Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Green Changes in July
With the Invitational tucked away nicely in June, we have made changes to our greens practices for the month of July and into August which contribute to a much healthier plant and hopefully no turf loss during this very stressful period. These changes are to protect our plants from potential devastating damage that could take the rest of the season to heal and greatly effect your experience at the club. The lack of fans for air circulation throughout the course and no drainage in our greens creates issues during the heat of summer and I act accordingly to protect our most valuable resource.
After the 4th of July weekend, we raised our mowing height .005 thousandths of an inch which is slightly taller than the thickness of a strand of hair which averages about .004 thousandths of an inch. We have been given some great growing weather over the last few weeks but we are still on guard against the potential for damage. Higher temperatures and saturated conditions are our biggest fear but the stress that being mowed, stepped on, sun baked, and every nasty disease known to turf is looking for its first opportunity to spring an invasion and spread its kind! Besides the increase in height, below are a few other things we do to insure we get through the summer season without damage.
We have been able to top dress our greens a couple of times during this period but do use a little less sand. I resist the temptation to brush or groom the grass during higher temperatures. Tearing and or scratching the leaf blades can lead to damage and the plant is forced into injury management which diverts needed resources away from breathing, perspiring and food production which are essential for a plant to live.
Our greens were opened up in late June in preparation for hot weather with a needle tine venting. We plan to hydroject the greens on Monday which should open them up and allow for gas exchange and improve water penetration and evacuation if necessary. Milder nights have allowed for our root systems to be in pretty good condition for this time of year which is a good thing for plant health.
If we get sustained days of heat such as 7-10 days in a row well over 90, we would change our mowing practices to every other day and roll on the other days which keeps the greens rolling consistently. Cutting the plant is injurious and it reacts to heal itself just as if it were damaged. Resources move from life supporting to damage control.
We also use Plant Growth Regulators(PGR) which slow the growth of the plant and will assist in ball roll and reduces the amount of energy required by the plant to survive. Our goal is to not exhaust all the resources that the plant has stored in its cells before conditions change enough for it to provide energy to function. Exhaustion does not cause illness or disease but can open one's system up for attack. Fungus and bacteria are laying in waiting to over run a turf plant's ability to resist invasion and also over run good organisms in the soil. Can I here an amen from the Doctor's reading this blog!
Water resources are managed as closely as possible with hand watering being used to supplement the extra needs of the plant. Excessive water applications overnight lead to soft conditions so we monitor our conditions regularly. I utilize a moisture meter which has 3" probes and give us an average of soil moisture in the green. Wet and soft conditions can increase the potential for mower damage, excessive wear, larger ball marks and outbreaks of disease. It can also lead to turf that is more lush and susceptible to incidence of disease.
We also fertilize a little less and increase sea weed extracts and other elements to improve plant health. Sea weed improves stress tolerance within the plant during heat stress events. We also reduce our overall fertilizer applications because a majority of fertilizer is derived from salt. Excessive salt within the plant attracts moisture making it not available for the plant to utilize. The plant wilts and can die. Also, excessive salt in the soil can clog or slow water from entering into a root. Use of organic fertilizers due to their lower salt index is helpful during the summer stress season.
All season we manage mechanical damage by using solid rollers on our mowers instead of grooved rollers which can create wear damage on circling mowing(clean up cut). The grooved rollers do give a tighter cut but the extra pressing does damage cells.
If the weather continues to stay mild, we will be able to change our cultural practices to a less protective manner and get a little more aggressive. We can decrease our mowing height by that one hair width which will give you the greens in the late summer and fall that you have come to expect here at Glen Echo.