Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Thawing and Freezing

Since the snow has mostly melted, we have been assessing the health of our turf coming out of winter.  Last year, I wrote about the factors that influence turf health coming out of winter in Good or Bad Winter for Turf and A Long, Difficult Winter for Turf.  As it turned out, we had to do a lot seeding and sodding last April to repair ice damage in the fairways.  After a tough summer in 2010, it would be nice to have favorable conditions for turf growth this spring.

Like most golf courses, we have a few areas that tend to weaken or die over the winter.  About every other year, the 7th fairway exhibits significant ice damage.  My theory is that this ice damage is caused by crown hydration of mostly Poa annua during freeze/thaw cycles.  During our last thaw after the first of the year, the grass plants appeared healthy.  While it is difficult to assess health during the winter, ice damaged plants often take on a mushy, soupy texture due to their ruptured cell walls.  This month's freezing and thawing are starting to concern golf course superintendents, but I am still hoping we will have less damage than last year when the ice didn't melt until the middle of March.

On February 28th, the fairways were covered in ice after a heavy rain.  Luckily most of the ice has melted and drained overnight.

Here are two spots we are watching closely:

Draining areas on 7 fairway

Melting ice on 6 fairway
In 2010, we tried to improve the drainage in these areas and re-seeded them with creeping bentgrass.  Because bentgrass has a greater tolerance for ice cover and cold temperatures than Poa annua, we are hoping to see less ice damage this year in the places where the bentgrass took.  More improvements will need to be made to drain these areas more quickly, but planting a hardier species should help these areas survive the winter in the meantime.

Besides these areas, the turf is looking good after a snowy February.  Our newly planted tees are looking healthy and the greens are free of snow mold.

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