The Calendar Let Us Down; But Again February 27, 2015

The Calendar Let Us Down; But Again

By Jim Skorulski, Senior Agronomist Northeast Region Green Section
September 1, 2009

The mid- August respite, when cooler days and longer nights bring relief to the grass and those that manage it, never materialized. Weather systems from the south kept temperatures and humidity uncharacteristically high. The heavy rains that washed out the past two weekends only made things worse by saturating the soils and ramping up disease pressure. It has been a difficult turfgrass management period and a nightmare for many of those who core cultivated greens.


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The stress from core aeration during a hot weather period, followed by heavy rains that saturated poorly-drained, soil-based greens was a recipe for rapid decline of annual bluegrass on a number of golf courses in the past week.
Reports of greens declining in the weeks following core aeration have been coming into our offices from around the Region. Most of the damage seems to be a result of the aeration and clean-up practices, and from the heavy rains that followed, but summer patch also was involved at some locations. The heavy rains infiltrated the recently cored surfaces and saturated the soil profiles. The heat, high humidity, and low soil oxygen was just too much for the weak grass to take. Mowing in the days following aeration, again on saturated soils, also caused mechanical damage.

Mid-August, on paper, always has been considered a good time to core aerate greens, tees, and fairways in the Northeast. The surfaces usually are in need of the cultivation by that time of summer. The warmer soil temperatures favor the creeping bentgrass and provide better over-seeding results, and the turf recovers more quickly. The late summer date also assures a full staff will still be around to complete the operation. Unfortunately, nature seldom pays as much attention to the calendar.

In hindsight, the decision to core aerate greens during the high temperatures and heat was not a good one for some courses. However, it is difficult to find fault with a manager who cannot anticipate the weather that followed the operation and is forced to work with a rigid maintenance schedule developed well in advance around a busy golf calendar. The turf managers’ dilemma is a lousy one: go ahead and aerate and risk turf damage, or, put it off, knowing that with the golf schedule, it may be October or later before the greens can be aerated. Oh, and don’t forget that healing will be so slow in October that you may see holes in the spring and hear about it again.

This is why it is so important to have some flexibility planned into a maintenance schedule to account for unexpected weather or equipment failure. Those managing large populations of annual bluegrass may choose to move the core cultivation practices to a slightly later date to avoid the high temperatures. Regardless of when you decide to aerate, it is essential to have a back-up date available to reschedule the operation if uncooperative weather strikes.

Losing grass always is painful. Use the opportunity to evaluate the maintenance programs and conditions that contributed to the turf loss. Try to make something positive out of the negative situation. That may be as simple as garnering enough support to address the agronomic issues that plague the greens or allows greater scheduling flexibility.

Contact us at the Easton, Pennsylvania or Palmer, Massachusetts Green Section offices if you are dealing with the effects of the late summer weather, or need assistance formulating maintenance programs and schedules to make the golf course the best it can be.

Northeast Region Green Section- Dave Oatis, Director; Adam Moeller, Agronomist Jim Skorulski, Senior Agronomist