Sunday, January 31, 2010

No overseed, the right decision?

Back on September 4th, I shared with Blog Nation the decision not to overseed the golf course for 2009 in order to save nearly $30,000 and prevent course closure during the process. At the end of that post I said, 'come back to check for frequent updates.' This is the first one, almost 5 months after the original article.

As a superintendent, I sometimes get in a rut explaining the negative instead of promoting the positive. 'No word is the good word' is a course maintenance motto that means: if they aren't complaining, then everything is just fine.

Well, it turns out that everything is just fine. As fall progressed into winter and the bermuda started to head into dormancy, the perennial ryegrass from previous overseedings filled in and thickened up. Since this was the first year without overseeding in at least 6 seasons, I decided to let the poa annua come into the fairways to give the members something to play on.

Without any poa on our dormant bermuda, many places would look like the photograph below. The bermuda has not developed much of a thatch layer so the dormant blades will fall apart very quickly leaving little besides mud to play on. This picture is one of the worst spots on #10 which is in its second year of not being overseeded. Next year, we should be able to keep the poa annua out and have a dormant mat to play on. #11 is in its third year and has held up very well. I made the mistake of not applying pre-emergent herbicide to 11 fairway and now poa annua has came in small clumps. The bermuda is very playable so the cool season grass is not needed.
In this next photo, with the ball still in the foreground, you can see a patch of dormant bermuda in the center of the fairway with bright green poa filling most of the void. I agree, that this is not a very attractive fairway, but it is playable and improved from seasons past.

This next pic is the same fairway and the same dormant patch from a different angle. You can see that the poa has filled in very well and there is a decent playing surface, although far from perfect. The 10th hole is currently one of the worst conditioned fairways on the course. The 17th hole is probably thinner, and muddier than any other hole. We sprayed the fairway with a product called Revolver to remove the poa annua and ryegrass to allow the bermuda to take charge. By the end of summer, this was a pretty nice fairway and next year will be even better.

Every fairway that hasn't been treated with Revolver has more ryegrass and more annual bluegrass to cover up the dormant bermuda. The population of cool season grass makes a trasition into winter less noticeable and gives us fairways that look like this:

This is number 12 and a good example of what the rest of our fairways look like The darker shade of grass along the ridge in the middle and up the distant, left side of the fairway is perennial ryegrass. Everything else is filled in with poa annua.

Many superintendents would disagree with the practice of letting in all of this poa. I opted to let it come in to provide a playing surface for the winter without the cost of overseeding. Without this poa, there would be many, many spots that look like the muddy ground in the first image. So, we are able to have grass in the winter without the cost of overseeding or the messy process of getting the seed in the ground, germinated, and grown to maturity. When warmer temperatures arrive, we will start to lose this poa annua more quickly than we would lose a stand of seeded ryegrass. This will lead to a quicker transition to bermuda and we can start to build up that dormant mat we want in future off-seasons.

The membership has been very happy and pretty surprised at the results of not overseeding. Many people expected nothing but mud and unplayable conditions. As usual, winter here does not offer the best in playability due to our soil types and extreme proximity to ground water. However, that would be the case if we did overseed or not. Besides a lighter green appearance, most fairways are very similar to what they would be with the $30,000 bill.

Now if we could just dry out enough to mow, we would be in business. More about that in the next post. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The poa looks tired

Normally, this time of year, the poa annua will be bright green, lush, and a little puffy after two inches of rain. Instead of those qualities, the poa is tight, sunken, discolored, and barely growing. The bentgrass, on the other hand, continues to creep above the poa and slowly (and I want to emphasize SLOWLY) gains ground on the annual bluegrass.

This is the 7th green which is about 50% annual bluegrass. Since the first of October, we have applied four applications of the growth regulator Trimmit at the low rate. The current appearance of the poa is definitely the most extreme change we've seen since we started.
Taking a closer look (this is the exciting part) you can see that the growth of the bentgrass is not restricted nearly as much as the poa. As I said before, that is the opposite growth patterns that are expected for the foggy winter in California's central valley. I am thrilled to see so much bentgrass at a time that I'm used to seeing very little. Ball roll has also been much improved for this winter season.

Since our greens are half poa, we don't want to limit growth all the way into the warmer months of spring. Our last application of Trimmit will be around the first of February and from there on we will switch back to Primo for our growth regulator needs.

The yellowish-brown poa will return to green in less than a week and today's fertilizer application, the first since December 30th will speed up recuperation. We normally will fertilize every two weeks at light rates, but this last winter storm would wash out any fertilizer and eliminate any benefits. So here we are, nearly a month later, giving the turf a little food. Speaking of food, Izzo has been begging for breakfast for the last 10 minutes so I better go feed the fat little meatball.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Storm Cleanup

This week's storm is nearly finished soaking the course and a weekend of sunshine starts tomorrow, and that suits me fine because Saturday is my 30th birthday. Before I get to celebrating, I have to get this monster off the cartpath so we can get a few rounds this weekend.

The original predictions for this storm included 4-6 inches of rain. As usual, this was an overestimate for our area with our weather station currently recording 1.81 inches over the last week. The wind, however, did not disappoint.

This huge eucalyptus tree on #17 cartpath was one of two trees lost in the storm. We have hundreds of branches scattered all over, but this mess does not compare to the storm in October. In that one day of wind, we lost 12 full size trees and cleanup took two full weeks. This time around we will be back in shape much sooner, although carts will be restricted to paths until we dry out.

So now I'm off to start cutting up this giant hunk of wood. I hope the neighbors don't mind that we're firing up chainsaws at 7:00 am. We've never received any complaints in that department, but we don't want to start now. Maybe the noise would be worthwhile if it came with free firewood. I have some to spare.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Recycling our trees

Three years ago, Stockton Golf and Country Club proudly opened its new clubhouse, the third in nearly 100 years. Along with the new building came a new putting green, 1st tee, driving range, parking lot, and landscaping. All of those amenities have held up well over the last three years, but the mulch for the landscaping is due to be refreshed. I can't believe that it lasted this long and held its color very well.
The cost for new mulch is nearly $1200 and anything we can do to save money will help the club in the long run. So we have been saving our wood chips from all of our tree services and making some of our own. This cuts down on green waste to put in the 30 yard bin and adds to our pile of free wood chips.

In this photo, Assistant Superintendent, Mike Nee and Marvin Estepa spread out the mulch in the large area of Bradford pears between the driving range and #1 tee. The picture is really dark because I took it at 5:40 am while we tried to squeeze a little work in before a full day of rain and wind. We only had about an hour before the storm hit, but the crew banged it out just like every other job they're assigned.
This mulch is much less attractive than the $1200 variety, but in some areas, that doesn't matter. Therefore, we raked up all of the remaining colored mulch and dressed up the clubhouse planters. The cheap stuff will work well everywhere else and won't cost a dime. At the very least, we've pushed that expense back for another season and improved aesthetics at the same time.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Face lift for the snack shack

The course concession stand, or snack shack, as we like to call it, is an important part of every club's amenities. Everyone can use a little refreshment or bite to eat during a 3-4 hour round and the strategic location of this facility makes that easily possible. Golfers pass the shack at 6 green, 13 tee, and 16 tee giving them multiple opportunities to wet their whistles.

Just recently, the building went through a major face lift. The new design eliminates the old bowl-like roof that held water and leaves and led to dry rot in much of the wood. The exterior is also similar to the clubhouse and helps to tie the two together.

Judging from the many comments from our members, this project was long overdue and well worth the time and money. Like many areas out on the course, this is another example of an eye sore being transformed into a complimentary part of the property.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Disease Profile: Pink Snow Mold

Pink snow mold is one of the most obvious diseases to diagnose out on the course. There really isn't any other disease that I would confuse with the colorful ring that this disease produces. Besides the typical signs and symptoms that aid in identification, the timing is also a pretty good clue since pink snow mold only occurs during conditions that would not support most other diseases.

The name may be confusing because snow is an extremely rare occurrence in Stockton, CA. Snow cover is not required for the formation of pink snow mold, but is necessary for its cousin, gray snow mold. All we need for pink snow mold is temperatures between 30-60 degrees F and extended periods of leaf wetness.

As you can see from this image, or if you've played recently, you know that leaf wetness is constant in California's central valley fog. Day after day, we just don't dry out and pink snow mold is right at home. This photo was taken on #13 fairway beneath the shade pattern of a redwood at 12:00 pm.

The greens will normally dry out every day after mowing or rolling and this helps to keep the disease under control. We also treat the greens with fungicide prior to the onset of conditions conducive to snow mold. Fairways, however, are not treated with fungicide because of cost, and the only damage will be on this winter's poa annua, so little is lost. The other practice we employ to manage pink snow mold is removing urea fertilizer from our maintenance program. We fertilize very little this time of year, but when we do, we use calcium nitrate and potassium nitrate as our sources for nitrogen. The last two years, this has helped reduce the amount of snow mold on our greens.

This year, pink snow mold has been pretty scarce. I've seen a few spots on fairways here and there and 9 tee had a small outbreak. The entire crew is trained in disease identification and they're quick to report any problems they see during their daily travels.

The best cure for a little snow mold is temperatures in the 70's or higher, and I for one, cannot wait to see the sun.

Friday, January 8, 2010

More purple grass

Here is a closeup of the pigment condition I described in the last post. I pulled this one off of the University of Connecticut Turfgrass Disease website by following a link supplied by one of our followers, John Kaminski, Ph.D.

Notice the purple tips on most blades of grass. This is an accumulation of anthocyanin due to cold temperatures that limits translocation of sugars produced during photosynthesis.

Wow, I have become a real nerd because I find this stuff fascinating. If you are also intrigued by this seasonal abnormality, then here is a few links that will dive a little deeper into this subject.

The first link is from Wikipedia, always a good place to start. The second is a Google preview of a great book by Peter Dernoeden called Creeping Bentgrass Management.

Happy reading.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Is that purple disease on the greens?

If you've played golf in the last month, I'm sure you've noticed the purple blotches all over the greens. Whenever strange patterns and patches occur on a green, disease is the first suspect to blame. In this instance, the mottled appearance is just part of the winter season and will fade back to green when temperatures begin to climb.

The bentgrass on our greens is predominantly Crenshaw which, like many older varieties, turns purple quite easily. Bentgrass, just like the leaves of trees, changes color when mild days are mixed with cold nights. Basically, the sugar produced during photosynthesis is trapped in the leaf and expresses itself with a different color. As temperatures rise, the sugars can be moved more effectively into the roots and the chlorophyll can make the plant green around the clock.

This year the course is showing more purple than it had over the last five years and that is a good thing. Since October, we've been using a plant growth regulator called Trimmit which gives bentgrass a competitive advantage over annual bluegrass. This time of the year, bentgrass is barely growing so there is little hope in out growing the poa annua. However, we have limited poa's spread and all these new purple spots are proof of that.

The last few winters have ended with the greens nearly covered in light green poa annua. Heading into summer, some of the poa would back off and the bent would take charge and return the green to 50/50, poa/bent. This season, the poa is being kept in check and we should have greater than 50% bentgrass when we hit summer. Hopefully this is a reversal of fortunes and we can look towards the turf maintenance holy grail: poa-free greens.

Going from 50/50 to solid bent might be a pipe dream in all honesty, but with the proper maintenance practices, the greens will be rolling just fine. Perhaps we knock out 2-3% of the poa each year and keep plugging along.
Monday, January 4, 2010

Home Remedies

First off, let me tell you that this has nothing to do with golf course maintenance. Instead, I want to share with you my source of pain relief after my wisdom teeth were removed. The extraction was performed last Tuesday and went very well. I had very little pain or swelling until Friday, January 1st. This is when a condition called 'dry socket' first reared its ugly head.

This malady is referred to as a phenomenon that involves inflammation of the bone where the tooth was extracted. It is not an infection and simply goes away over time. Waiting for it to go away is excruciating and probably the worst pain I have felt. The pain relievers the doctor provided were not helping by Sunday so I went to the Internet to find a cure.

Many of you probably know this, but for me, it was the very first time I'd seen this remedy. Clove oil is very good for toothaches and for treating dry socket. A couple drops and the most incredible pain I've ever known subsided within two minutes.

This is way off topic for this blog, but I wasted three days of a brand new year dealing with this condition when a natural remedy was sitting at Walgreen's. Hopefully, somebody with tooth pain will find this useful and can get on with their lives as well.

OK, now back to growing grass.