Monday, September 26, 2011

What a drag

Now that we are finished with greens, tees, approaches, and most green surrounds, our aerification efforts are now focused on fairways.  As we have done in the past few years, we will pull cores using our Wiedenmann Terra Spike XF.  We have some 10 inch tines on the machine, but we can only get a depth between 5-6 inches before the tractor bogs down.

After the cores are pulled and allowed to dry just a bit, we hit them with our new drag mat, Par Aide's Core Buster.  So far, I like this one better than our usual metal drag mats.  It is better, in my opinion, for a number of reasons.  It is plastic and much lighter to load and unload.  The individual cells are larger so plugs do not get stuck to the mat.  The cells are deeper so plugs bounce up and down many times before exiting the ride.  Finally, it looks like it will hold up much longer and when it does need repair, you can replace one square instead of the whole thing. 

After a few passes with the drag mat, we hit the fairway with a tractor mounted blower and move on to the next one.  We'd prefer to pick up all the plugs and topdress with some sand to improve drainage and fairway firmness.  This year, we will skip the sanding to save on funds with hopes to get back to it in the future.  The sand would be great, but pulling out the plugs is the major benefit of the practice, producing drain channels for the winter rains that are coming up in the rear view mirror.  I miss summer already.
Thursday, September 22, 2011

8 days of healing

The greens are healing up very nicely.  Very few holes remain and after yesterday's application of wetting agent, fertilizer, and growth regulator, the density will improve quickly.  We cut the greens this morning with our walk mowers and the speed and roll is doubled from yesterday.  That's not saying much because we were probably a 4 on the stimp meter and now closer to an 8.  I haven't actually stimped the greens, but that's my estimate.

This is what #6 looks like this morning:

Compared to the photos I posted yesterday, this is a major improvement and a steady progression to full health.  Besides some height adjustments and reducing irrigation on the greens, we are done here and can focus on the others tasks at hand.  Tees and approaches have all been aerified and seeding will finish today.  Green surround aerification is 2/3 complete along with seeding.  Fairway aerification has been moved to next week while we finish all the seeding.  

Member response towards all of this work has been very positive although everyone is anxious to get back into good playing conditions.  The greens are very close and the rest of the course will follow shortly.  Once the seed in the high traffic areas germinates and establishes some roots, we can take advantage of our wonderful fall weather and get the course firm and fast.

That's it for today, as Craig and I are about to join the Thursday Ladies for the annual "Play with the Pro Tournament."  As my first responsibility in this event, I will apologize to the group that draws the Superintendent instead of a near-scratch golfer. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Scary, continued

A few days after aerification, we started to see some of the stress caused by the process.  Pictured below is the sixth green, one of 5 greens that had a little damage.  We aerfied all of these on Monday evening and did not finish up and irrigate until 7:00 pm the next day.  This is our standard operating procedure which gets the job done in one closed day. 

These spots dried up and stressed out during all the horrible things we did to the greens.  This is never fun to see, but I expect a few stressed out locations every time we aerify.  Day by day, they improve and rarely do we lose any turf.  These pictures were taken on Saturday, four days after the holes were punched.

Tomorrow I will show you what they look like after a week to heal.  This morning we mowed with the triplex riding mower at a height of .150 and tomorrow we will switch to the walking mowers.  Many of the greens are 90% healed a week after the process, but they are still slow, shaggy, and wet. 

So take a look at the pictures.  What do you think when you see this?  I've had a few comments along the lines of, "Are we going to lose those greens?".  No, we probably won't lose an area the size of a cup.  Turf is much stronger than we give it credit for and can survive much worse than this. 

I tend to look closer, like this last picture and I see a bunch of green grass.  I see the weaker portions are the intermingled blades of poa annua that is better off lost.  I see most of the brown is actually leaf tips that were burned up during the sanding and brooming during a warm day with no water.  When I cut a small plug, I see white roots that are happy to have more oxygen.  Best of all, the next day, I see a dramatic improvement. 

More to come.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Aerification, it's scary sometimes

We started aerifying on Monday after a 75 person tournament.  Assistant Superintendent, Craig Heitman and I started punching around 4:30 pm and finished up eight greens by the time it was getting dark.  The next morning, Sal took over and punched the greens using a headlamp to see his lines.  In the above picture, he is on #8, his fourth green of the day and the sun is just starting to light up the sky.

The darkness is useful in keeping our nerves settled.  When it gets light enough to see what we're really doing to the greens, a little bit of anxiety sets in.  I've gotten used to the result of the aggressive quad tine aerification, but it was Craig's first time.  I saw the look on his face on the tenth green and it said, "Uh oh, did we just ruin the greens?" 

We use the Toro Procore 648 with a ten tine block, 2 rows of 5 each.  The holes are very close together and the surface will be pulled upward, anywhere between a 1/4 inch and 1 inch.  The greens go from being perfectly smooth to looking like a miniature mogul course.  It gets even worse when we start to pick up the plugs and every footprint and tire track becomes a depression.

Here's a look at a green that has been aerified, cleaned, fertilized, and topdressed.  On the left, you can really see all the footprints and tire tracks from the walk blower, fertilizer spreader, seeder, and topdresser.  On the right, it looks much better after being spun with a broom and rolled down by my cart's tires.

Our closed day of aerification is an all day battle just to get finished before dark.  The next few days, the work continues with hand brooming, moving around sand, and lots of rolling.  Sometimes we do all these things at once in a dusty, post-aerification symphony.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New design, compliments of Turfnet

Did you notice the new header and the updated design?  My friends at Turfnet, a website dedicated to golf course maintenance, provided this service free of charge.  I've been a member of Turfnet for all six years I've been superintendent at Stockton Golf and Country Club and I use the resource often as an educational tool.  The work on the blog was a nice bonus and an improvement that was long overdue.  Now if I can just get them to write up a post or two when I'm too busy, I'd really be impressed.
Sunday, September 11, 2011

Aerification Time

Starting tomorrow evening, Monday, September 12th, we will begin our fall aerification.  As usual, we will use smaller tines at closer spacing to pull out more and heal up faster.  The holes will be 3/8 inch in width and we will try to get four inches in depth.  I will be taking plenty of pictures during the next two days to share some of the work with you.

I pulled this core Friday on the first green.  The pencil next to the plug is 4 inches long and we have a couple of roots reaching just beyond that length.  This is not too exciting, but it is an improvement from previous years and definitely good to see in early September with great growing conditions just ahead.

Also in this photo, you can see the result of our Trimmit applications to suppress the poa annua and give the bentgrass a competitive advantage.  The poa patch is just right of the pencil and noticeably yellowed and sunken.  Next month, we will put all of the greens on the same Trimmit regime and continue until next spring.  We've done this the past 2 years with great success.

I've heard a few comments, as usual, that we are aerifying the greens when they are in great condition.  I guarantee, there is a direct correlation between the two.  I appreciate your patience while we work to keep the greens playing their best by giving them the attention they need.
Thursday, September 8, 2011

Five Gallons of Good Stuff

We rarely spray anything without a little premix in a five gallon bucket.  Some of the typical additions are iron sulfate, manganese sulfate, zinc sulfate, ammonium sulfate, calcium nitrate, potassium nitrate, mono potassium phosphate, and a product called UFLEXX.  To these, we always add some other ingredients to get the final mix we are looking for.

There are many phenomenal products that are ready to go in a 2.5 gallon jug.  They already contain a good ratio of N-P-K plus additions like amino acids, kelps, and minors like iron, boron, copper, and magnesium.  Of course, all that convenience comes with a price tag that we've decided to avoid a majority of the time.

The trade off is some labor intensive mixing that takes patience and time.  It also tends to ruin clothes and cheap drills.  However, the greens are very happy with what we've been doing.  We have dense turf, little thatch, and a few more inches of roots than before.   

Someday, we might trade in the iron stained drill for a fancy mix tank or even build one in-house.  I would certainly enjoy that luxury and it would make for a good blog post.  Until then, we will continue to shuttle five gallon buckets filled with hot water out of the shop and towards the fertilizer storage area.

Maintenance tip:  If you happen to be working with the same strategy, here is a tip that might help with the process.  The UFLEXX fertilizer is sometimes contaminated with a few prills of Polyon.  These do not break down and will clog a nozzle as soon as they leave the boom.  We now pour all of our granular-turned-liquid products through a tea towel to catch any solids.  Jan, our mechanic, brought in an old one she used for dishes and it has been a very useful time saver. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Blog update

It's been much too long since I've updated the blog and here are the reasons (excuses) why posts have been infrequent.

1. There is very little to talk about.

We've been dealing with regular maintenance without much time for projects of any sort.  Also, the turf is growing well in pretty much all locations.  No word is the good word and I haven't had any disease or problems to share.  The good stuff doesn't stand out as much so it's been pretty quiet around here.

2. I lost my photographer.

When Rob left, he took his camera and all of the daily photos he used to snap.  I am getting back into the practice of documenting our work and course conditions, both the good and the bad to share in future posts.  It may sound silly, but posts like this one look bare without a picture to break up the text.

3. Burned out, it happens

Towards the end of August, the long days and constant work starts to wear on an individual.  Two months without an assistant or a spray tech leaves little time to write blogs and the end of the day is better spent forgetting about work than writing about it.  The blog suffers, my lawn suffers, and my hair has a few more sprinkles of gray.  However, a couple of days off, a couple good conversations with other superintendents, and some new staff gets the juices pumping again.

So, no more excuses, it's time to blog it up.  We have the camera in use and plenty to discuss.  Please come back in the next few days to read some new posts that are long overdue.  Upcoming topics include; bunkers: what's wrong and how to fix it, what to do with our shallow lakes, money saving fertilizer strategy, and a new segment that starts with a photo and the question, "what happened there?"

I am also working to combine a Facebook fan page and Twitter to the blog in case you prefer your social media in another form.  More info to come soon.