It has definitely been an interesting week in regards to the weather. I know March can be warm, but it seems like April is next week. With the expected rain this weekend, there are pros and cons that can come out of this expected rain event. Most importantly it should melt the remaining snow on the course, but at what cost.
Our golf course greens are mainly comprised of bent grass varieties and annual bluegrass, also known as Poa Annua. These are cool season grass varieties, but they certianly have their cold weather tolerance thresh hold. Snow and ice cover can only be tolerated for so long, up to 60 days maximum, before anaerobic conditions have the potential to begin. Physiologically, Poa Annua is more susceptible to winter injury and as a turf manager, it is always on my mind throughout the winter. Fortunately, researchers have released great technology and tools in the last 10 years to help us protect our turf. The wonderful “green” color that you see on the greens is actually an anti-dessicant spray that we apply in late November. It acts as a thick, waxy cuticle to help protect our plants from winter injury. It does wear off over time, but usually stays until the first cut of the season. Now back to this weekend.
If we do receive up to 2″ of rain, flooding is bound to occur not only in ponds, but also on solid ground. The frost layer is still present in our shady areas and the water has nowhere to escape. Some grass plants have started to wake up and make their own food, but mother nature could be sending them a blow. If the plant cells take up too much water early on and night time temperatures drop below freezing again, a very dangerous event of thaw/freeze occurs. Plants that are not in proper dormancy will most likely undergo this event and the potential of cells bursting inside the leaf blade could happen. This would most definitely severely injur or kill the plant. We could only hope at this point that the plant has started to produce some baby plants that can hang on to maturity.
The most important procedure in the event of excess moisture is to remove as much of the excess moisture as you can. Not allowing water to pool and remain on grass surfaces, making adequate drainage channels before hand, and even cover sections with impermeable covers before the rain event are all valid procedures.
We will definitely be on high alert this weekend. Here is to a light, misty rain and warm night time temperatures in the days to follow. See you on the course!
-Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent