Monday, October 19, 2009

Aeration, & Topdressing Activities Abound!

As I mentioned in an earlier update, aeration season is upon us. We completed tee work a few weeks ago, a couple fairways last week (before being delayed by rainfall), and additional fairways yesterday. We finished the greens aeration process on Tuesday.

We know this work is not popular. The greens are often perhaps as smooth and as fast as at any time of the year because the shorter day lengths, cooler temperatures, and occasional frost. These climatic conditions dramatically slows growth and our continuation of mowing further enhances the putting surface conditions. We typically wait as long into the Fall as we can but the time does come every year (or more often) when we must address this critically important cultural practice. The benefits are extensive and the dividends pay handsomely helping us to better manage the stresses of summer, and provide you with as high quality playing surfaces as we can.

Aeration and Topdressing Benefits Include:
Improved Water Infiltration & Drainage
Improved Root Development & Root Mass
Improved Oxygen & Gaseous Exchange
Improved Microorganism Activity
Allows Improved Placement of Nutrients & Plant Protectants
Allows Ability to Amend Rootzone (Via Sand Topdressing)

Multiple small size coring now completed on greens
Dragging and brushing reincorporates the desirable sand to smooth and fill holes

We've used both coring tines (extracts a core or plug of soil) and solid tines (no core extracted, only a channel is created) to achieve various objectives. Generally we core aerate and drag or brush to reincorporate the extracted materials back into the turf canopy. The sandy rootzone of the greens and tees , from years of sand topdressing, is desirable and we want to leave it, and only remove any organic "tufts" which remain post brushing. The same process is performed on most fairways as well but of course to a much larger scale.

Fairway core aeration begins
Processing procedures include dragging to reincorporate soil & blowing and removing debris.

A few years ago we began to sand topdressing some of our fairways which are the lowest in elevation, closer to the water table (pond & channel levels) and tend to hold moisture longer than others after rainfall events. These include fairways #3, #4, #11, #13. These are also the last fairways to drain after flood events, again because of their proximity to our normal water levels. These fairways also have a higher organic matter content (peat moss type soil) and can be prone to variable wetting and drying which can create puffy uneven surface conditions at certain times of the year.

Sand topdressing of #11 fairway in action

Because of these factors we initiated a sand topdressing program on these fairways which will, in time, improve surface drainage, provide firmer and smoother surfaces, dilute the high organic content helping to reduce "puffiness", perhaps reduce nuisance earthworm casts in late summer and fall, and in general provide higher quality playing surfaces.

As we attempt to build up a nice layer of sand over the next several years, our aeration procedure will be to only use solid tines on these fairways, along with the sand topdressing, as we do not want to create a layering condition by combining sand topdressing with conventional coring and reincorporation. Layering is great on a cake but very problematic on a turf surface!

Solid tine aeration after topdressing aids sand incorporation among many other benefits.

Dragging process to move sand into turf canopy and aeration holes.

A side advantage to you as a member, at least on these fairways, is that with solid tine use there are no soil cores to walk through and play through during the procedure and if moisture does occur, no soil picked up on your shoes! Sounds like it would be great to do all the fairways this way, right? We'll, we will probably use approx. 45 semi-loads of sand over the next year, for just these 4 fairways, to build up only a 1/2" layer of sand. Long term it would be great to build up a 3 inch layer or so but this could be 6 years of topdressing and 270 loads of sand! So we're taking about a small mountain load of sand for these few fairways and this is why we're limiting this process to only these few, where the benefits are most needed.

With work started a new post coming very soon: No. 18 Fairway Bunker & Mounding Project!

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