Saturday, February 27, 2010

It looks bad because it's working

This is a photo of the putting green with some moss that was sprayed with a herbicide last week. Healthy moss is green of course, and blends in with the bentgrass and poa annua without drawing too much attention to itself. Now that we've sprayed it and the weed is damaged and black, it looks terrible and that is a good thing.

Next week we will spray again and that should knock it out completely. Moss, unchecked, can really ruin a green over a couple of years. The only greens that currently have a small population of moss are the putting green and #1. Both of these are the predominant bentgrass greens and they thin out a little bit in the winter, providing some growing space for moss. Our frequent use of growth regulators and low fertility add to the problem creating a very nice environment for this dense little plant.

The herbicide we use is called Quicksilver which I've found to be very predictable and safe even during major heat in the summer. It sure is nice to have all of these tools at my disposal as a turfgrass manager. Just a few years ago we would walk the greens with bottles of dish soap, baking soda, and other concoctions trying to beat down the moss. Most of those remedies would turn the moss black, but never achieve a full kill.

Moss is pretty little plant when it's in the woods, but who wants to putt up a tree.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Green bermuda in February

It sure is great to see some green bermuda this early in the year. Back in September when I first reported the decision to suspend fairway overseeding, I shared with you my expectations for the fall, winter, and spring condition of the bermudagrass. One estimate was bermuda breaking dormancy in March and beginning to grow in April. Click on this link to read the entire post:

Sometimes it's nice to be wrong, because bermuda growing in February is a beautiful sight to behold. This portion of fairway in the photo was little more than mud just one month ago. Two weeks later there were green tips of grass peeking out to enjoy the unseasonably warm temperatures. After many days above 60 degrees and nights well above freezing, the bermudagrass is actually growing.

The bright green clump of grass is poa annua which will be sprayed out when a few pages turn off the calendar. By then, the bermuda will be much stronger and dealing with weather it can handle without going back to sleep. I would expect to keep the green tinge the bermuda currently exhibits without returning to the dormant brown of the past three months. So, we're off and running........ or maybe walking........... slowly, towards the goal of a solid bermuda fairway.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Petco Park tour in San Diego

While down at San Diego for the Golf Industry Show, many superintendents made the short walk over to Petco Park for a firsthand look at maintenance practices of a different world. The Grounds Manager, Luke Yoder, was our host for this tour which included the shop and all aspects of the field.

This form of turf management is very different from golf course management. Luke told us that he spends 90% of his time on the infield soil. The ground needs to be a specific firmness for foot traffic so ruts are not created during base running. Bad hops in the infield is the quickest way to get complaints from players and managers, so the majority of time is spent making it perfect.

Another area that receives major attention is the dirt in front of the plate that can be manipulated to be softer or firmer depending on the tendencies of the home or opposing pitcher. I bet you didn't think it was nearly so complex. The line where the dirt meets the turf is an additional issue and must remain smooth and even so a ground ball does not spike in the air when rolling toward the outfield.

The final tidbit of info from Luke that made my mind boggle is what he described as a ball 'snaking' in the outfield. If the staff does not alternate mowing directions on a frequent basis, a heavy grain will develop in the turf and a ground ball can shift left and right when skimming across the turf. As you can imagine, this would make an outfielder look foolish.

I came to Petco Park with a lot of respect for sports field managers and I'm leaving with even more. A ton of work goes into these fields and I haven't even mentioned all the other events that often get booked at these venues which makes renovation a common event.

Of all the beautiful sites I saw down in Petco Park and San Diego, none surpassed that of my lovely wife Carrie. She is quite the photographer and helped out taking pictures while I sucked up all the agronomy info. It is not easy being a Superintendent's wife with the stress and long hours that comes with the job, but at least she got to walk on a Major League ball field even if she's stuck with a minor league husband.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Golf Industry Show

This week I am in San Diego for the annual Golf Course Industry Show for a few days of seminars and a massive trade show. This event is a perfect opportunity to discover new tools and information for the continued improvement of Stockton GCC. Every year I am blown away by the professionalism and dedication of the men and women that make up this industry. Course owners, golf course architects, general managers, superintendents, turf scientists, and students all come together to learn from each other for the good of the game of golf.

This year I participated in seminars that dealt with landscape maintenance, budget techniques and communication, and recent course maintenance research. From these classes I've developed action plans to implement in our current programs. Upon returning to the course, I share the knowledge I've gained with our department heads and Green Committee. I also network with as many superintendents, professors, and company representatives to build up a database of information based on experience in the field. I can't tell you how many times I've emailed or called a 'turf professional' that I've met at the show for some direction on a topic that they know better than I do. These contacts are my greatest resource and I use them on a daily basis.

Right now I need to head off to the California Hospitality Event to do some more networking and to help out at check-in with my fellow members of the California GCSA Board of Directors.
I look forward to sharing my experience at this show in more detail as soon as I get back.
Thursday, February 4, 2010

Baling Hay

Today we finished mowing fairways that haven't felt the cut of a blade for over two weeks. Luckily, soil temps are still pretty low and the growth never got out of hand. The fairway shown here is number 13 and Juan Valenzuela is carefully navigating the soft spots and stopping to clean the rollers every few passes.

The soil at the course, and most of the surrounding area is a silty clay that holds moisture as well as your morning coffee cup. The daily fog and heavy dew does not help to dry the place out and the only time the wind blows, it is followed or proceeded by rain. As I look out the shop bay door right now, the tree tops are swaying, and yes, rain is on the way.

Mowing in these conditions is another judgement call that decides between a risk of smashing the turf into muddy soil or keeping off all traffic and allowing the grass to get very long. In a perfect world, the top 6 inches of soil would drain well and dry up after a couple of days, but this is not a perfect world. After two weeks of waiting, we need to cut what we can and clean up the mess.

The fairways have improved year after year with sand topdressing and aerfication. The difference each year is small, but the cumulative effect is growing. This year we will aerify the fairways with solid tines as soon as they are dry enough to handle the equipment. In June we will pull cores and in September we will pull cores again and topdress.

In the future, I hope to start topdressing twice as much on fairways to work some sand and pore space into the soil profile. The difference each year would be small, but the cumulative effect............. Are you seeing a trend here?