One, Two, Tree…You’re Out!

By Bob Vavrek, senior agronomist, North-Central Region
April 29, 2014

By blocking valuable morning sunlight to the green, the evergreen trees to the east of this severely damaged green slow the rate of turf recovery despite the use of a cover to raise soil temperatures. Removing these trees will accelerate recovery this spring and reduce the potential for winter injury across the back portion of the putting surface in the future.

Many courses affected by winterkill have already spent considerable time and money to encourage rapid recovery by seeding and covering severely damaged greens. Provided there is ample sunlight to generate heat, covers have the ability to raise soil temperatures above the 55 to 60°F threshold needed to initiate seed germination. On the other hand, covers won’t help much during long periods of cool, cloudy weather.

The detrimental effect of dense shade from trees adjacent to a damaged green is often overlooked during the recovery process. However, there really isn’t much difference between dense cloud cover and dense tree shade, so any benefits of covering greens during sunny weather will be wasted if tree problems are not addressed. Evergreens are usually the worse culprits because they shade turf all year, but large deciduous trees will become an equally serious problem once they leaf out. Pay particular attention to pruning or removing trees adjacent to the south and east sides of affected greens because they block morning sunlight.

Snowflakes are still being seen in the northernmost areas of the region whereas the first flush of turf growth in the roughs at some courses in the southernmost part of the region has golfers experiencing difficult playing conditions. Ramping up the frequency of mowing is probably a better option than mowing the rough shorter during spring. The depth of rooting is directly related to the height of cut, so the practice of scalping down roughs during the peak period of root growth may come back to haunt your facility later this summer if hot, droughty weather occurs.

Now, if we could just transfer the rapid growth of roughs in the southern portions of the region to the damaged turf under covers in northern locales, we could make life a little easier for everyone.

Source: Bob Vavrek (

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