COURSE CARE
Fall Color Is Beautiful Unless You Are In Charge Of Cleanup October 26, 2014 By Elliott L. Dowling

Mulching leaves is a necessary evil for most Mid-Atlantic golf courses every fall. There is more involved with leaf cleanup than many consider. Pay attention to how and where leaves are mulched.

Fall days on a golf course are as close to perfection as one can hope to achieve. The leaves are turning, the weather is cool and it means another summer has passed. Focus on the course transitions from conditioning playing surfaces to renovation projects, leaf cleanup and planning for next season.

Leaf cleanup is a necessary evil for many golf courses throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Although the colors are beautiful, they come at a cost. Leaf cleanup is often expensive and time-consuming. Fortunately, turf growth has slowed and the need for mowing has become less-frequent. This allows for a more concerted effort on clearing leaves. If you have the resources to remove leaves, and an area to compost or dispose of them, consider yourself lucky. However, among those that cannot remove all leaf debris, one question is often asked: Is it better to mulch leaves or remove leaves? The best way to answer that question is with another: Where are the leaves located? It is never a good idea to mulch leaves – or allow mulched leaves to remain – on fine turf surfaces (i.e., tees, fairways and greens). Mulched leaves can block critical sunlight from reaching fine-turf surfaces. Rather, the best approach is to blow leaves to an area of rough and then mulch them. Following the mulching procedure, it is a good idea to blow the mulch again to eliminate clumps of mulched leaves.

Try not to mulch leaves in the same location. The constant mechanical traffic can weaken turf that is not actively growing. Additionally, mulching can create layers in the soil profile from years of accumulated mulched leaves. How you choose to deal with leaf cleanup is dependent on amount of leaves and, most importantly, resources. Keep in mind, if fewer trees were present on your course, leaf cleanup would be less time-consuming. Leaf cleanup is just another hidden cost of too many trees on your golf course. 

Source Elliott Dowling edowling@usga.org

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