Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Summer of 2011 : Seeding Fairways

Meteorological summer is over and it has definitely cooled off in the Chicago area -- just barely dipped under 50 last night in many areas.  The last month has been a busy one at many golf courses in the area struggling to recover from late July's rain and heat.  Luckily, August was not extreme: 1.1 degrees F over normal and about average rainfall.  This meant that it was possible to get seed to grow in fairway areas.

In the last 5 weeks, we experimented with several methods of seeding and aerification in the fairways.  We used a slicing knives several times in an attempt to break through the thatch into soil.  This worked in some spots.  We also used an Aera-vator with a seeder to spike seed and cultivate areas.  Other areas we used a Ryan Mataway slit seeder.  All three methods worked to one extent or another.  The trick is to get seed-to-soil contact without making the situation worse or delaying recovery. 

Seed growing in aeravator holes
Some of the plants you see are not new seed.  Most of these areas in our fairways are composed of annual bluegrass, or Poa annua, an annual grass with lots of seed in the ground.  It is very aggressive in spring and fall, but often dies in summer.  In some of these areas, our new seed may have gotten started early enough to establish before the annual fall resurgance of Poa annua.  In others, Poa will likely take back over. 

You can identify Poa annua by its bunch-type growth, yellow-green color, and "boat-shaped" tip:

Annual blugrass boat shaped tip
Annual bluegrass is not exactly what we want to see because it is the species that died in the first place, but it is turf and you can play golf on it!  There isn't any way to stop it without stopping our new seed also, so superintendents have to constantly manage it. 

About three weeks ago, we slit-seeded the first fairway and it is starting to fill in:
First Fairway slit seeding

It is easier to see the fuzzy new grass with dew on it
Finally, an area on 7 fairway that suffered from water damage needed more aggressive tactics.  Using an Aeravator, rake, and roller, we essentially cultivated and seeded the area around this drain:

 The seed germinated very quickly and is doing well.  If you click on the image, you can see them more easily:

Seedlings on 7 Fairway
Many other areas have already recovered from early August and the rest are filling in quickly.  September has really been a nice month!

6th Hole

1st Green

Update September 22, 2011:  Seedlings are really filling in on our fairways.  The renovated area on the 7th fairway now looks like this:
7 fairway
Overall, we have had a lot of success this year replacing pesky Poa annua with bentgrass and bluegrass.  Hopefully these seedlings will toughen up before winter and make great turf next year!

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