COURSE CARE
Spike It September 28, 2011 By R.A. (Bob) Brame

It takes solid maintenance that is properly timed to fully benefit from better weather.  Hopefully the conditioning of your course is benefiting from the milder weather and proper maintenance so that it achieves the needed strengthening to set the stage for maximum dependability in 2012.  Scheduling an on-site Turf Advisory Service visit in early fall will accommodate a comprehensive review of how maintenance and weather are weaving together. 

During the milder weather, one technique to speed recovery of weakened or thinned turf, especially on putting surfaces, is spiking.  With the loss of density on putting surfaces comes a matting of organic matter and sometimes algae crusting.  Gentle spiking breaks up the surface layer, and helps the surrounding plants fill-in quicker.  The last two summers have refocused efforts to use spiking to aid recovery without taking the affected green being taken out of play.  When there is enough turf loss that seeding becomes the primary means to reestablish good density, a higher mowing height should be part of the mix.  However, when existing plants are adequate to fill the damaged areas, spiking will facilitate lateral growth.

Gentle putting surface spiking also is a good aid for improving topdressing efficiency.  A couple of perpendicular passes with a spiker opens the surface to help better incorporate sand from a topdressing application into the upper profile.  While caution needs to be exercised during harsh weather, spiking is less abrasive than brushing sand into the canopy.  Sometimes both spiking and brushing are utilized, but, when spiking is part of the package, brushing is at least reduced, if not eliminated, depending upon other factors like the volume of applied sand.  A gentle hand syringing is the best way to push sand into the canopy and out of the reach of mowers, if follow-up is needed during the summer.         

Along with spiking, core aeration, and topdressing, fall fertilization is vitally important to both maximizing recovery and bulking up on carbohydrate storage for the 2012 season.  The timing and the actual product being used directly impacts what fertilization offers.  Similar to the importance of what we eat is for our health, how the turf is fed is foundational and one of the four building blocks of sound agronomics.  The following link is an excellent resource for evaluating fall fertilization.

  /content/dam/usga/pdf/imported/course-care/SeptweakinglatefallN.pdf 

While the shorter days and cooler temperatures of fall bring needed relief for the turf and staff, the next few weeks will have a huge impact on next year’s course health and playability.  Take a deep breath and stay focused for a bit longer – it will pay dividends down the road.  As always, call or email anytime when we can help.   

Source:  Bob Brame, bobbrame@usga.org or 859-356-3272