COURSE CARE
The Most Asked Question Remains, “How About the Weather?” February 13, 2012 By Keith Happ

At the writing of this update, the weather has turned more seasonal with temperatures within the expected range for this time of year. However, recent Turf Advisory Service visits have provided evidence that, in many cases, the soil is not frozen and there is a very good chance that winter hardiness (the turf’s anti-freeze mechanism) is all but gone. We have just passed the halfway point for the winter, and, while the days are getting longer, we still have a way to go before the grass grows consistently.

Resist the temptation to mow if at all possible. Mowing stimulates growth and will physically remove snow mold protection. If it gets very cold (it is predicted to be in the single digits in the northern tier of the region), plant health could be compromised, particularly if wet weather occurs prior to the drop in temperatures. The potential for crown hydration damage is still real. If something has to be done, roll rather than mow and topdress to insulate and protect the turf. Both strategies will pay off as we get closer to spring. These are not compromises; they are wise agronomic practices that will result in better turf conditions later in the year. The mild weather this year has provided bonus playing time for golfers so do what is necessary to allow them to enjoy the course while still protecting the turf.

Questions about Poa annua seed head control have been coming into our offices. The warmer weather has prompted many superintendents to begin accumulating their Growing Degree Days (GDD). There is always a concern about when to start the counts, especially when turf managers are trying to be as effective and as efficient as possible with maintenance resources. Still the best method is getting out on the course and inspecting the turf. Check areas near bunkers, cart paths or south-facing slopes. Look for the swelling of Poa annua plants, which indicates that seed development has begun. The GDD number (350 to 400 using the 32 degree model) is an indicator, but visual inspection will provide evidence that treatments are warranted. There are some new and interesting treatment strategies that have been discussed at recent turf conferences.  Call us if you have any questions.

We also have received questions regarding aeration now that the soils are not frozen. Deep solid tine aeration and linear slice aeration techniques can be employed. However, just like the extra golf that is being played, aerating at this time of year should be viewed as a bonus and not a replacement for scheduled treatments when the grass is growing. If there is an opportunity to aerate to address compaction, introduce topdressing or help with water infiltration, then do so.

The mild winter weather has also provided the opportunity to install drainage, upgrade irrigation systems and complete much needed tree maintenance. The work put into these projects will definitely pay off throughout the rest of the year. So, enjoy the mild weather and the chance to get some additional work done on the course. But remember, it is still February so don’t push too hard, too early!

2012 invoices and profile forms for the Turf Advisory Service have been mailed. If you have not received this mailing, or if you would like information on how to arrange for a visit to your facility, contact our offices. Once again, a $600 savings is available if payment is received prior to May 15, 2012. 

            Our 2012 Green Section Regional Meetings are scheduled as follows:

Tuesday, March 20th               Oakmont CC                           Oakmont, PA 

Tuesday, March 27th               DuPont CC                             Wilmington, DE

Online Registration:  http://www.usga.org/register/    Credit Cards Accepted

Always remember that the agronomists of the Mid-Atlantic Region are part of your agronomic support team.  If you have a question of concern, especially now, give us a call or send an email.  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.