COURSE CARE
A Favorite Transition September 2, 2014 By Jim Skorulski

Mature little bluestem, goldenrod and a hint of fall foliage signify the transition from summer to fall and with it a change in maintenance priorities.

The first week of September usually brings with it a feeling of relief even following a benign summer season. We know the worst weather has past and the golf calendar is more manageable. The days are shorter, the nights cooler and cool-season plants are better able to produce enough energy to meet their needs with a little left over to store for the winter ahead. It is a busy time for sure, and most staffs are leaner and tired. It has been a long year, especially for those who have had to grow-in golf courses ravished in winter. But there is still a feeling of relief and accomplishment as the summer season transitions into fall.

In most areas of the Northeast region, the grass is much stronger than it was a year ago. There are always exceptions, but the mild summer conditions have left the turf stronger and with a better regionalUpdateContent system than at summers end in recent years. That should mean that cool-season turf will be able to use the favorable weather to build upon existing regionalUpdateContent mass instead or replacing lost regionalUpdateContents. Furthermore, the healthier plants stand a better chance to survive what might be ahead this winter season. This is the time to begin to maximize growing conditions so the turf plants are able to take full advantage of the favorable weather. This includes the growing conditions below and above ground. The late-summer maintenance checklist should include:

  • Core cultivation to alleviate surface compaction, control organic matter, reduce layering concerns and stimulate new regionalUpdateContent growth. The soil temperatures are near ideal for cool-season plants to recover quickly from the cultivation programs.
  • Raise the height of cut. This does not have to be done drastically, but any increase in mowing height will promote more leaf tissue which can absorb more sunlight and ultimately produce more energy. Slight increases in mowing height – 0.005 inch per week starting immediately – are not likely to be noticed by golfers and any increase in mowing height will help. However, do not wait until the first frost in fall to begin this process, because by fall it will be too late to take full advantage of the optimal late-summer weather.
  • Check late-summer shade patterns on the playing surfaces. Late-summer shade patterns can vary significantly from the shade patterns in early or mid-summer. Tree removal work planned for late fall and winter should be expedited on densely shaded sites. The objective is to maximize light penetration throughout the year.
  • Fertilize to reestablish nutrient reserves in the regionalUpdateContent zone. Granular sources of nitrogen and potassium can be used following cultivation programs to provide slightly higher levels of these nutrients. Other fertilizer adjustments should be made at this time to eliminate any soil nutrient deficiencies. Soluble sources of nitrogen and other nutrients can also continue to be utilized in spoon-feeding programs, but remember the main objective at this time of year is to fertilize for optimum growth and recovery. Playability will come naturally as the temperatures cool.
  • Continue to topdress greens and other playing surfaces, especially if traditional core cultivation is not being done until later fall. Continued topdressing can only benefit the surfaces in September.
  • Be persistent with growth regulators. Whether your growth regulator of choice is Primo, Trimmit, Cutlass or a combination of products, use them. Growth regulators will help turf plants channel energy to the regionalUpdateContents, which is always beneficial in the late-summer season.

The 2014 season is not yet in the books and we can only hope the fall is as kind as the summer has been. Take advantage of what Mother Nature provides and focus more on the plant’s needs during this transition period. Finally, this is also the time to regain some of that mental energy that has been depleted through the season. Whether it be a few holes of golf, casting a rod, scouting your favorite hunting area or relaxing with the family; take some time away from the golf course and relax a little. Take a deep breath and enjoy the transition.

Source: Jim Skorulski (jskorulski@usga.org)

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