Monday, November 19, 2012

Cowan Creek Winter Cultural Practices

Cowan Creek Winter Cultural Practices
Prepared by Craig Loving, Cowan Creek Superintendent
This year we have altered our agronomic plan for the winter months to provide optimal turf health without affecting playability.  The ultimate goal during the harsh months of the winter and early spring is to provide air movement and water infiltration to the roots to prevent sealing off at the surface.  There are still subsurface drainage issues that need to be attacked over time due to improper drainage construction, but hopefully we can prevent most of the issues that arise using a different technique, while still maintaining a consistent ball roll.
Last year’s cultural practices to prevent and recover from weak areas on the greens were absolutely needed, but due to abnormal temperatures and being more aggressive than needed, we had extreme difficulty recovering turf using these practices.  This year we plan on aerifying greens using a 1/8” pencil tine on an as needed basis.  This process is much less aggressive than the Planet Air or even a star-tine, but will still be very effective in accomplishing our goals.  Both the Planet Air and the star-tine are great ways for opening up air pockets below the surface, but generally require topdressing afterwards to fill in the voids.  This practice works extremely well when the grass is actively growing, but in the colder months may take weeks to recover, if at all.

(star-tine holes after 1 week, no topdressing)
We ran a trial on the lower chipping green using both the star-tine and the 1/8” pencil tine.  The holes marked with the red circles are examples of what the star-tine leaves behind.  As we stated earlier, with a light topdressing and ideal growing conditions, this is a great practice to maintain because the recovery is quick and there is very little impact on playability.  However, when the growth slows down, these areas recover much more slowly.   


 The green boxes display the holes left by an 1/8” needle tine.  These tines are much less destructive to the turf, but still very effective.  We ran a Salsco tournament roller after we aerified with the 1/8” pencil tine, and the results had virtually no impact to the ball roll.

This photo was taken to compare the size of the two tines relative to the soil profile.  The target depth for aerification (marked by the blue line) is just below the root zone.  The darker area in the picture can sometimes build up excessive thatch, organic matter and anaerobic materials that will impede air and water movement through the soil profile.  The goal is to poke through this area to prevent sealing off on the surface.  As you can see from this photo, the pencil tine is much thinner than the star-tine.

Here are two more photos showing the comparative difference between the two tines.  In the 2nd photo, the red circle represents the size of the hole the star-tine leaves.  The green box represents what an 1/8” pencil tine leaves.  Theoretically, the larger hole promotes more air and water movement.  However, if we use smaller holes and increase the frequency of our aerifications we can attain the same goal without affecting playability whatsoever. 
We plan on beginning this practice very soon, in addition to very light topdressings throughout the winter (to decrease thatch buildup), with hopes that next year’s spring transition from dormant to actively growing turf runs much more seamlessly.