And Recovery Continues… At A Snail’s Pace

By David A. Oatis, director, Northeast Region
May 13, 2014

These plugs were placed extremely close together, but they are having a major impact.

Perhaps it’s just Mother Nature’s way of rubbing salt in a wound… or reminding us that she still holds all the cards. Regardless, winter-injury recovery efforts have been hampered by colder-than-normal weather this spring and the areas hardest hit seem to be experiencing the coldest spring weather. Seed germination has been very slow, and regrowth of existing turf has been slowed as well. The road to recovery is going to be a long one for many courses.

Golfers understandably are becoming increasingly impatient, and to appease them, damaged putting greens have been opened prematurely at a number of courses. Unfortunately, this is a false economy. Opening greens too early results in a substantially slower and weaker recovery. Damaged greens subjected to golfer traffic take at least twice as long to heal. Turf loss has provided an opportunity to get new and improved bentgrass plants established in the affected areas, but tender bentgrass seedlings are very susceptible to injury when subjected to golfer traffic. In short, more patience now can pay bigger dividends later. As we have stated numerous times this spring, the damage is very unfortunate, but it has provided an opportunity to improve the foundation of turf at many courses. Here are a couple of important tips to keep in mind as the recovery of your turf progresses.

Damaged areas have been seeded, and now is the time to assess whether enough seedlings have been established. Reseeding may be necessary in some areas, but take care with how you go about it. Aggressive seeding techniques can kill tender seedlings that have already become established. If reseeding is necessary, don’t set your turf back. Seed in a non-disruptive manner, and reseed only where it is necessary.

If you have not done so already put plugs in damaged areas. Even if you have to rob plugs from the edges of other greens, two or three inch plugs installed in damaged areas speed recovery tremendously. The plugs obviously spread, but they also help protect weak turf and seedlings. A skilled employee can plant 80-100 three inch plugs in an hour, so significant progress can be made quickly. Larger plugs (i.e., hex or 4.25 inch plugs) can be effective, but they are much slower to plant. In this instance, volume is the key.

Annual bluegrass is seeding profusely in many areas, and the growth rates of bentgrass and annual bluegrass are very uneven. Between the seedheads and the differential growth rates, putting conditions are far from optimal. Consistently warm temperatures are needed for growth rates to even out and putting quality to improve. Golfers can expect to experience uneven surfaces for a few more weeks.

Keep in mind also that the growth of creeping bentgrass is especially affected by the cool weather. Cold spring weather leaves it more susceptible to, and slow to recover from, wear injury. Even normal maintenance practices like mowing and rolling can cause injury to creeping bentgrass at this time of year. Once temperatures get consistently warmer, the growth rate of creeping bentgrass will kick into high gear and it will tolerate traffic and mowing traffic much better. Until that occurs, reduce mowing frequency and be conservative with stressful, abrasive maintenance practices.

Best of luck for a successful 2014 season, and as always, give us a call if we can help you and your facility.

Source:  Dave Oatis (doatis@usga.org)

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