A Change In The Weather

By Stanley J. Zontek, director, Mid-Atlantic Region
October 5, 2011

You can always tell it is fall by the long shadows of the lower sun angle.  The atmosphere is cooling, the leaves are starting to drop, and there is a chill in the air.  It feels pretty good after the sweltering heat of the summer here in the Mid-Atlantic Region.   

Weather has a huge impact on all that we do out on the golf course, whether it involves growing grass or playing the game.  There are always those days that you feel you know that a change is in the air

This type of weather change occurred in the middle of August this year, when record-breaking summer heat finally broke.  Temperatures moderated, and in most parts of the country it began to rain and cool down.  As a side note, it kept raining and raining, and it still is raining in some areas. 

The fall weather arrived this past weekend, and one forecaster even said, “There may be a few flakes of wet snow up in the mountains.”  The fall golf season has arrived.  Pack those short-sleeved golf shirts and unpack your sweaters and windbreakers.  It is a change for the better. 

Golf course superintendents will also feel the change in weather.  For one thing, the leaves will begin to fall, creating one of the great challenges of the fall -- leaf removal, leaf mulching, and leaf disposing.  You might even begin to hear about implementing the “leaf rule.” 

The grass plant also begins to change the way it grows, starting the hardening process in preparation for the winter.  On putting greens, some patches of bentgrass begin to darken and take on a purple-green look.  It is not a disease, it is just the turfgrass response to cooler weather.

The fall is a good time to rebuild the turf rooting system that no doubt was compromised this summer from the high soil temperatures and excessive soil moisture caused by extensive rainfall.  Aerate -- whether it is with coring or solid tines – and fertilize the grass.  Nitrogen and potassium are water-soluble.  Keep this in mind as you plan your fertility program for the fall, and you may have to use more fertilizer to compensate for what had been leached.  This will also improve root development going through the fall and into the winter, something every golf course superintendent likes to see. 

Welcome to Autumn!  After this year, most of us in the Mid-Atlantic Region could use a more “normal” weather pattern that we actually enjoy. 

The Mid-Atlantic Region agronomists are part of your agronomic support team.  If you have a question or concern, give us a call or send an e-mail.  You can reach Stan Zontek (szontek@usga.org) and Darin Bevard (dbevard@usga.org) at 610/ 558-9066 or Keith Happ (khapp@usga.org) at 412/ 341-5922.


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