Monday, April 28, 2014

Slowly But Surely

We're doing about everything we can to enhance recovery of the severely winter damaged greens I showed in my last post. It's been a little over 3 weeks now, since the last post. All damaged areas have been aerated multiple times (with solid tines / shallow depth) to create sites for seed, seed has been planted, dark colored sand or dark pigments applied to retain heat, nutrients and other germination enhancers applied, and covers placed as often as needed. The only thing we obviously can't do is get our weather warmed up! We've seen a few warm days but clearly not enough to get the 200,000,000 or so bentgrass seeds (35 lbs x 6,000,000 per pound!) we've planted on greens to germinate just yet. Slowly but surely we're beginning to see a few sprouts and the covers which we place on when cool, off when warm or when we have to mow (the turf surrounding the damaged spots still needs frequent mowing) and back on again to keep the seed warm and moist. It's honestly a real pain, and a time and labor drainer but of course a necessity at this point.
We have made good progress on many greens and where we started the season with just 3 greens open for play we are now at 8. Specifically Nos. 5,8,12,13,14,15,16,18. More are getting close, like Nos. 1, 2, 10 (10days -2weeks - but no promises!) and others, Nos. 4,9,17 a few more weeks and finally Nos.  3,6,7,11 which will be longer yet. Warmth, germination, normal turf growth and spreading, plug planting from our turf nursery (when coverage is close to full we will finish it up with plugs -which we are working on everyday too) are all needed and will come, slowly but surely.

This large scale overseeding repair we've had to do will unfortunately create conditions you are not accustomed to as we move forward this year. The new seedlings will need time to establish and mature and will initially be fragile and prone to damage.  
The following are practices we will need to employ to insure establishment:
-Mowing heights will need to be kept higher than normal. The new seedlings need leaves for photosynthesis and we don't want to cut them too low to jeopardize this.
-Rolling will need to be minimized until plants have developed so we don't crush and damage them.
-Grooming practices (light daily vertical mowing) will need to be withheld to minimize damage.
-Watering will need to be done as needed to keep seedbed moist and may be needed multiple times on warmer, drier, windier days.
-Seedhead suppression products (certain growth regulators) will need to be withheld. In a typical year we use these to suppress Poa annua seedhead development which are unsightly and wreak havoc on ball roll creating bumpy conditions. These will affect germination and establishment of our planted seed and we cannot use them this year. We did and will continue to use on the minimally damaged greens, but those with significant injury will not be treated.

Yes all of the above is painful! Slow, leafy, wet, bumpy, are not enjoyable and certainly are not typical for us but this is not a typical spring for us either. On greens that are healthy we can perform many of the above practices and even on portions of injured greens if areas are isolated, and  eventually, slowly but surely, we will be able to return the practices to all greens.
Your patience and understanding of these unprecedented conditions are greatly appreciated.

Here's a look at how recovery is progressing:
 No. 1 Making nice progress. Plugging work coming soon

#2. Much improvement. All photos look better from a distance but this is only a short while from being open.  Side Note: Note the 3 divot marks at the lower portion of photo. Practicing right in front of a green! I'll hold my tongue...or fingers, and say no more.

 #3 Perimeter areas are hardest it. Will be some time before this can tolerate traffic.

 #4 Swale area in center. some recovery from existing plants but much more needed.

 #6 Drainage swale areas badly injured. Like #4 some recovery seen but will take more time here
 #7 Most injured area of all greens. Interesting that this was where the former tree (back right behind green - removed last fall due to damage and deterioration) created shade and root competition weakening the turf on the green. Going forward with tree gone the new turf will be much healthier and likely better able to tolerate stresses.

 #9 Making progress. Areas most impacted are where drainage is slow (plans are being formulated now to improve drainage on this and many other greens...more on this later) and where shade from the large trees front left of green and where nearly all traffic funnels to the 10th tee. Often it is several factors that result in turf being unable to tolerate cold or heat stresses. Poor drainage, shade, traffic, then ice... strike three...or four, you're out!

#10 Progressing well. This one along with #2, and #1 will be ready fairly soon.

#11 Most of damage is around perimeter areas. Clean-up pass stress?? Perhaps. #11 along with  #3 are in about the same state of condition. Will be some time before play can resume.

#17 Going to be a little time here but perhaps several sod plugs will move us closer to opening. Lots of plugs being planted from our nursery to many of the damaged greens. 
Slowly but surely we'll get things back to at least close to normal. 
Thank you for your patience and understanding!

On a more fun note:

I mentioned in April 'Clippings' column that I was going to start a few honeybee hives. The hives are here (two near Grounds Op. Center, and one on course in tall grass near 14 Champ. tee) and I installed the bees on Apr. 8. We've done a lot of work in close proximity and they really don't want anything to do with us, just interested in gathering nectar and pollen. Honeybees have been subjected to many problems (varroa mites, habitat loss, improper or excessive insecticide use, and more) and perhaps we can help a little by caring for a few colonies. And perhaps we'll get a sweet reward in time. 

My foray as a beekeeper with my first full inspection. They can be a little disturbed when their hive is opened up, hence the veil and white suit (apparently white is calming), and there are 10,000 at this point, which will grow to 60,000 or so, so I'll likely continue to use the veil! Many beekeepers eventually abandon the protective equipment, just shows that these girls (yes mostly females) aren't that sassy after all! My queens are in good shape and I've seen nectar and pollen being placed in the comb and tomorrow marks the 21st day which hopefully will show the first brood emerging.  

And another fun note:

Hawks Win! Hawks Win!
Round One wrapped up with a 5-1 victory!
Bring on Round Two. 
Let's Go Hawks!!!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spring 2014 Course Update

 As the brutal Winter of 13-14 ever so slowly turns to Spring we are all anxious to get out on the course. Many are wondering what the condition of the course is in and how much injury may be present. The purpose of this letter is to provide you with the latest information I have, photos of what the greens look like now, and our near future plans for recovery. This letter will likely precede the April Skokie News where I have detailed types of winter injury we may have received and our efforts to minimize these over the past few months.
A quick reminder for all, especially those whom resided in warmer climes the past few months, we have just been through one of the snowiest and coldest winters on record.  We received approx. 80” of snow, a few occasional warm periods which caused some snow melt, and many periods of well below freezing as well as, well below zero temperatures.  These occasional fluctuations in temperature and snow changing to ice periods are likely what led to some of the injury we are seeing and you can see in the photos below.  In spite of snow and ice removal on three separate occasions we apparently could not prevent some winter damage, to primarily the Poa annua grass component on our putting greens.
Our greens are a mixture of many varieties of creeping bentgrass and many bio-types of Poa annua and each of these have varying tolerances to cold and ice and right now these variances are clearly apparent. I feel that a fair amount of many of our greens will recover with time, sun, warmth, manipulating covers as needed, and many other cultural practices we’ll employ. In the most severe cases, and probably areas on most greens, we will need to reestablish turf and we’ll employ aeration, spiking, seeding, plugging, small sod patching, pigments and green sand topdressing to warm the soil, and covering to protect seedlings. We may have to begin the season with temporary greens on some holes and I will assure you now that where this is necessary we will provide good quality temporary surfaces.
Much more information will be forthcoming and again please look for more information in my  ‘Clippings” column and also by following me on Twitter @scc1897, or on this blog where my "tweets" are posted.
This is the worst winter kill I have seen in my twenty-four winters here at Skokie CC and thirty-six total years as a Superintendent. It would be a great time to have pure bentgrass greens and fairways, as bentgrass is much more resistant to winter injury, but we do not have pure bentgrass and so we have some work to do bringing our greens back to quality condition. We’ll get through this in time and we’ll get it done and hopefully with as little inconvenience as possible to you but I cannot say that there will not be some difficult times ahead and so I ask for your understanding and appreciate your patience during this very challenging and potentially lengthy recovery period. Thank you very much in advance.

Photos of each green follows and regular updates will be coming in the weeks ahead. Photo's of fairway areas will be forthcoming as weather warms and we can then ascertain extent of injury.

*WARNING - The images you are about to see can be Disturbing! Excessive viewing can lead to Insomnia, Hypertension, Depression, Anxiety, Irritability, Stress, Mood Swings, and other psychological and physiological conditions...all of which have been experienced by this author!  These will, however, hopefully all pass in a short time with no permanent lasting affects!

Note: You can click on images to enlarge. Then click X in upper right corner to minimize.

No. 1 Green. Significant injury across top portion. View across green rt to left. Many spots will recover, spot seeding will be necessary.

No. 2 Green. Half of left side injured. Most spots should recover.
No. 3 Green. Some ares will recover but large amount will likely need overseeding. This has been a ice / crown hydration injured green in the past.

No. 4 Green.  Swale area injured. Some areas will recover, some will need overseeding.

No. 5. Green. Looks worse than it will be after dormancy break. Most injury should recover. Photo really shows tolerance of bentgrass to winter extremes.

No. 6 Green. Potentially the most injured of all greens. Much of this will require overseeding & reestablishment.

No. 7 Green. Perhaps a close second to no. 6 in degree of severity of injury.
View back rt to front left.

No. 8 Green. Actually only this area beyond bunker injured. Should recover early.

No. 9 Green. These areas are severely damaged. Overseeding needed for sure!

No. 10 Green. Center portion injured. 
Most of this should recover with minimal overseeding required.

No. 11 Green. Injury throughout. 
All of our North facing greens injured even though we removed snow/ice repeatedly!
Significant overseeding work needed here.

No. 12 Green. Injury in swale areas at back of green. Most of this should recover.

No.13 Green. Not unlucky here! Very nice condition. No injury on green at all. This is the typical appearance of all of our greens most years.

No. 14 Green. Very nice also. No injury on green at all.

No. 15 Green. Very nice as well. No lasting injury here.

No.16 Green. Injury through swale running back right to front left. Most spots will recover.
No.17 Green. Off colored throughout. Much of this should respond favorably. Some areas will need overseeding.

No. 18. Back right is most injured spot on this green Other portions will likely recover but area lower left corner of photo will need overseeding.

So as you have now seen, I wasn't joking about the Disturbing Images! I also, as I mentioned several times, feel that many of these injured areas will recover in a short time. The most damaged areas in contrast, generally the lowest portions of swale or run-off areas, will require aeration, spiking, overseeding, frequent covering, and lots of TLC to restore to health, quality, putting surfaces.

We've had this happen before, though not nearly to this extent, but regardless we restored the damage in a reasonable amount of time. We can manipulate temperatures somewhat by covering, double covering, pigments, and colored sand & organic mixtures, but the weather still plays the greatest role in this regard.

In 2009 we had winter injury to a few greens, no.11 was one and is shown below:
 No. 11 Green, Mar.26, 2009 Severe ice / crown hydration damage

Approx. 1 month later, after aerating, spiking, overseeding, & frequent covering the area had significantly improved. Another couple weeks later (6-7 total) the area was completely recovered.

While past performance is not necessarily indicative of future performance, based on our experience and with reasonable weather cooperation, we should be well on the road to recovery within a month and hopefully near complete recovery by mid-late May. 

I'll keep you posted.
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