Fall, Foliage And Fertilizer

By Keith Happ, senior agronomist, Mid-Atlantic Region
October 21, 2010

With the recent significant rainfalls, drought warnings have been lifted as soil moisture levels have been replenished.  Low soil moisture was the primary limiting factor that affected various recovery programs, but recent visits have provided evidence that recovery is well underway.    

Fall is the time for renovation and preparation for the change in seasons.   Aeration is completed, grass seed is sowed, sod is positioned, and tired grass is rejuvenated.  Coring, solid tine, or slice aeration are options, but doing nothing at all should not be a consideration.   Aeration is messy, but essential.  Many superintendents adjusted their renovations this season as dictated by the weather.  Certain programs could not be performed simply due to the fact that more damage than recovery may have occurred, but this adjustment does not mean that necessary programs can be postponed until next spring.  Some form of soil aeration should be conducted on all playing surfaces this fall.  Choose the best option for your operation. 

The leaves are beginning to fall.  Don’t allow the leaves to hamper the turf recovery.  Layers of leaves will smother new grass seed and affect the recovery of weakened turf, particularly turf near and around trees.  Poa annua will proliferate under these conditions, and this could cause significant turf loss next season.  Put forth as much effort as possible to collect, move and mulch the leaf drop to give your grass as much opportunity as possible to go into the winter healthy.    

Fertilize, fertilize, fertilize to promote growth and recovery this fall.  Test your soil to determine what other nutrient supplements need to be applied.  Soil temperature during the fall is perfect to stimulate controlled turf growth as the grasses re-grow the roots lost during the summer.  Nitrogen remains the most important fertilizer and is the catalyst for the uptake of other soil nutrients.   Weekly treatments may be needed for intensely-played areas, while less frequent applications will suffice in the rough around greens and fairway landing areas.  Once again, doing nothing should not be an option; don’t miss the opportunity to prepare for the new season with a good fertility program.           

Many questions have been posed about the need to treat late season dollar spot infection.  Treating in the fall will help minimize the potential for infection next season.  Controlling fall dollar spot infection will reduce the inoculum load in the thatch and soil.  Many programs implemented this fall will have an impact on turf health next spring and summer. 

Finally, fall is the time to reflect back on the season and ask one important question - what would you do differently?  Examine all aspects of every program.  Give us a call if you want to discuss the season, turf performance or options for next year.    

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.  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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