Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mild Weather allows Late Year Projects

I thought by now it would be 'Beginning to look a lot like Christmas', but not just yet! After finishing leaf processing (mulching), winterizing the course (irrigation system and winter disease protection), covering the greens, removing all course furnishings, and finishing a few minor items related to the Paddle Project (drainage and site clean up) we thought it would be time to come inside and begin our winter equipment maint. and repair activities. The mild temperatures and lack of snowfall (one of the five lowest snow records to this date - only a half inch) have delayed that for now and this past week we've been able to work (or continue work) on a few outdoor projects.

A couple weeks ago we topdressed all fairways with sand (a program we began a couple years ago but just this fall expanded to include all 18) and aerated with shallow (4" deep) solid tines. Shortly thereafter we began a second fairway aeration but with larger tine sizes capable of penetrating up to 9-10 inches.  This depth helps break up compacted areas deeper in the rootzone aiding water penetration and root growth. The mild temperatures (no frozen ground yet) and snow free fairways, have allowed us to continue this process and our goal is to finish all before freezing conditions set in.
  Rafa continues the Verti-drain deep, solid tine aeration (minimally disruptive on the surface but yielding valuable soil compaction relief below) hoping to complete all fairways before it gets too cold!
As I've mentioned in earlier posts, the record flooding last summer, and then near record temperature and humidity that followed, caused turf thinning and some turf loss in several low, slow-to-drain areas in a few fairways. Throughout the fall and early winter we installed additional drainage pipe in these damaged areas and our goal is to ultimately add pipe and drop inlets (catch basins) in all such areas. The mild conditions we've had lately have allowed us to continue this work (on #18 fairway at the moment) and hopefully we'll have several more days before we have to rest the trencher. 

Hard to see from photo but this trench is less than 4 inches wide and allows our 2 inch flexible pipe to fit nicely followed by a covering of gravel and then an 8 inch finish layer of rootzone mix. The narrow cut will heal quickly in the spring with a little seed and normal encroachment of adjacent turf. I selected this process (narrow trench, small pipe) as opposed to typical 4 inch pipe (larger trench and scar) to minimize recover time and eliminate need for sod cutting and replacing. More trenching and pipe installed, and less repair, with this method.

Chances are pretty good that at some point our weather is going to become more typical and drop below freezing and stay this way for some time. It's a pretty safe bet. Unfortunately, some might say.  But for those whom enjoy the cold and snow (which also will likely come) we plan to once again flatten some tracks so that skate style skiing can be enjoyed. And speaking of skate style, this year we are adding another winter activity option (for those whom really like it cold and even freezing) and that is ice skating.

Nearly every year we are asked if we would allow skating on the ponds and we have always resisted due to the hazardous potential of dangerously thin ice. Also, several of our ponds are aerated (oxygenated for fish health) and so the ice never completely forms on these ponds. This year however, in looking at the area just north of the Paddle Facility, in the rough west of #14 fairway, we determined that an ice staking area could be developed. After doing some research we decided to go forward with it and so an ice rink is now in the works! We purchased a simple to erect, reusable ice rink kit that includes shallow walls (plastic panels), supports, a durable plastic liner, liner protector for walls, and an ice resurfacer tool. It's a nice size of 40 x 96 and we'll likely add some lights for your evening skating pleasure. It's our first time at ice making and rink maintenance but I think we'll figure it out and hopefully have a nice place for you to skate with family, then kick off the skates and go inside the Paddle House to warm your toes by the fire! Hopefully you'll have some fun!

Ice Rink walls (supports and panels) begins after leveling a few low areas with sand.

Ice Rink walls up and we now await onset of consistent below freezing temperatures so that we can place liner, kick plates, bumper caps, fill with water and begin to make ice.

By the way if you are wondering if the turf area beneath the liner will be damaged by ice, that was one of the first things we wanted to know too and from our research we found that with this being rough grasses (bluegrasses, fescues) they are quite tolerant, and in fact the area under cover may emerge greener and healthier next spring. So with that, here's hoping for a good cold spell after next week!  I'll post again when we get ready to finish the "Rink at Skokie"!


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