Thursday, October 28, 2010

Extreme Winds Subside - Tree Damage Minimal?

Unless you remained indoors these past couple days you no doubt experienced part of a wind storm system that was historic for the Midwest.

On Tuesday, over southern Oregon, the wind speed at the level of the jet stream was recorded at near 220 mph. It was this powerful jet stream energy that fueled an intense low-pressure system over the Midwest on both Tuesday and Wednesday dropping to historic levels in northern Minnesota and Chicago as well. When verified these pressure readings will likely go down as the lowest ever recorded on the mainland U.S., from a non-tropical storm.

A National Weather Service pressure gradient map from about 1 p.m. Tuesday, just a few hours before the storm reached its lowest pressure at Bigfork, MN.

Information from The Weather Channel stated: 
This was a storm stronger than the infamous "Edmund Fitzgerald" storm in Nov. 1975 and an even stronger version almost exactly 23 years after that in Nov. 1998. 
The central barometric pressure was also on par with the infamous Superstorm of 1993, and is lower than the last 4 hurricanes of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. 

Our on-site weather station recorded wind gusts of 49 mph, which was surprisingly less than I thought it would be. I guess I wouldn't want to experience winds greater than that! At one point while driving my cart back to our Grounds Operations Center, to get off the course for fear of flying objects, I felt like the wind was lifting under the cart's canopy nearly making it airborne! Visions of the movie Twister came to mind but thankfully no actual twisters developed.

Today, with the storm past, we began the cleanup process and we were pleased that damage was remarkably minimal. I expected trees down but there were none. Only several large branches fell along with a littering of small branches throughout the course. It was likely the fact that many tree species have already dropped their leaves and therefore did not act as huge sails, that limited the damage.
 Some of "Nature's" pruning

 A large broken branch on #6

Typical small branch littering throughout course

We were indeed fortunate that the damage was less than other locations throughout the Midwest but I do feel it may be some time before the full assessment will be known. The strength of these winds could very well have cracked or weakened significant structural portions of trees that we haven't seen yet or may not see until trees leaf-out (or lack such) next spring. Time will tell and I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Greens Aeration Complete - More Topdressing in Progress

After delaying and then postponing greens aeration due to beautiful weather and fast and firm playing conditions over the past several weeks, we did finally conduct our first session. For this aeration session we used small coring tines (approximately pencil sized diameter) with a very close spacing using our multi-tine coring head.
 Small diameter core aeration on greens now completed

Our typical processing of these cores is to drag or brush them to loosen the desirable sand material from the core allowing it to incorporate back into the turf canopy. What remains is essentially a small mass of roots and the attached turf which is then blown into piles and removed. This year though, we collected the cores and planted them in our turf nursery to re-establish this depleted  area. Between the ice damaged areas coming out of winter and the flood and heat damaged areas in late summer, most of our nursery was used in various fairway areas and replanting was necessary.
 Preparing Nursery Rootzone Medium
 Collecting Cores
 Placing and Leveling on Nursery Rootzone Sand
 Completed process showing tracked in or "dimpled" appearance of surface

The desirable outcome of this planting process (using cores) is that once established, the varieties of turf that we will have will be the same as those from which they were harvested. This allows us to replace turf, should it be damaged by ice, disease, heat, floods, lightning, equipment malfunction, vandals, or any other reason, with turf that is nearly identical in it's properties. In this manner of turf replacement both the appearance of the turf and the playability characteristics are retained compared to importing commercially available putting green or fairway type sod.

Following aeration the greens have been sand topdressed, broomed, and rolled (several times) and are reasonably smooth in spite of all the surface disruption. Our next aeration session (planned for mid Nov. will be Deep Tine Aeration using larger, solid tines. I'll post about this when we get a bit closer to beginning the work.    

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Greens Aeration -Postponed One Week

With the unseasonably warm and dry weather we've been experiencing expected to last through this weekend, I decided  we will delay our greens aeration for one more week. Our original plan was to begin yesterday, Oct.11, but with such beautiful weather, as well as our fairway aeration work still in progress, we'll now plan for this work to begin Monday, Oct. 18th.

The weather outlook shows mild and dry conditions (except for perhaps a slight chance of rain tomorrow), all week and continuing through this weekend.. Beginning next Tuesday however, it looks like cool and wet weather settles in for a few days, and thereafter temperatures remaining rather cool. We should be able to get all the greens aerated next Monday prior to the forecast wet weather.

So, the quick take home message from this blog is, take advantage of this wonderful weather, take off work and come on out for another round or two before conditions dramatically change!

As I mentioned previously, we are still in the process of core aerating (and reincorporation tasks) fairways, so you may experience some cores present or processing in progress. After today we will have approx six fairways to complete. All sand topdressed and solid tine aerated areas; fairways (Nos. 3,4,8,11,13,14) and all approaches, are now complete.
 Conventional Core Aeration in progress On #17 Fwy.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Approach & Fairway; Topdressing & Aeration Activities

If you've played recently you've likely seen sand application and solid tine aeration on all approaches and a few entire fairways. This work will likely be completed within the next couple days and then we will proceed with conventional aeration (core extraction) and reincorporation or processing . What's the difference? Why do we treat some fairways different than others? Why do we have to do any of this at all? Read on and hopefully many of your questions will be answered. 

Why do we do any of this aeration and topdressing activity?
Mowing activities, maintenance vehicle traffic, cart traffic, walking traffic, rain, and more all have a compressing or compacting force on the soil, and aeration procedures are utilized to relieve this compaction and provide many additional benefits.

The benefits of aeration include:
  • Creates space for new root growth.
  • Improves oxygen movement into the soil, and plant and soil microbe by-product gas movement, out of the soil.
  • Improves water movement into the soil, capturing rainfall and reducing run-off.
  • Improves nutrient movement into the soil and provides ideal time to apply deficient nutrients or plant protectant products and/or other desirable soil amendments.
  • Severs plant parts which in turn initiates new growth thereby improving plant density.
  • Overall promotes a healthier, more drought tolerant turfgrass stand.
Conventional Coring and Reincorporation of sandy rootzone material on Tees

 Solid Tine Aeration - (Sand was applied before aeration)

We employ both solid tine aeration, which removes no soil, (creating only an open channel in the soil), as well as conventional core aeration, where soil is extracted. Many times we will drag a flexible mat and/or a brush to pulverize these extracted cores and reincorporate the soil or sand that exists. In general we reincorporate cores on greens (unless we are using to propagate our nursery), and on tees, as the rootzone material on these areas is a desirable sandy material. On occasion after longer periods of time (years)  we may remove cores completely if the organic matter percentage in the rootzone increases to undesirable levels.

Regarding the fairways, we core aerate and reincorporate (which acts as a soil topdressing) some fairways, and on others we apply sand topdressing then follow with solid tine aeration. The aeration helps incorporate the sand into the turf canopy.

 Typical Conventional Core Aeration (last year-soon to begin this year). Cores will be pulverized and reincorporated into turf canopy.

Whether it's soil topdressing from reincorporated cores or sand topdressing, why do we care about topdressing? 

The benefits of topdressing include:
  • Smooths the surfaces, filling in minor depressions.
  • Dilutes (with sand topdressing) and helps decompose (with soil topdressing from reincorporated cores) thatch material or the biomass of plant parts just beneath the turf surface
  • Improves surface firmness and ball roll qualities (sand topdressing)
  • Improves surface drainage over time as repeated applications build a modest layer (sand topdressing)
  • May help reduce excessive earthworm populations (reducing annoying casts) - (sand topdressing)
  • Reduces soil compaction which in turn helps root growth - (sand topdressing)
 As you can see there are several important benefits to topdressing in general and sand topdressing provides a few added benefits. For 20 years now we have sand topdressed our greens, and for 10 years (since our course restoration) we have been reincorporating the desirable sandy mix on our tees and supplementing with sand topdressing.  For perhaps 8 years now we have sand topdressed our approaches and now, because of the many benefits and improvements we've seen with sand topdressing, beginning last year we expanded our topdressing program to include several fairways.
Fairway Topdressing in Action

 Topdressed Approach #1 awaiting Solid Tine Aeration

Why are we solid tine aerating and sand topdressing some fairways, and employing conventional core aeration and reincorporation on other fairways? 
I believe all of our fairways could benefit by sand topdressing (and we wouldn't have to play through wet muddy cores again should rainfall come unexpectedly, like could happen while we conventionally aerate many fairways -I'll explain more later) but we do have large fairway acreage which would requiring purchasing a lot of sand, a commitment to continue the program annually for several years, and labor and additional equipment investment. It certainly doesn't come without cost and other issues in the future. However, many clubs have sand topdressed their fairways for many years enjoying several benefits and there are some costs that are similar regardless of aeration method. Given our large fairway acreage and desire to evaluate the program before expanding to include all fairways, we selected a few (a third of the fairways) to begin sand topdressing and solid tine aeration. We solid tine aerate sand topdressed fairways as once we begin a sanding program we do not want to bring up soil cores and reincorporate them, as a layer of sand followed by a layer of soil creates layering that can be detrimental to water movement and lead to turf decline issues. So once we begin we will no longer "pull cores" and potentially be subjected to an unexpected rainfall and the mess that would follow, hence my reference to not having to play through muddy cores again.

We have several fairways that are in low lying areas (their surfaces are fairly close to the level of our main water reservoir, the channel between holes #3 and #11) and/or are some of the slowest to completely drain and dry following heavier rain events.These fairways are #3, #4, #8, #11, #13, and #14. The next few potential candidates could be #15 and #18, but we'll see how the program progresses on the first six mentioned.
  Sand Topdressed Fairway (#11) showing Solid Tine Aeration nearly complete. 
Brooming, Rolling (if needed) and Watering complete the process.

I'll keep you posted as to our daily work progress (which you can also see on the status board outside the ProShop) and on this blog in future posts, but I'm certainly happy to get your feedback as well, on whatever your experience is on these sand topdressed fairways. It will take a few years before we see full benefits but you may notice a little firmer feel and perhaps a little extra ball roll before too long.

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