Sunday, March 26, 2017

Honk Honk!

This time of year, when we hear honk honk, it's often not from a truck, but from some unwelcome guests:  Canada Geese.  Fortunately, there are only a few resident geese on the golf course, and we take pride in having been able to keep their numbers so low.

Remaining vigilant has been critical to the success in this endeavor, as two geese may quickly turn into eight geese next year, and dozens of geese the following year.  While best known to golfers for the mess they make on a course, they also munch on fine turf, and contribute to nutrient loading in the ponds.

However, despite our best efforts at discouraging them, year in and year out, one pair picks a great place to nest--on the island between #5 and 6.  Great that is, if you're a goose, but definitely not so great for us.
Don and Don survived their trip to Tyrell Island in the SS Minnow.

As our feathered friends prepared to nest this past week, we installed some wire around the island, to limit their ease of entry and exit to and from the water.

While trying to outsmart a goose doesn't sound like it should be too difficult, they do seem to adapt, and become less afraid of everything we throw at them.  With 16 ponds and close to 40 acres of wetlands on the property, goose management will undoubtedly remain an on-going challenge.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

What month is this?

While we were enjoying temperatures in the 70's during late February, our Golf Professional, John DiMarco, accurately predicted that we were going to get a good storm in March.  Yes, conditions are quite different this month than they were last, when we had the warmest February on record.  The dramatic change has a lot of people asking how the radical ups and downs in temperature will impact the course going forward.
Carts?  Maybe one equipped with tracks, or skis.

Currently, we don't have any cause for alarm.  As many know, ice is not good for turf.  Fortunately, we are in March, not January, so the nasty ice from last week's storm won't be around for long.

Another question is, could there be any benefit to the blast of cold air after a warm period?  That is, will this help take out some of the undesirables, such as weevils?  Unfortunately, it seems unlikely, as we had only started to see adult weevil movement in the warm weather, and insects tend to have some great survival mechanisms that let them ride out wacky weather patterns.

Likely, the greatest challenge this weather roller coaster will present is in how it impacts the timing of our applications for Poa seedhead, Crabgrass, and yes, Annual Bluegrass Weevil control.  Some of the phenological indicators that we typically rely on, such as Forsythia, may not work this year, due to injury they've sustained from the cold.  The use of Growing Degree Days will definitely be key in successful timing this year.

As is often the case, we may look back at 2017 and label it another "average" year.  However, the peaks and valleys that lead to these years certainly feel as if they are becoming more extreme.  Right now, we're just hoping that John DiMarco doesn't forecast a brutally hot and dry summer!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Growing Degree Days--An Important Tool

When it comes to the weather, clearly no two years are alike; and with weather anomalies becoming quite common, correctly timing activities on the golf course is more challenging now than ever.  So how do we deal with a rollercoaster of temperatures--a record warm February, and now snow on the ground in March.  In many cases, one of the best ways we can know where we stand with the weather over an extended period, is by tracking growing degree days (GDD).

What are GDD?  In simple terms,  GDD is a measure of heat accumulation.  GDD can be used to track weed and insect activity, as well as more pleasant things such as when flowers will be blooming.

Whether it's a pre-emergent herbicide for Crabgrass, or a product for weevil control, these applications can't be timed for optimum efficacy if simply based on a fixed, predetermined date.  More often than not, doing so will mean you made the application either too early or too late, and the results will reflect this.

This time of year, one of the most important green spray applications is for the prevention of Poa seedhead development on the putting surfaces.
Limiting Poa seed development is critical in maintaining a smooth putting surface.

In the case of spraying to prevent Poa seedhead development, we start tracking GDD in January, and use 32 degrees as a base.  Each day, the high and low temperatures are averaged and 32 is subtracted from this.  (Negative results are not included, based on the assumption that a plant's development basically remains static on those days.)

As you can see below, due to the record warmth this year, we accumulated over 500 GDD through February.  How does this compare to other years?
2017 Growing Degree Days

Well, through February, 2015, we had only accumulated 68 GDD.  In other words, we are way ahead of 2015, and spraying on the same date these two years would yield entirely different results.  The initial spray for Poa seed prevention went out this year during the last week of February, whereas it was not made until the first week of April in 2015.
2015 Growing Degree Days

So, how have we done in the past with our seedhead control when using GDD?  The untreated check plot in this photo had significantly more seeds develop than the rest of the green.  While we'll never achieve 100% control, our goal is to avoid having the greens feel like you're putting on cauliflower in the spring.
Untreated check plot.

Preventing Poa seedhead development is not a one and done treatment for us.  We are continuing to monitor GDD to know the best time to make our next application.  Traditionally, the interval between sprays is about three weeks.  However, just as the super warm February temperatures had us going out earlier than ever with the first spray, March is now roaring like a lion, and thanks to our current cold spell, the next application will likely be delayed due to a lack of GDD accumulation.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Back on the Beach

We are often asked what we do during the winter.  An appropriate response this year might be, "What winter?"

Throughout much of January and February, tasks that we typically think of as in-season course maintenance (like mowing greens) have taken up quite a bit of the crew's time.

However, this has been offset to some extent by not having any snow removal to deal with, and we've managed to address a number of important projects.  This week the practice bunkers at the driving range got a makeover.

 The old sand was removed, the drain lines inspected and cleaned, and new sand was installed.  While not a huge undertaking, this was definitely needed.

And for the record, nobody is complaining about the lack of snow!