Fall Color In The Southwest

By Brian Whitlark, agronomist, Southwest Region
October 28, 2013

Non-overseeded ultradwarf bermudagrass putting greens can provide excellent putting surfaces and more golfing days than their overseeded counterparts.

Most people’s perception of fall color conjures images of bright red and yellow maple leaves in Vermont. Fall color takes on a different meaning for golf facilities not overseeding bermudagrass greens in the Southwest. October is typically the time to begin applying colorants to non-overseeded bermudagrass greens, and most superintendents have already begun due to cooler weather this fall. Through 24 days of October, the average temperature is four degrees cooler than last year and soil temperatures are two degrees cooler than in 2012. Bermudagrass growth has slowed and it has begun to lose a bit of its natural green hue. 

Here are a few tips to begin coloring non-overseeded ultradwarf bermudagrass putting greens in a desert environment: 

  • Begin using colorants when growth slows yet the turf remains green.
  • If mowing operations yield substantial clippings on a daily basis, consider tank mixing a growth regulator such as Primo to minimize colorant loss due to clipping removal.
  • Plan to spray on a 7- to 10-day schedule.
  • Most of the colorants on the market today do not contain binding agents and therefore can be applied through a centrifugal pump or even a backpack sprayer.
  • A walking spray boom works well, but similar results can be achieved with a boom sprayer.
  • If time permits, spray in two directions to avoid/minimize streaking.
  • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and what is beautiful at your course may be different from a neighboring course. Experiment with different rates and products to determine what will work best for your facility.
  • Green is king. Remember this when applying colorants. Spray at high enough rates and at frequent intervals to achieve results that your golfers will be proud to invite their guests to see.
  • Do not plan on saving money on non-overseeded greens when compared to overseeding. The benefit to your members and/or golfing patrons is more consistent putting surfaces through the entire year.

In addition to the tips listed above, several paint recipes currently utilized by three superintendents in Arizona are offered below: 

  • Golf facility “A” utilizes the turf colorant Endurant and applies every 10 to 14 days at 1.5 gallons per acre. The spray volume is doubled to accommodate a bidirectional application. Nitrogen is included in the tank mix at light rates.
  • Golf facility “B” has used several blends over the past few seasons, including the following:
    • PAR Turf Enhancer at a rate of 10 to 16 ounces per acre, mixed with 1 gallon per acre of SP Darken.
    • Green Tee applied at 3 to 6 ounces per 1,000 square feet mixed with SP Darken at a rate of 1 gallon per acre.
    • Transition HC applied at 16 to 24 ounces per acre mixed with SP Darken at a rate of 1 gallon per acre.
  • Golf facility “C” applies PAR Turf Enhancer at 8 ounces per acre weekly beginning late October. In late November, the rate is doubled to 16 ounces per acre and as much as 21 ounces per acre is applied weekly from late December through January. This superintendent reduces the rate once warmer temperatures resume and eliminates the colorant from the program come March.

 For more information on this topic, please review the following references:

Source: Brian Whitlark (bwhitlark@usga.org)

Information on the USGA’s Turf Advisory Service

Contact the Green Section Staff

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