Tuesday, November 24, 2015

November 24, 2015

Frost occurs when temperatures approach 32 degrees, freezing the dew upon the plant surface and more importantly, the water that is present inside the plants’ cells. The expanding pressure of the freezing water inside the cell stretches the cell membrane, and subsequently the membrane loses all of its elasticity and resiliency that enable it to withstand outside forces such as foot traffic, etc.  In this state, the membrane cannot absorb impact or stretch and re-conform to pressure, so it breaks, causing the cell fluid to leak after thawing, killing the cell completely. If enough cells are affected, the whole turf plant will die, and if enough plants are affected, large areas of turf, whether it is greens, tees, fairways, or rough, can be killed.

An easy way to understand this phenomenon is to imagine a water balloon. The balloon skin is elastic, flexible, and can easily supply generous “give” to forces exerted upon it. But when the balloon is frozen, the skin is stretched by the expansion of water as it turns to ice, and it becomes thin, rigid, and brittle, unable to flex against outside pressures. Its only “give” is to break

By delaying play until the frost is gone and the temperatures moderate, we give time to allow the plant cells to thaw and the cell membranes to regain their original elastic qualities that enable them to withstand traffic.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

October 31, 2015

Within the week, we put down our syringe hoses and picked up rakes!

It is just the start of the leaf season which will not end until next spring. We have many trees, and many varieties, so the leaf drop does not occur at the same time! Although I will not account for every variety, leaf drop starts with the maples and cherries, then the hickory, sassafras and dogwood, and finally the oaks that extend their leaf drop well into the next spring. Throughout this time, the evergreens drop last year’s needles, acorns fall, twigs break, and so it goes. Managing leaves and tree debris becomes a full time, full crew, job.

Each day we blow off the play areas and mulch the leaves as best we can. In some areas, we also use the leaf vacuum, and in others we blow the leaves into the woods. Then there are many places where we have no choice but to rake them into piles, pick them up by hand, and take them to our refuse area.

An unseen challenge is the neighbors – leaves blow from their properties onto ours and ours onto theirs. We continually try to do our best to cooperate with our neighbors to keep our leaves under control so they aren’t  their problem.

On an average day, we spend over 35 person hours on leaves alone. On most days we are able to keep up with the leaves. There are times, especially when it’s windy, when nothing seems to work no matter how much time we spend managing the leaf fall. With the winds, it’s like herding cats as the herd is multipling out of control.

Leaf season is one of the most labor intensive times of the year, and it is sometimes the most frustrating!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

September 23, 2015

A few notes!

Aeration is over! It went very well, and with the weather being cooperative, the greens and fairways are healing up faster than normal. I think it’s a very good omen for the upcoming fall!

We are over seeding only a few areas on the fairways and tees – with a good summer we did not experience much turf loss, and so mainly our seeding is aimed at increasing the bentgrass population where the poa is a concern. We will be changing over the type of growth regulators we use on the fairways to weaken out the poa in favor of the bent grasses.

We installed a new circulating pump for the water feature on 12. The new pump, an upgrade to a 3 hp, delivers more gpm than the original, and is pushing three to four times the amount of water over the waterfall next to 12 bridge. I am really happy with the entire project, from cleaning up the pond banks to adding the water fall, and circulating water to reduce algae buildup. The moving water also inhibits mosquitoes because they need stagnant water to breed.

The weather continues its dry pattern.  We did receive almost 6 tenths rain the other week, but it only gave us a little, very short time relief. Within days the sun appeared, temperatures climbed, the wind began to pump up again, and the humidity dove down to 40% or lower. Suddenly, we returned to needing  four to six persons hand watering with hoses. Computer models for the coming weekend argue – one says we will get heavy rains while another moves every storm around us or below us, and then out to sea. I give up trying to figure out any of this, and just deal with the day on hand!

Today is officially the first day of fall- the September Equinox, when the sun is directly in line with the earth’s equator. This occurred at 4:22am, when many of us were sleeping (not me!). On this coming Saturday night through Sunday morning there will be a “blood moon” harvest moon lunar eclipse.

As far as winter predictions go, I do not have a crystal ball- well, I do, but it cracked long ago. According to Liveweatherblogs.com:
“New Jersey starts off slow this winter but a nice snowy finish with even a significant blizzard in February. Overall snowfall is above normal due to the strong to super El Nino headed to the Northeast. Expect one significant ice storm in January as abundant moisture moves north into the state with colder temps down at the surface. December may surprise you with some pretty mild days. “
The Farmer’s Almanac and more scientific computer models seem to predict the same type of scenario.
I never know what to think of the weather or predictions. Believe it or not, at one time I was accepted into Penn State’s school of Science and majoring in meteorology…

Saturday, September 5, 2015

September 5, 2015

Although it is very dry here, due to receiving no appreciable precipitation for some time now, and combined with cycling heat waves, we are not in a drought as defined by the NJ DEP drought watch or the U.S. drought monitor. If this dry, warm weather continues much longer, that may change, and if so, there is the possibility of water use restrictions such as we had in 2000.

According to the NJ DEP drought watch, we are categorized as “moderately dry”, and as “abnormally dry” by the U.S. drought monitor. After “moderately dry” the NJ DEP has two other stages - “severe” and “extreme” The U.S. watch has three other stages – “severe”, “extreme”, and “exceptional”.

Both sites base their warnings specifically on precipitation, stream flow, and groundwater levels for regions first, and then for counties. It’s not a perfect science because rain does not fall evenly, even within a small area. For example, the last rain we had was on August 11. On that day, we received .5”, while other courses in the area reported as little as .3”, and there was an exceptional downpour near Wildwood that produced 4”. Same storm, but with some very different amounts of precipitation.  4” is a lot of rain, but let’s be realistic and understand that most of that down pour ran off the hard ground and was no help to the soil or roots, so in fact, that 4” was less helpful than our slowly falling .5”.

Nevertheless, we are dry and concerns are growing. As always, we are using our water meters to monitor soil moisture so that we only use the amount of water we need. We also have an afternoon watering crew that monitors and does any necessary hand watering on the greens, tees, and fairways. We also assign staff to hand water important rough areas that are in play. Recently, we have been assigning up to six persons or more out of our ten person staff to water, and another to repair irrigation. It hasn’t been easy, but we have an excellent staff that is going above and beyond to keep the course the best it can be under these challenging conditions.

According to the long term forecast, dryness is predicted to continue. A thunderstorm will not be enough to give any long term relief. We will need a few days of steady rain to turn things round.