Tuesday, March 30, 2010

March 30, 2010

Yesterday we received 2.8 inches of rainfall, adding to the March total that today “rests” at 10.14 inches. For the calendar year March 29, 2009 to today, March 30, 2010, we have received 75.1 inches of rain, or 6 and ¼ feet! Our historical average for a year’s rain is 43 inches. So we’ve had quite a lot of rain…

Remember the James Taylor song that goes, “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain…”? I really hate to complain about the rain, even if it seems to be too much, causing us a lot of extra work, and puts us behind schedule regarding our spring preparations. But I’ve also seen fire – I have been through droughts and water restrictions – I’ve watched grass wilt and die away, and fairways and rough become dust blown. That can be pretty bad too.

The weather is unbalanced right now, so we just need to do the best we can and be patient until it rights itself. The latest short term forecast model is for warm and sunny skies through next week. The song goes on, “I’ve seen sunny skies that I thought would never end…”

The weather is going to be just fine!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

March 25, 2010

On Wednesday and Thursday we aerated fairways and tees.

The tee aeration process was this:

First our contractor aerated the tees with a tractor pulled aeration machine that pulled cores approximately 3” deep and .75” in diameter. This brings up a lot of thatch and soil, which is exactly what is needed on the tees!

Cleanup is next. First the cores are dragged to break them up and separate the soil from the thatch, which is blown off. Some of the soil, now loosened, naturally gets dragged back into the holes.

Mycorrhizae is then spread on the tee surface, for the same reasons as for the greens.

Due to time and equipment restraints – we are at the same time now touching up the greens and aerating/ cleaning fairways – we will top dress the tees early next week. For topdressing we use a spec’d sand with a little bit of peat/soil mixed in. After the topdressing is applied, we will drag this in same as we did the greens.

The fairways are done much the same, yet on a much bigger scale (26 acres vs. 3.5 acres!) but without the mycorrhizae and topdressing. Two tractor pulled aerators go first, followed by two persons who drag the cores with big, metal drags. On the approaches we use the core harvester so that the soil from the fairways will not get dragged near the green, contaminating the greens’ sand topdressing. We then use three blowers to blow off the residue thatch into the rough. Over the next week, we will use rough mowers to “mulch” up this thatch.

All of this is a lot of work, but there is no other substitute for removing thatch, or for cultivating and improving the soil profile. In the end, aeration is really a course improvement every time it is done!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March 24, 2010

Monday and Tuesday we aerated the greens. Aeration is one of the most difficult, and most labor and equipment intensive practices that we perform. It’s also the most important thing that we do.

This is what we did to improve the greens:

Before we aerated, we did a half inch deep verti- cut with the Graden machines. The verti-cut blades slice into the green and pull out thatch, which is the organic mix of living and dead plant material found at the top of the greens surface. Some thatch is good, as it cushions the growing points of the grass plant from traffic. But too much thatch slows drainage, and makes the greens slow and spongy. Fungi love thatch, so reducing the amount of thatch helps with disease control. The verti-cut blades also severe the bent grass stolons, or runners, prompting them to produce new plant buds. This helps increase the bent grass population.

Following the verti-cut we began the aeration process. The aerators pulled cores from the greens, approximately 3” deep and .5” in diameter. This process removes both thatch and soil, leaving a hole to be filled with sand. I will say more about sand later.

The clean –up crew came next. Two persons operate the “core harvester”. This machine is best thought of as a moving conveyor belt that moves the plugs from the ground to the bed of the vehicle it is attached to. Another team cleans what debris the core harvester leaves behind. The cores are taken to areas where fill is needed – such as along cart paths, low areas that are bare, etc. These cores will later be raked out and seeded with another grass.

Following clean - up, sand topdressing was applied with a tow behind top-dresser. We always do our best to put down enough sand to fill the holes. This is very tricky because the aeration holes are never perfectly uniform, and some areas of the green always need more or less sand. Sometimes it takes two topdressings to get all the holes filled.

I will talk more about sand now. The sand we use is spec’d for its size and shape, so that it firms without much compaction, while still providing pore space for air, water, and roots. It is also heat sterilized to kill fungi and weed seeds and prevent contaminating the green with disease pathogens and unwanted plants, such as clover, poa annua, or crab grass. The sand is a soil improvement, which makes for healthy, firm, and true greens.

After topdressing, we applied “good fungi” to the greens of the genus mycorrhizae. There are books written on the subject of mycorrhizae, but to keep this post simple and short, these fungi work symbiotically with the plant roots to take in nutrients, absorb water, grow bigger and deeper, resist disease, and make the plant stronger. These fungi are best applied in a manner that they can be worked into the soil root zone, and so aeration is the best time to add these.

Next we used a soft cocoa matt to gently drag the sand into the holes. When the weather is dry this is a very simple process, but with constant rain showers and high humidity, the sand was dampened and took a lot of extra work to matt in. Due to the wetness, all the greens will need to be dragged once or maybe twice again.

Over the next few days we will be going back and adding topdressing to the greens where the holes did not fill, re-dragging where needed to even out the topdressing application, and rolling to smooth and firm the greens. This is normal aftercare for aerated greens.

Aeration is really an investment. It promotes rooting, helps drainage, increases air exchange, increases soil microbial populations, adds pore spaces, reduces thatch, helps prevents diseases, and so on. Although none of us, especially me, likes the disruption, it still is the only and best way to renew the greens for yet another golf season.

Friday, March 19, 2010

March 19, 2010

I am beginning to realize that to write about all we do in a day, let alone a week, could take hours for me to write and hours for you to read…so I will do my best to pick and choose what I think is most important to you and try not to go on too long.

Wednesday we mowed the greens for the first time this year! We mowed again Thursday and then again on Friday. We also mowed the approaches and tees for the first time on Thursday. We are not mowing so much now to remove growth as we are to stimulate growth! These first mowings take off the dead leaves and leaf tips, letting sunlight penetrate down to the new leaf buds, which stimulates the plant to begin growing. It isn’t rocket science. It’s as simple as a plant needs sunlight for photosynthesis to produce the energy to grow. We are just helping the light get to the plant.

We also sprayed a growth regulator on the greens Friday morning. I will probably write a lot about growth regulators throughout the season, as we use different types for different purposes; different growth regulators cause different effects on the turfgrass plant, and so using them is a science all its own, and this part of growing grass is rocket science.

The growth regulator combination that we sprayed Friday is for suppressing seed head formation of the poa annua grass that is a major component of our greens. Left unchecked the seed heads grow fast, and above the leaves, causing the greens to get “bumpy”. By suppressing this growth, the amount of seed heads are reduced, and the greens are smoother. Also, if we have less seed heads, then less poa seed drops to the green where it germinates the following fall. Those new poa plants then compete with the bentgrass which is the turf we are trying to favor. And then there are more poa plants with seedheads and on and on…

Although the growth regulators never give 100% control – it’s more like 70% control at best – less control is achieved if the spray is not timed well. Spraying a day early or a day late can be the difference between success and disappointment. To time the spray, we use degree day modeling, look at the plant itself, gather info from other courses, weigh in our historical experience, and use a lot of “gut” feeling. Even if we’ve got all the science right and it rains the day we need to spray, or something else prevents us from spraying that day, we will miss the window of opportunity, and not get good suppression. Timing is everything for everything, and many times that is out of our control.

Over the past years we have had some pretty good success with seed head suppression and in a few more weeks we should know how successful our spray was!

(p.s. Are you beginning to understand why I have grey hair?)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

March 18, 2010

Saturday, March 20th, is the first calendar day of spring!

The seasonal calendar dates are all based upon the position of the sun in relation to the repose of the earth. The first day of spring is the date of the Vernal Equinox – that is when the earth is completely vertical, neither tilted to the north or the south, and the day and night are of equal length. The first day of fall is the date that the Autumnal Equinox occurs – again when the earth becomes vertical.

The first day of summer is the date of the Summer Solstice, when the northern axis of the earth is most tilted towards the sun. The Winter Solstice is the opposite- the northern axis is tilted the furthest from the sun. The 2010 dates and the exact moment of these events are as follows:

Vernal Equinox Mar 20 2010 1:32 PM EDT
Summer Solstice Jun 21 2010 7:28 AM EDT
Autumnal Equinox Sep 22 2010 11:09 PM EDT
Winter Solstice Dec 21 2010 6:38 PM EST

Since forever began, people have celebrated these astronomical events with dance, song, and/ or prayer, all in keeping with our connectedness to the rhythms of the earth, the universe, and the Spirit.

The importance of these celestial events has also been captured in early architecture. Throughout the old and new worlds many structures were built whose architectural attributes line up with the sun on equinoxes and/ or solstices. The Mayan “Temple of the Seven Dolls” at Dzibilchaltun on the Yucatan Peninsula and Stonehenge in England which pre dates 3000 BC are but two examples.

There is folklore and mystery based on these celestial dates too. One of the most common “folk facts” is that an egg can be balanced on its end during either equinox, due to the unilateral pull of gravity between the sun and the earth that is thought to occur at the exact time of the equinox.

All of these examples demonstrate that humans have always valued their relationships with the sun and nature. It is important that we still do. I worry that with computers and the flooding rise of technology, we have drifted from our connectedness with the natural world. We may be forgetting that the earth wobbles, and that this imperfection is what gives us life. It’s a “simple importance”.

Spring is an event of our natural world! Maybe take some time off on the 20th and celebrate the Spring! Or maybe take a few seconds and just try to balance an egg…but please, don’t miss out on the wonder of it all.

Monday, March 15, 2010

March 15, 2010

Wow! Another northeaster! The storm began on Friday and continually intensified, peaking and unleashing angry torrents on Saturday afternoon. Winds reached a steady 30mph and gusted up to 55 mph. The rain came slanted, like a fusillade. The storm quieted with the darkness of Saturday evening, but rain still came and went through Sunday and Monday as the low rotated off the coast. The pattern of powerful, wet weather just continues. It seems relentless.

We received 3.8” of rain since Friday, March 12, when this storm began, along with hail that came with a Sunday morning line of thunderstorms. The rains washed out the drain that we were working on at the driving range, and the winds downed the giant oak that stood to the left of the forward tee on #5, a Jersey pine at the beginning of 12 fairway, and an older Jersey pine that guarded the lower tee on #3. More branches were stripped from trees throughout the course. A sinkhole developed in 10 fairway that is a few feet round and just as deep. We also lost power to the pump house. I could go on.

Needless to say, our staff is concentrating efforts to clean up; including all the damage we still have left to finish from the February blizzards.

Friday, March 12, 2010

March 12, 2001

With the warmer weather, we have ramped up activities on and around the course! It’s like going 0-60mph in 3 seconds! It feels sooooooo good to be out side again - walking around on the grass rather than through the cold, wet snow!

So what have we been up to?

We have been concentrating our efforts on clean-up and a few projects. Cleaning up has included removing storm debris from the playing areas, getting the gardens ready for spring, and cutting up the countless branches that tore from the trees during the February 6 blizzard. It will take us a few more weeks to finish the storm clean up.

I have visited other courses in the area and they too have suffered significant tree damage that is similarly unprecedented.

Projects that we are undertaking at this time are: making repairs to the parking lot at the driving range, running new electric lines to the #15 - #16 tunnel for the sump pump, adding drainage to 10 fairway (pictured above) , and setting up a martin house on # 10.

We are doing quite a lot, and there is still so much more to do! In a little more than a week from now we will be aerating and fertilizing and prepping for the summer!

The year is gearing up fast!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

March 10, 2010

We have had some very strong storms this past winter – northeasters, blizzards, and heavy rains. For sometime now we have had at least one, sometimes two, strong storms every week. For the year March 11, 2009 to March 10, 2010 we are 23.8” of precipitation above the historical yearly average. So far, 2010 has been a continuation of this wet, stormy trend.

Is it climate change? I don’t know…but as it is for most arguments, the same supporting data can be interpreted and presented with opposite views. I don’t think that there will ever be a total consensus, for no mater what happens to the climate, somewhere on this earth there will be a desert and somewhere else a glacier and both will be a pulpit.

What is agreed upon is that a very strong “el Nino” formed in the Pacific late last year, and it has yet to weaken. An El Nino is a term used to describe a rise of ocean temperatures in the tropical pacific. Typically, an El Nino brings rain and strong storms to the west coast, which then pushes into the Gulf States. In the past months, the jet stream has dipped south, picking up this energy and moisture, sweeping it up through the mid- Atlantic where it forms into low pressure systems. The recent results have been drenching rains and blizzards.

NOAA scientists are thinking that the “el Nino” will persist another month or two at least, and it seems that we may be stuck in a rainy, if not stormy, pattern for some time. Scientists also caution that there are many other variables that affect the Mid- Atlantic weather pattern, and that we can not assign every raindrop, wind gust, or snowflake to the el Nino phenomenon that is occurring many thousand miles away. But it does have an effect, and our area continues to feel it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

March 6, 2010

While everyone else has Punxatawney Phil, Greate Bay has Bernie! Bernie came out of his cart shed the other day and DID NOT see his shadow, which means spring is here at Greate Bay, and the course is open!

For a while there, it seemed as if winter was never going to end. I am sure we will get a few faint punches still, but nothing that will hold back the Spring!

Late last week our staff was able to put some time on the course, and we got busy getting it ready for golf. We put out the tee markers, cleaned off the greens, worked on traps, changed the cups, and fixed up the cart paths. We also continued to clean up the winter storm tree damage – this will take up much of our time for the coming weeks!

Meanwhile, I am really glad that Bernie didn’t run back to his cart shed for another six weeks! Its really great to have you and the sun back on the course!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March 3, 2009

And just when I thought it was ok to drink soda, Joel tells me that he and his wife are expecting their third child! I guess that if it's in the water, and now that it's in the soda, I will have to find something entirely different to drink! Does anyone have a suggestion?!!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

March 2, 2010

No matter what I could say about Denise, it would never be enough to describe the impact that she made upon me, or how I feel about her. She left a part of herself in me, as well as in others; a part that I will always hold on to and celebrate …I will never forget her.