Monday, August 15, 2011

Aerification Update: We're done-almost?

I wanted to let you know that we completed greens aerification on Friday in a light rain by noon.  The weatherman predicted showers and thunder storms to arrive after 3 PM.  He only missed by six hours!  We anticipated less than ideal cleanup conditions and modified our means to clean the cores from the final three greens completed.  So for now, that will explain the darker "soiled" appearance of those greens.  Rain will wash away the discoloration.  (As I write this, the all day rains predicted for Saturday doesn't look promising.  Nice job weatherman!)

Also I was asked an excellent question by a member that I would like to respond to.  The question was "if we closed one nine for a day could we have completed our task sooner?  My answer was yes and no and I'll explain.

Our total aerification time with clean up totaled 30 hours over the five day stretch.  (40 hours if you count the hand watering to settle sand in the holes done following lunch.)  That would have asked our men to put in two fifteen hour days!  At minimum wage, I don't think I would have had to many takers wanting to work from 6 AM until 9 PM.  Also remember they were performing back ground tasks maintaining two golf courses that were still in play.  Because of the suddeness upon which the aerification notice was thrust upon you I felt having a few greens out of play was better option for the club in the short run.  We met our goal of having all greens cleaned and in play by Noon of each day.  We almost lost this goal on Thursday (yes ladies, men's day) when the greens aerified #10, #11 & #13 remained in the shade past 11 AM. The aerification cores refused to dry to the point we could process them.

What added to our time was the physical nature of hand shoveling chopped cores from the green surface.

With the weakened state of so many of our greens due to the excessive heat and moisture I felt it best to remove cores by hand preventing further mechanical injury we've seen in the past when using our core harvesting equipment.  Also I chose to "recycle" cores by chopping them up using vertical mowers to keep some humus in place.  Hopefully the presence of some organic matter will to serve as a water resurvior for the bent grass seed we dropped in place.  Recycling cores reduced the amount of top dressing media I needed to purchase.

There is a down side to report with this aerification however.  The dry dome of air managed to stress the some Poa to the point of wilting on some greens.   Open holes dries the turf more quickly especially if the surface has been sealed by compaction or blue green algal scum.  It is my feeling if Poa can not make it through an aerification, then why should we keep it on a putting surface if it's going to up a die anyway?  As a result, some discoloration resulted where foot traffic was high around former pin locations.  This I admit surprised me a little as we basically "flooded" the surface to settle as much sand into the aerification hole as possible through hand watering as soon as the surface was cleared.  But then again, I'm not shocked because I was well aware of the non existant rooting back in early June when greens wilted when I tried to dry them out.  With warm days and cooler nights ahead those area's should recover nicely.

We still need to backfill aerification holes with sand that were underfilled early next week.  The sooner we get the sand settled in place the longer our greens mowers will stay sharp the better the greens will be.  Greens will be lightly fertilized to promote their filling in. 

With this big job behind us, I'm looking forward to better days ahead.

Action Plan:  What's in store?

The damage to our putting surfaces can be traced directly to the winter injury.  The board decree of "Maximun Risk" (keeping all greens open) worked nicely back in 2005 failed miserably this year.  With that said I propose the following plan of attack.

For the next 60 days (or the rest of the golfing season, whatever it takes) our weak putting surfaces will be placed on the following regimen.
1)  Following Mondays outing, greens will be topdressed to back fill any remaining open aerification holes.  Weather permitting and if I feel the greens can withstand the procedure.
2) Putting green height of cut will be increased to reduce mower stress.  Greens will be rolled M/W/F only.  So speed freaks beware, there will be a decrease in green speed but that will be your sacrifice to insure full and complete recovery.  Only healthy turf can support low mowing and as you can see, our greens are far from healthy.  I will push them with nitrogen fertilizer to promote growth and filling in of weak thin area's.  We will increase rolling frequency to but I'm not sure we can medigate speed loss with our currently owned roller set.  Another issue for another time.
3.) I will strongly recommend to the green committee that #16 be closed for the season or until the time I deam it healthy enough for play.  I'm planning on covering the ulcers with "seed guard" matting to aid in reestablishing turf.  Daily mowing will cease as our mowers have constantly killed most of our inter seedling to date. I will be cutting a temporary green into the approach large enough for you to enjoy and with time this surface will be lowered to a putting green height of cut we use at Tri City.
4) I will be descretely "roping off" the entrances to holes #2, 3, 11, 12, & 16 (others?) to prevent golfers from entering and exiting the green in the same spot.  Upon observation you will note that this is where most surface waters drain from the green and coinsides with the most common entry and exit point.  Wet area's are weak area's prone to compaction, poor rooting.  These area's were damaged by winter kill and have yet to heal because of foot traffic and mowing stress.  To further reduce stress in these area's, I will be doing away with any "Red" pin location sticking with white or blue pins.

Look forward to my future blog posts "The Anatomy of Murder" and "Overkill? A Tale of Two Greens."