COURSE CARE
Spring Is Busting Out All Over March 31, 2013 By David A. Oatis

A grim reminder of the extensive tree damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

The winter conference season is over, and temperatures are warming up. Bulbs are beginning to bloom in the central and southern part of the region, and forsythias are getting ready to start blooming too. The season is just around the corner and golfers are chomping at the bit! 

Most golf courses are well behind where they were a year ago, and this applies in several key areas. This year’s winter weather has been much more normal as compared to last year’s extraordinarily mild winter. Not surprisingly, turf is “waking up” much later. Greens aerated last fall have not fully healed, and courses are getting ready to perform their spring aeration any day. Keep in mind that fertilizer alone won’t get the grass growing. We need warmer temperatures. Early April is a good time to aerate for many reasons, but realize that the turf won’t heal without consistently warmer temperatures. 

It is no secret that many courses throughout the region sustained a tremendous amount of damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Furthermore, the winter weather did not allow courses to accomplish as much work during the off-season this year. Thus, there is more spring cleanup needed at many courses, and a significant number of courses are behind in getting it done. Most courses will be opening later this year as a result of the colder weather, and many may not be fully cleaned up when they finally do open. 

The damage from Sandy will be felt for a long time at many courses. One of the more obvious effects is the tree damage that resulted from the high winds. Thousands of trees were damaged and destroyed, but interestingly, many of the trees that survived are still being impacted by the storm. For example, salt damage is evident on many white pines in coastal areas; and some trees sustained such severe wind damage that their form, structure, and relative value will never recover. Keep in mind that damaged trees often produce sucker growth, and as the suckers get bigger and heavier, they become very prone to breakage. Suckers never develop with a strong point of attachment, and it may be in your best interest to completely remove severely damaged trees rather than continually prune them. Replanting, where appropriate, may be your best long-term solution. If your course sustained severe tree damage, now may be the time to develop a master plan for your trees. 

Annual bluegrass weevils are on everyone’s mind as mowers head out to make the first cuts of the year. We have not yet seen any activity on golf courses, but with another warm day or two, you can bet they will be starting their annual migration. It has been said many times, but scouting is the key to their control, so be on the lookout for this pest. Pitfall traps are a great monitoring tool, and if you want to use them, they should be installed immediately. Soap drenches also work very well for the adults. Your best bet is to use both methods. The value of scouting before and after applications cannot be overstated. 

Some courses have already made seedhead suppression applications, and many more will be treating in the next week or so. Spring may be later this year, but it is on the way, and mowers will be operating at full speed in short order. Best of luck for a successful 2013 season, and as always, give us a call if we can help you and your facility. 

Source:  Northeast Region Green Section- Dave Oatis, director doatis@usga.org; Adam Moeller, agronomist amoeller@usga.org Jim Skorulski, senior agronomist jskorulski@usga.org.