Summer Has Arrived!
The Mid-Atlantic Region’s moderate summer came in like a lamb, but now is morphing into a lion. Just how mean this lion will be or how long the lion will be around we don’t know. That said, now that oppressive heat and humidity, punctuated by periodic thunderstorms, are here remember some basic precautions to help the golf course survive the summer with good grass.
1. Disease Pressure. Even with a tight budget, consider compressing spray intervals, especially for those damaging summer diseases like brown patch and Pythium. There are two basic rates for most fungicides, a preventative and a curative rate. If you see a disease, spray it with a higher curative rate. Controlling a disease that is damaging the grass should be your first priority, while saving money follows as a second priority in this case. After all, it takes time and money to regrow grass damaged by disease or insects.
2. Mechanical Damage. When the grass plant is under environmental stress, which we cannot control, reducing the stress factors that can be controlled should help grass survival. The principal source of mechanical damage on putting greens is mowing. Ask yourself, "Do I need to mow greens every day?" With many superintendents using plant growth regulators (PGRs), if the greens are mowed one day and rolled the next, good putting green speeds are maintained with acceptable smoothness and overall quality, while reducing mechanical stress to the turf. In addition, defer heavy topdressings, vertical mowings, etc. as well. If the greens do show signs of decline, surface aerate using solid tines to minimize mechanical damage.
3. Irrigation. Do not over water. You always can add more, but once too much water is applied, either via irrigation or thunderstorms, it is hard to remove from the soil. The bottom line - exercise good water management and use your best and most knowledgeable people to water greens.
4. Communication. There’s no better time to be a good communicator. Explain why the greens have to be lightly syringed with water during the day; why it is important to pamper the grass when it is hot and humid; and why being conservative with mowing heights, frequency of cut, and chemical applications can help manage the grass through the rest of the summer.
Check and then double check all chemical application rates. There is no room for a mistake at this time of the year. Remember the old adage, "Slow grass is better than no grass."
Finally, if something on a green or fairway just doesn’t look right, ask for help. There is a support system out there to help diagnose problems and recommend the best solution. This is the function of the USGA Green Section agronomists as well as state university extension personnel and plant diagnostic labs. A proper diagnosis saves time and money versus the other options of either doing nothing while watching the grass decline or spraying out your inventory in hopes that something works.
Golf course maintenance and management is a complex operation and no one knows all the answers. When you have a question or a concern, that is when you need your support system. Use us - we are here to help.