The Weather Is Changing Leaves Are Falling And There Is Still Work To Do
The weather patterns are changing, with colder temperatures predicted for the early fall! This change in weather will promote more rapid leaf drop and, for some, it is a welcome event. That is, if there is enough labor available to clean up the debris.
It is important to remove leaves from golf course turf. Fall is the time when the turf is acclimating to environmental change and preparing for winter conditions. If the turf is buried under leaves it could be severely damaged due to lack of sunlight and winter diseases, such as snow mold. This will be a problem in the spring. The question concerning leaf removal that is presented most often is, "should the leaves be collected and removed, or can they be mulched and incorporated into the soil?
If the leaves come down over an extended period of time and the area in question is mowed repeatedly in an attempt to mulch the leaves as they fall, then mechanical damage could occur. If it rains, the damage could become much more pronounced. The area may not tolerate layering the leaf mulch into the profile. Simply put, there are no simple answers to the question and several methods of leaf removal may be needed. One area may tolerate grinding the leaves while in another, leaves may need to be collected and hauled away. Golf course operations are using all methods of removal with success. Leaves are raked, vacuumed, mulched, blown, and even composted. The labor force available for cleanup greatly impacts the options available for completing a necessary process, and it is far better to remove the leaves in the fall rather than waiting until spring.
With the colder temperatures also come questions about fertilization tactics. First and foremost, work from a position of knowledge. Soil testing provides information on sufficiency ranges of nutrients in the soil. Deficiencies can be corrected in the fall. Sound and basic fertilization tactics lay the foundation allowing fine tuning strategies to be productive. Don't push top growth at the expense of plant development. Significant root development can be promoted as the plants begin the hardening process. Proper fertilization can, in effect, be an anti-freeze for the turf as it enters a dormancy period. A good rule-of-thumb is to administer applications while the turf is growing. To be as effective as desired, even the so called dormant treatment needs to be applied before the turf stops growing (both above and below ground) and before the soil freezes.
As mentioned in our last update, select from the many educational opportunities available this fall and through the winter season. It is all about what you don't know. Filling the knowledge gaps will make a difference and the effort will be worthwhile.
Always remember, the Mid-Atlantic Region agronomists are part of your agronomic support team. It you have a question or concern, give us a call or send an e-mail. Stan Zontek ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) or Darin Bevard ( email@example.com ) at 610-558-9066 or Keith Happ ( firstname.lastname@example.org) at 412-341-5922.