Maintenance Programs Already Require Compromise

By Darin S. Bevard, director, Mid-Atlantic Region
April 3, 2013

The grass is still dormant or semi-dormant throughout much of the Mid-Atlantic Region. The calendar says spring, but colder than normal temperatures are still delaying turfgrass development.

Colder than normal weather has remained in place for the entire Mid-Atlantic Region. In fact, March was the coldest in 15 years in many areas of the region. Two themes on the opposite ends of the management spectrum are common when cold weather slows the start of the growing season. First, some superintendents are trying to implement programs because the calendar says it is time to get certain tasks completed. Treating to control annual bluegrass weevil and Poa annua seedhead development are programs that immediately come to mind. Treatments have been applied because the calendar said it is time. In many instances, these treatments will be too early to obtain optimum control because the grass and the insects do not live by the calendar; they live by the environmental conditions present and their development has been delayed by the cold weather conditions.

Second, we see cases where the cold weather has led some turfgrass managers to simply wait until the weather warms to begin course preparations. This strategy is also alarming because once air and soil temperatures increase, there will be several time sensitive applications that need to be completed in a very short window of opportunity.

Those superintendents that have compromised between these two extremes of management are in the best position for success. Certain time sensitive applications, for example, preemergence herbicides, can be made in spite of the cold temperatures. The herbicide can be watered-in for activation or timed with rainfall to create the barrier needed for crabgrass and goosegrass control. If these applications are a week or two early, control will not be affected. The bottom line is that the weather really does dictate most of our turfgrass management strategies and maintenance schedules need to be adjusted accordingly.

With the exception of the south central and southeast portions of Virginia, most of the grass is still dormant, or is just now beginning to break dormancy. Those greens that were core aerated in March are healing very slowly, if at all. The pace of healing will increase only when temperatures increase. Patience is needed by the golfers and superintendents alike. This spring is a stark contrast to the early spring of 2012, and maintenance strategies need to be adapted accordingly to the weather that we are experiencing now.

If you need any more evidence that it has been very cold this spring, blue crab season opened on the Chesapeake Bay on April 1. However, there are no crabs! It is too cold for them to emerge from the mud. Again, be patient. 

The deadline for taking advantage of the $500.00 discount for Turf Advisory Service visits is just a month away, Wednesday, May 15. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Source: Darin Bevard (dbevard@usga.org)

Information on the USGA’s Turf Advisory Service

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