Everything Is Popping! Turfgrass Management Is Truly A Dynamic Business

By Keith A. Happ, senior agronomist, Mid-Atlantic Region
March 23, 2012

Our warm weather has golf course turfgrass off to an early start. This can benefit the grass as well as the golfers!

As a general statement, we are about four to five weeks ahead of “normal” (whatever that is) weather patterns. During a recent Turf Advisory Service visit (TAS), I had the opportunity to sample soil temperatures. At this time of year we normally see soil temperatures in the 30 to 40 degree Fahrenheit (F) range. However, it has been common this spring (and it is now spring) to see readings in high 50’s (F) to the mid 60’s (F). These elevated temperatures have prompted urgency with regard to implementation of several programs normally performed in early to mid April. The grass is growing! 

Mowing has begun for most, if not all courses. However, this early return to turf growth finds most operations shorthanded. Crew call backs have begun but most operations are not up to their full staffing levels. Priorities have to be set! Greens are always the highest priority followed by fairways, tees and then the rough. Golfers should have patience when it comes to playing an errant shot that has found the rough. This pleasant weather has provided an opportunity for golfers to get out on their favorite course much earlier compared to the last several seasons. The grass in the rough will be cut as labor resources allow. These are not neglected areas of the course; it is only March!

Treatments for crabgrass should be completed very soon. In fact, crabgrass has already germinated in bare soil in roughs in the Tidewater area of Virginia. We have reached “that” important soil temperature indicator. Pre-emergent control depends upon product being positioned in the soil before weed germination occurs. This is particularly important for goosegrass. We have had many calls regarding control of this grassy weed. Last year was a stellar year for this weed, particularly in putting greens. Contact our offices if there are any questions regarding control strategies. There is still time to control goosegrass.

When it comes to product application always read the label.  Some pre-emergent materials could delay warm-season grass development if applied when the grass is breaking dormancy.  Normally these products are applied when bermudagrass is dormant. However, in most areas, bermudagrass has broken dormancy. Product formulation makes a difference. Granular products may have to be used rather than spraying a material that could produce a negative side effect.  Again, check the label and call our offices if there are questions. Don’t take a chance that could possibly damage the turf. 

This warmer weather has prompted many superintendents to aerate greens, tees and for some, even fairways! While golfers hate it, it is essential to the performance of the turf for the entire season. Growing healthy grass depends on it, and healthy grass is the best defense against many uncontrollable weather factors that we may experience later in the season. As a reminder, aerate when the grass is growing, it will heal much faster and this will reduce the inconvenience to the golfers. 

A Gentle Reminder: The opportunity to save $600 (or 25%) on half-day or full-day visits for our Turf Advisory Service will end May 15, 2012. If you have not taken advantage of this savings, or if you would like us to send you information about this service, please contact our offices.

Always remember that the agronomists of the Mid-Atlantic Region are part of your agronomic support team. If you have a question of concern, especially now, give us a call or send an email.  Stan Zontek (szontek@usga.org) or Darin Bevard (dbevard@usga.org) at 610-558-9066, or Keith Happ (khapp@usga.org) at 412-341-5922 

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