Autumn Maintenance In The Southwest

By Pat Gross, director, Southwest Region
October 15, 2013

(L) Most broadleaf weeds, including clover and daisy, are best controlled in the fall when they are most susceptible to herbicide treatments. As such, it makes sense to focus weed control efforts at that time.(R) Although it seems like a crime to aerate greens when they are in perfect condition, fall is the best time to do so because the turf will recover quickly and it benefits the most by building a stronger root system for the winter and spring seasons. 

“The golf course is perfect, and now the crew is messing it up with a bunch of maintenance work.” This is a common complaint from golfers in autumn. True, playing conditions are ideal in most locations, but fall maintenance serves a critical role in rejuvenating the grass after a long, dry summer and promoting healthy plants that will survive winter and come out strong next spring. The following is a list of key maintenance programs currently being performed throughout the Southwest.

  1. Aeration and topdressing – It seems like a crime to rip up a course with a bunch of holes and a thick layer of sand when greens, tees and fairways look perfect. Superintendents know that fall aeration provides the greatest benefit to the turf because it is the time of year that turf is generating a strong root system that will build a stronger plant for the winter and spring seasons. We’re all familiar with the phrase “timing is everything.” In the world of agronomy, autumn is the best time to aerate in the Southwest because warm daytime temperatures and cooler nights lead to optimum turf growth, fastest recovery and maximum benefit. As one can see, it is a temperature game.
  2. Broadleaf weed control – Spraying two or three times to kill weeds is generally a waste of resources. Most broadleaf weeds, like clover, are most susceptible to herbicides in the fall. It makes sense, both agronomically and economically, to control weeds when they are most susceptible and when it will provide the most bang for the buck. That is why many superintendents tolerate a few weeds during summer and focus on weed control come fall.
  3. Winter overseeding – The last two weeks of September in northern California and the middle of October in southern California are historically the best times to overseed with perennial ryegrass and other cool-season grasses to provide good winter playing quality. Again, it is a temperature game. Superintendents and course officials are trying to meet that delicate balance of play/revenue versus providing desired winter playing conditions. We know from experience over the past 20 years that overseeding early leads to disastrous results, and overseeding too late is equally problematic. Since nobody can predict the weather accurately a year in advance, it is best to go with historical models and adjust as necessary

In the end, a few weeks of pain is worth several months of gain when it comes to improving overall course conditions long term.

Source: Pat Gross  (

Information on the USGA’s Turf Advisory Service

Contact the Green Section Staff

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