Uncovering For Spring

By Jim Skorulski, senior agronomist, Northeast Region
March 7, 2013

Deciding whether or not to remove winter covers is a difficult decision and is largely based on predictions of what the weather will be over the coming weeks – hardly an exact science.

The winter season has thus far been kind with well-timed snows and orderly freeze/thaw cycles. Coastal areas may not agree with that assessment following the destructive blizzard and Nor’easters that left many without power and made a mess of beaches and golf courses. Most of the region was fortunate that there was snow cover in place when an arctic air mass dropped nighttime temperatures well below zero. We were equally fortunate to avoid the rapid temperature plunge following the thaw and rain events that occurred. Golf courses further to the north did experience a more severe freeze following a January thaw that resulted in ice encasement and that is an obvious concern in those areas. We are not completely out of the danger zone yet as winter transitions to spring. Annual bluegrass with its zeal for early growth is probably most vulnerable at this time.

March is also the point when mangers face the decision of when to remove winter covers. Most seem to agree that earlier is better, within reason. There really is no hard and fast approach to the decision. It depends most on the weather conditions and the cover system that is being utilized. Those who are managing permeable covers alone will tend to wait longer as they are less apt to see adverse turf effects with the warmer weather. Manipulating a single, light permeable cover is relatively easy compared to the more extensive cover systems that utilize impermeable fabrics and insulating materials. Managers utilizing impermeable cover systems are more anxious to start the removal process and expose the turf to fresh air and light. The removal process can require many days to complete depending on how much snow is on the ground. Ideally, the removal process is scheduled during a dry weather period when temperatures are predicted to be within seasonable ranges. A permeable cover is usually left in place after the impermeable fabric and insulating materials are moved off the green. The permeable cover will protect the plants while they acclimate to the exposed conditions.

There is no exact science to guide the removal decision. I wish there was: it would be easier that way. Instead, managers do their best to make the right call in hopes that the weather ahead will cooperate. The removal process has or will likely begin in central New England and New York in the next week or two if the weather forecast remains favorable. The process will proceed northward as the weather permits and the snow pack recedes. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the final few weeks of winter offer no surprises as we prepare for the season ahead.  

If you have not already done so, we encourage you to register for one of the USGA Regional Meetings that will take place in the next few weeks. The meetings offer club officials, golf course owners, management staff and others in the industry a unique opportunity to network and gain knowledge on a wide range of design and management topics that will directly affect your facilities operation in the months and years ahead. The following is a list of the meetings and links to the programs and registration. We hope to see you there!    

March 21, 2013

USGA/CMA Regional Meeting, Transit Valley CC, East Amherst, N.Y. Sign up for this meeting via the USGA Registration System, Event Code: 0311 

March 26, 2013

USGA/MGA Green Section Seminar, Blue Hill CC, Canton, Mass. Sign up for this meeting via the Massachusetts Golf Association registration page

March 27, 2013

USGA/MGA Green Chairman Education Meeting, Willow Ridge CC, Harrison, N.Y. Learn more about this meeting via the Metropolitan Golf Association web site.           

Northeast Region Green Section - Dave Oatis, director doatis@usga.org; Adam Moeller, agronomist amoeller@usga.org; Jim Skorulski, senior agronomist jskorulski@usga.org.

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