Finally, Some Warm Weather

By Darin S. Bevard, director, Mid-Atlantic Region
April 16, 2014

 

The Masters Tournament and our first stretch of warm weather reminded us that spring is here. The grass is growing and most golf courses are now bright green. Even bermudagrass has started to green-up which is a welcome sight after such a harsh winter. Unfortunately, the warm weather has also confirmed that there is a lot of grass in the northern tier of the Mid-Atlantic region that will not be greening-up anytime soon. Poa annua populations on putting greens in these areas suffered significant winterkill; however, the severity of the damage varies from golf course to golf course.

If there are areas of your putting greens that have yet to green-up after recent, warm days it is likely that the grass is not going to green-up, at least not in a timely fashion. With damage confirmed, recovery plans are now being developed. Options are available to provide reasonable recovery but patience will be needed.

Several strategies should be considered:

Limit Traffic. Whether grass is weak because of winter stress or new seedlings are emerging to aid in recovery, foot traffic is not going to help the recovery process. Restrict traffic from damaged areas. Establish temporary greens if necessary. Temporary greens are nobody’s favorite, but the short-term inconvenience can help restore playability more quickly.

Overseed. Unless sodding is going to be performed, overseeding greens with creeping bentgrass will help with recovery. Small aeration tines and spikers can be used to incorporate seed into the soil surface. Slit seeders can work very well but be aware of potential surface disruption. Multiple, light-rate seedings – .25 to .50 pound per 1,000 square feet – every seven to 14 days may be more effective than a single heavy-rate seeding.

•Cover. If covers are available they can speed seed germination and seedling development. Covers also protect the grass from temperature swings and help to retain moisture. Do not leave covers on for too long. When environmental conditions favor turfgrass growth, covers should be removed so that the grass can acclimate to its environment.

•Maintain Soil Moisture. Although overwatering established grass is detrimental, adequate soil moisture must be maintained during seedling development and recovery of weak grass. Rooting in compromised areas is likely weak. If seedlings dry out they will die or, at the very least, their growth will be stunted.

In addition to maintaining moisture, nitrogen fertility is also important. Remember, a little goes a long way. Light spoon-feeding applications through a sprayer to provide about 1/10 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet should suffice. These applications can be repeated every seven to 10 days or as needed. Starter fertilizers can also be helpful for seedling development.

Winterkill and recovery are very frustrating. It is difficult to endure a long, harsh winter only to find out that turfgrass conditions are compromised. Realize that recovery is a slow process that won’t occur as fast as many believe it should. Be patient and be sure to communicate.

Source: Darin Bevard (dbevard@usga.org)

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