COURSE CARE
Wet, Dry, Warm and Cold…We Have Already Had It All! May 18, 2010 By Keith Happ

It doesn’t take long for Mother Nature to change the weather patterns. The year started with very wet conditions, with rainfall and melting snow, but it didn’t take long for the soils to dry down this spring. In fact, many areas of the region are extremely dry. This has challenged turf managers to maintain good soil moisture without over watering. Although some drought stress early in the season is okay, in fact preferred, too much stress can be a bad thing, resulting in turf that is predisposed to disease or other pests later in the year. As the saying goes, "It’s much better to manage on the dry side, but be in a position to irrigate if necessary." However, if things get too wet, there are few options to remove the excess. And besides, a drier golf course plays better!

The drier conditions, combined with the fluctuating temperatures, have affected turf growth. Several hard frosts have occurred through much of the region. When frost develops, turf growth slows dramatically. This is particularly noticeable when putting surfaces are healing from aeration! Fertilizers can be applied, but it is soil temperature that allows the turf to respond to the fertility treatment. Controlled growth is very important in the spring. Pushing the turf in an attempt to counteract the weather can be disastrous later in the season. It is still early in the year! If you have applied granular products to heal aeration holes, and are not satisfied with growth, consider spoonfeeding with nitrogen to promote growth. A flush of growth is not desirable when soil temperatures warm and fertilizers release. Patience is important.

The severity of damage from pests and winter damage is a function of the weather. For example, fairy rings are much more difficult to control on a curative basis when a series of wet and dry cycles are experienced. Preventative treatment strategies (well before visual signs of activity) have worked well so far. Also, anthracnose is much more prevalent on stressed turf. Early-season water management is an essential part of a holistic approach for maintaining turf health and performance for the entire season. Hand watering has been very important this spring, particularly when the focus has been on recovery from winter damage. We have experienced very low humidity levels this spring, and when regionalUpdateContent systems are in a state of recovery, water management becomes the number one priority!

And with that thought in mind, early spring projects should not take precedence over course preparation! There is only one opportunity to prepare for summer weather conditions, and that is in the spring when the grass is transitioning to active growth. Do not lose sight of the most important thing --- turfgrass health!

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of help with problems you are battling this spring. Always remember that the agronomists of the Mid-Atlantic Region are part of your agronomic support team. If you have a question or concern, especially now, give us a call or send an e-mail. Stan Zontek, (szontek@usga.org) or Darin Bevard (dbevard@usga.org) at 610-558-9066 or Keith Happ at (khapp@usga.org) at 412-341-5922. 

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