Wet Weather Woes

Outside of disrupting the busy golf schedule and rearranging our usual spring mowing patterns, the recent rains have brought Mother Natures aerators, earthworms, to the surface. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending how you look at this, these guys are usually beneficial to the environment. They are a sign of healthy soil and create passages into the soil which allows water, air and nutrients to the root systems. In most circumstances they go unnoticed in home lawns, gardens and throughout most areas of the golf course. That is until we get into very wet weather like we did the week before last.

Their castings which are a by product of their digestive system have wreak havoc on low cut surfaces like fairways and tees! Their castings which have a heavy soil content create half dollar size spots in the fairways and tees that smother the grass when rolled over by carts and more so, mowing equipment.

worm casting 15 fairwayThe casting also create chaos with the mowing equipment as they can be drawn into the reels, dulling the blades and build up on the rollers which can alter the height of cut. They are as much as a challenge to your game as they are to us while we try to provide superior playing conditions.

15 fairway worm mud

The photo above shows the mud being smeared on turf causing dulling of the mowers and poor lies!

So what can we do about these animals? Our choices are very limited! There are no insecticides labeled in the U.S. to control them. There are studies that indicate topdressing fairways with angular sand encourages them to move to the roughs where the soil is less abrasive. This is a very expensive option! There is also an organic fertilizer that contains tea seed meal which has been shown to have some success when applied on the onset of a steady rain, irrigation is apparently not effective in washing in the fertilizer. The cost isn’t cheap either, about $400.00/acre the last time I checked(we currently treat 20 acres of fairways or $8000.00/treatment). Reading other Superintendent blogs, this product must be applied while they are active on the surface and must be watered in with at least 1/2″ of natural rain. It has no residual so supplementing irrigation after a rain doesn’t seem to work. So the application guidelines are narrow for such an expensive product. In the past we have discussed including this option in the budget but determined to adapt to the problem as it doesn’t occur ever year.

There are a couple of fungicides that appear to irritate them to the point of moving them off site. There isn’t much research on this, just general observations throughout the industry. We do use them in the spring and late fall on the fairways and I do believe it helps, just not under the pressure we had here with the 4’+ rain we received over that week.

I will be adding the problem to the next Green Committee meeting agenda for discussion. We will add an additional fertilizer application to the fairways that received the most damage to hasten their recovery and hope for some drier weather, although the forecast for the next 5 days doesn’t indicate any relieve!


Spring Back

Even with temperatures in the 90″s the week before last,and close to 90 this past Tuesday, Mother Nature is taking her time to wake up from winter. There are both positives and negatives to this roller coaster of a “spring” as we have been able to capitalize on both sides of the spectrum.

There is no doubt that the cooler temperatures delayed growth in all plant material. From trees, to flowers (we just received our order of annuals today, our goal is to have them planted by Mother’s Day, not delivered after Mother’s Day) to the turf! Slow growth of the turf did allow faster than¬† normal green speeds along with reduced mowing frequency on feature areas of the golf course i.e. greens tees, fairways and roughs. These conditions positively allowed us to continue with course clean up,¬† finish the right side bunker on 13,

and completed the leveling project on the front tee on 6.

On the negative side, green aerification holes took forever to fill in in spite of using smaller diameter tines, the new sod around some of the greens has just started to show new growth and some areas in the fairways and roughs that we have seeded this spring have been extremely slow to fill in.

Overall The Green Department has been able to have a productive spring. In addition to completing the aforementioned projects, we have been able to complete greens aerification and the stairs at the first tee, keep up with mowing the rough, finish cleaning up from the winter storms and plant new trees and shrubs at the clubhouse and by the green dept compound.

Our plans for the next 28 days are to level the upper tee on 6, complete the bunker renovation on the left side of 13 and prepare for both the Ladies members/guest and Presidents’ Day (Mother Nature may have different plans judging by the rain we have received over the last 7 days).

I would like to make you aware of the disruption that will take place while renovating the last bunker on 13. The bunker was rebuilt by an outside contractor back in 1999. The bunker cavity/shape are fine. We don’t plan on making any chances to the shape of it. They installed a minimal amount of drainage in the bunker back then and we should be able to save the pipe that leads out of the bunker. We will be extending the pipe up through the center of the bunker to a catch basin right located on the right front edge of the bunker similar to the one we installed on the right side bunker and installing a couple of branch drain lines throughout the bunker cavity. What the contractor failed to address in 1999 was the surface runoff from 13 fairway. The red line in the picture below shows the current path of runoff which washes out and floods the bunker with a minimal amount of rain. The yellow line in the photo shows where we plan on grading in a new swale to direct most of the surface water by the bunker and out toward the driveway. Hence this will be the larger area of disturbance that I referred to earlier.

view of existing water path and proposed swale from inside the bunker

existing water path and proposed swale from 13 fairway

Area of disturbance for new swale and drain basin(s)

With good weather, I can see us finishing up this project in ten days.

After Presidents’ Day, we have committed to adjusting the curb along 3 landing area which is before the pond. We will be removing most, if not all of the existing asphalt curb and replacing it with Belgian blocks installed on an angle that will deflect balls up into the air instead of back toward the hill. We will also be installing the same block along the cart path on 9 after the pond wall where the sand bags currently sit. I will elaborate more on these projects in an upcoming blog.