and do not effect ball roll since the greens are regulated.  Ball roll in general should improve as the aeration heals and  the plant growth regulators PGR begin to do their work.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Greenhouse planting

One of the things that I established over the first winter upon my arrival at Glen Echo was to build a greenhouse and grow our own plant material for our grounds.  Below is a video I made explaining the process we use here at Glen Echo and the work it takes to grow the plants that you will see in the various ornamental planting areas around the club.

By the way, our annual plant sale will be at the maintenance building on Saturday, May 10th from 9-11a.m. for those interested in purchasing plants.  You may charge your club account for these purchases.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tree Planted

We planted a new Sugar Maple in the area near 15 tee and 10 rough where the Siberian Elm had died this past season.

It is planted a little further from the tee so it will not encroach on the growth of the tee.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Future and our Tree Management Program

As a manager of five very diverse group of properties over the last 24 years, some of the facilities have had very few trees near the main play areas and some properties have many trees including the current property Glen Echo. The one thing that sets Glen Echo apart is its age and historical significance to the game of golf in St. Louis and for that matter the United States. 

The first thing you notice as you drive in from Lucas & Hunt and take the Marvin Pearson Lane through the course is the beauty of the trees.  Once you observe the trees, your eyes then pan down to the playing surface of the sixth green.  As you continue to drive toward the bridge that takes you across our four lake system, your neck stretches and eyes long for a view of the ribbons of grass fairways that make their way across the hills and valleys of this great golf club.

As superintendent, I've been tasked with the responsibility of managing all the property that our fine club owns. The 35 acres of greens, tees, and fairways are my main focus and we use at least 80% of our courses budget on this 25% of our total acreage.

During my time here as superintendent, I've attempted to be very conservative in my efforts regarding the removal of trees.  A majority of the trees removed have been dead or near dead and hazardous. Less than 20% of the trees I've removed have been healthy trees and the only reason a majority of them were removed were to improve the lifeblood of our course, our golf greens. I believe there are many members of the club who want a balanced approach to a tree program. 

Legitimate safety concerns, negative effects to the architectural integrity of the course and turf health are three things that I use to evaluate the removal of a tree.  I also bring in outside assistance as needed.  Our USGA agronomist last spring suggested to hard pruning of a couple of teeing ground trees instead of removal to provide the proper light for turf health but also keep into consideration the feelings of members about trees. This past fall, I brought in Kye Goalby who did a magnificent job with the architectural design and shaping of our new bunkers.  I wanted his opinion regarding the effects on the architectural design of some trees that I thought were causing issues to some tee and green complexes. Some he agreed with, some he suggested I leave for another day and some he thought I should leave for someone else to fight the battle. I then made a presentation to the green committee who agreed with some of the recommendations but not all. As you can see, the removal of trees is not as simple as some might think. If a tree is a hazard, has died or damaged, a quick decision but all other situations are given very detailed thought and evaluation.   

As a part of our discussions over the last few months, I've read posts from superintendents throughout the country and discussed with them how to manage a successful tree program. One of the most important components that they all stressed was a clear plan and a set of parameters to evaluate trees on property each and every year. This would be a committee approach involving club management, green committee, course architect and possibly an arborist to assist with tree health issues.  

Most importantly in our tree management program is the care and upkeep of our trees on property. Timely pruning and pest control strategies are important in preventing the early removal of damaged or pest infected trees.  Also, proper selection for the site and an expanded selection of trees are necessary to prevent total loss of species from pests like the Emerald Ash Borer. 

In closing, I never believed grass was the end all be all of the world but as a golf course superintendent, I am judged and employed by having healthy and vibrant tees, greens and fairways for our membership and guests to enjoy.  

Greens Aeration Update

Another frost delay but we were able to start at 9:45 this morning. We had an equipment breakdown before lunch but were able to complete 15-18. We have 10-14 left and will probably complete them on Monday with rain predicted overnight.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Spring Greens Aeration 2014

We were slowed a few hours by some very cold temperatures this morning but once we got a rhythm going, our small group of 8 guys banged out 11 greens.  PG, 1-9 and 16 is aerated and top-dressed.  At the same time, we were charging our water system so we could have water over the next few days to help dissolve our fertilizer application and settle the topdressing material.  We will aerate greens 15-18 tomorrow and might try to complete 10-14 over the next couple of days if we can do it without disrupting play.  We lost about 2 hours of work time this morning so potentially it might take us until Monday to do the last few greens.

I made a couple videos explaining a couple of our processes today.  The first video shows our vertical mowing that we did after mowing the greens.  Vertical mowing helps to cut bent grass blades which by their natural growth habit like to lay over.  This process will also rejuvenate new leaves from the crown of the plant.  We did get deep enough to get into the beginning of the thatch layer.  Diluting the thatch layer with sand creates a surface that drains well, allows the thatch to breakdown more quickly and provides a firmer surface which reduces the size of ball marks.  The sand also protects the crown of the plants which is where the roots and shoots are joined together to form the plant.  Realize when I'm speaking of a plant, I'm talking about 2,000 plants per square foot on a green measuring 5,000 sq feet or 10,000,000 plants per green. I great deal of living breathing plants to keep alive.

The video below describes in great detail the work we are trying to accomplish today.  It shows the deep-tine Verti-drain machine which was used to punch solid holes in our greens.  We top dressed the green with sand after the mowing and vertical mowing.  Topdressing the green before the holes were punched reduces the tracking potential that can occur taking a heavy load of topdressing sand over a softened green surface that has been aerated.

We used our blower that we pull with a cart to blow sand into the holes and excess sand is then moved around with backpack blowers to the holes that remain open.

We then brush the green to smooth out the remaining sand and the green is then rolled with our vibratory roller.  The roller helps to smooth the greens.  The greens are not completely smooth yet.  More rolling and water applications and time will help to smooth the greens out over the next couple of weeks.  We will probably not mow the greens for a few days but will be rolling.  Our first mowing will be a dry mow which means we do not mow until the surface is dry so we do not drag sand around on the green surface and disrupt play.  I would expect the greens to be back in normal condition by April 1st.

2 green completed.

Greens Aeration Starting

We received a break in the weather and did not get any moisture in yesterday's storm.  We will have a slow start today because of some very cold morning temperatures but once the frost breaks we will be good to go.  Our plan will be to mow the greens, verticut the greens, sand the greens heavy, 1/2" deep tine solid with our verti-drain machine, apply a soil enhancement product, blow and brush the materials in the holes, fertilize the greens and roll them to finish the process.  Depending on how quick the process goes today, I expect we will get about 8-9 greens completed today.  We will probably complete 12-14 this week and finish the other 5-6 greens next Monday.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Spring Aeration

Our spring greens aeration is scheduled for Monday-Tuesday but it appears Mother Nature is going to throw us a little curve. If we must delay, it will be scheduled for March 24-26. We normally have 12-14 greens finished the first day and 2-3 per day the next 2 before play gets around to us. I will keep you informed of our schedule once the weather hits us tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

First greens mowing of the year and more

The staff rolled and used the riding greens mower on Monday, March 10th.  Since I have been here at GECC, we have mowed on 2/28, 3/3,2/18,2/1,3/1.  As you can see, a bit late for 2014.  I expect we are about 1 1/2 weeks behind in our normal turf growing.  We are scheduled to aerate this Monday/Tuesday. I would prefer the greens to be a little more active in their growth but we should be okay to complete this work early in the week.  The heat over the last couple of days should give them a good kick and mowing another time or two will get the plants responding and begin to grow.  Opening the greens up and placing a heavy layer of brown sand will also help to warm up the profile which also increases growth potential.  I prefer to get aeration completed early so they are in great condition for April play.  I don't like to get our members out all excited to play and then interrupt for aeration and healing during the month of April.  Also, once the rough begins to grow which is usually by April 1st, our staffing levels drop because a couple of guys are tied up with rough mowing. As time allows with the rest of our work schedule, we intend to get single holes placed back in greens for regular play.

Tom mowing #3 green.

We rented a 45' lift last week and have been trying to get some of our Tree Management Program work completed. We have used the machine to remove a couple of trees but our most important use of the lift is to raise the lower branches of the trees and remove deadwood.  As a tree matures, the lower branches of the trees shade turf, create structural issues for the tree and will ultimately die due to too much shade.  Removing these limbs assists to stabilize the tree and will improve the amount of light that turf growing around trees can receive.  We are also removing deadwood and suckers that could be reached from the lift.  We only have the lift for a few days and are trying to get as much accomplished as possible during this period.  
Before trimming.  Low hanging limbs and deadwood.
After some pruning a couple of days ago, the tree has had its lower limbs removed and deadwood removed as well.

Brush underneath an oak along #15. Large trees require a great deal of work.

Chips from oak tree limbs which will be used in some of our course mulched areas.
Becky has already been hard at work pruning back plant material in beds, cutting off grasses, pruning shrubs and raking leaves out of beds. 144 plants are arriving this week with another 3,500-4,000 over the next 3 weeks that must be potted and placed in the greenhouse.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

All Holes Open Sunday, March 9th

All holes will be open for play today.  Appreciate your patience with us as we've worked our way out of the freeze/thaw cycle a few times this winter.

Friday, March 7, 2014

15 holes of the course will open Saturday, March 8th

We will open 15 holes for play on Saturday, March 8th for those of you who want to come out and hit the ball around for a few hours.  Greens 7,10, and 11 are still to frozen and wet to allow play on them.  I hope they will continue to thaw and drain enough to allow for play on Sunday.  As always, I will keep you informed.  All tee markers, tee signs, trash cans have been moved back out on the course.  I have left the tee markers off of the closed holes and will have signs at both the tees and greens to remind you.  Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Course Update

The course will remain closed on Friday due to snow on some greens and the profile of most greens are thawed to only 1 1/2"-2" which is not deep enough to prevent root shearing.  Excessive moisture is still trapped above the frozen layer which creates a wet sponge effect to the greens and can lead to severe imprinting from foot traffic on the greens.

This will possibly be the latest first mow that I can remember since I have been in the business.  I would like to roll the greens first and then mow them.  I would expect this to happen Monday or Tuesday if the greens thaw properly and are dry enough to handle equipment

Our hope is to open the course on Saturday but at this time I'm not sure if that will occur.  The sun gas been great over the last few days to melt the snow/ice but the cold temperatures at night freezes the melted material and soil all over again. It will get warmer and before you know it the season will be in full swing.
7 green 3/6 3pm
10 green
11 green.
Little blurry but the probe only went in 2 green to the depth mentioned in the blog.
1 green with snow on the front.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

If no golf is available, the Clubhouse is most available!

The weather has dampened activity on the golf course but the clubhouse and our great staff are more than ready to help fill the void.  Fish fry Fridays are starting this week.  Chef Terry and staff are putting together some great specials and some new items are now available on the bistro menu.

So, call your friends, contact your foursomes and show up at the clubhouse for some great food, drinks and fun! 

Course Update, Again!

Course remains closed.  Still snow cover on many surfaces.  Not sure when we will be open. I will give you daily updates. I would guess not before Saturday at the earliest. Check out the old blog post below regarding the decision to open or not.  Same reasoning, new month.

Practice green melting.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Ugly Weather Stats for February

The not so great weather stats for February.  We were lucky a couple of warmers days were thrown in there or we would have been in double digits below average.

2/6  Record low maximum for the day of 13 degrees.
Tied for 10th, the coldest February on record.
19th coldest winter of all-time.  Coldest since 2000-2001 which was 14th coldest all-time and almost a .5 degree colder than this season.  Do you remember?

                                            Observed                    Normal         Depart         Last 
                                                Value                         Value            from           Year    
Temperature                                                                                Normal
                       Avg Max            36.5                             45                 -8.5             43.7
                       Avg Min             18.3                             27.6              -9.3             27.6
                        Mean                27.4                             36.3              -8.9             35.7

Rain                                          1.48"                           2.24"            -.76"              3.27"

Snow                                         5.8"                             4.3"              1.5"            10.6"
Since 7/1/13                             27.2"                            5.0"             12.2"           13.6"