Stow Acres Turf

Golf Course Maintenance News & Live Updates from @stowacresturf


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Gettin’ It Done…

The days are starting to get shorter but the work on the course hasn’t let up for the grounds crew at Stow Acres. Tee aeration on both courses was wrapped up today with the back 9 South being verti-seeded. North tees were fertilized yesterday and once the seed coat softens on the South tees those also will be fertilized. With tees done the crew is now moving on to fairways. 5 North has been aerated with solid tines and was then slice seeded. Unlike the coring tines used on the tees we are aerating the fairways with solid tines which allow us to push a deeper aeration hole into the soil to which means that the water and nutrients we feed the fairway can travel deeper into the root system. It also makes for an easier process seeing as how there a no cores to remove like there were on the tees. Next up for aerating we will be punching the 15th fairway on the north and slice seeding it, then we will be doing selective areas on the South Course as well. Aeration is a time consuming and labor intensive process but the benefits in health and appearance for the turf are incredible.

Below, Assistant Superintendent Harris Schnare is shown verti-seeding the South tees…

Here is a video of myself testing the slice seeder so that it is ready to go for fairway aeration…

~Andrew P. Lanigan, Turf Intern~


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Is It Snowing Yet?

All around the country and right here at home, golf course superintendents and grounds crews are dealing with one of the hottest and toughest summers in quite a long time. Courses in all different parts of the country are struggling to keep their turf alive and maintained. Because of the incredibly long period of high temperatures across the country as well as severe drought conditions for us in the northeast and too much rain elsewhere, courses are being put through the ringer as far as how the weather has effected the turf. Superintendents are doing all they can to keep the turf living through these conditions and now as we creep our way into September we’re keeping our fingers crossed that mother nature will finally cut us some slack and that we’ll make it into the fall with minimal damage.

When Will It End?

In other areas of the country such as the Mid-Atlantic courses have experienced a wide range of severe weather conditions. From severe drought, to torrential rains, scorching temperatures, and inconsistent humidity, they’ve seen it all. Turf, especially bentgrass greens are struggling big time. Because there is no good grass to withstand the variation in weather in the Mid-Atlantic region most courses prefer to use bentgrass since it has a tolerance for the cooler temperatures experienced in the winter months. The drawback to this of course is its lack of tolerance for high heat. Bentgrass can survive a few 90+ degree days scattered throughout the summer but this year the region has experienced a prolonged period of high temperatures and as a result the bentgrass greens are fighting an uphill battle in their search for cooler temperatures.

The high heat in the region has been coupled with periods of heavy rain also. While many might think this would be beneficial for the grass it is in fact creating a set of circumstances that all but guarantees big problems. Since root growth has halted for cool season turfgrasses the grass now begins trying to get its water from above instead of below. This means that the best possible way to water greens would be by performing multiple rounds of syringing with hoses, this way you can keep them cooled off without saturating the soil unnecessarily. When there is too much moisture sitting in upper profile of the green it causes the grass to literally cook. The water heats up in the ground and since it isn’t being pulled into the grass from the roots it just sits there and gets hotter and hotter eventually killing the turf. The increased moisture levels and high heat also stress the turf out and make it much more susceptible to a disease outbreak. Weak turf and a wet profile create a playground for pathogens in the soil setting them up to wreak havoc on greens and elsewhere.

Here in the Northeast we have had a set of circumstances more on the other side of the spectrum. Weeks and weeks went by this summer without any real accumulation of rain. As a result the profile of the greens became extremely dry and created a wide array of problems throughout the summer. The lack  of moisture in the profile and extreme heat caused the greens to become hydrophobic, which meant that water was struggling to get past the upper root zone and was causing harm to the grass instead of benefitting it. When parts of the green became overly hydrophobic it would create localized dry spots on the greens where not only is the surface of the turf hydrophobic and water-repellent but the organic matter in the soil is hydrophobic as well makin it especially difficult to irrigate.

Throughout the country courses are experiencing the effects of mother nature’s wrath. Many superintendents have had to change their plans as far as maintaining turf goes. Whether it be spiking greens and setting up fans to allow for improved air circulation or an increase in fungicide protection and a drastic increase in wetting agent applications, calendars are still being re-written to best adapt to the current conditions. Even when we thought the weather was letting up, we got a wonderful little wake up call in the form of 4 or 5 straight days of 90 degree temperatures reminding us that were not out of the woods yet. So instead of getting in our last days at the beach or planning our labor day BBQ we are instead sitting on the edge of our seats, doing all we can to keep grass alive and keeping our fingers crossed that cooler temperatures get here soon and stay for good.

~Andrew P. Lanigan-Turf Intern~


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How To Handle The Heat…

After 3 months of hard work and an enormous effort from the crew to get the North Course into tournament condition we now find ourselves with two major tasks to take care of for the rest of the summer. Keep everything alive and keep it cut. With all of the major projects having been completed we are now faced with the equally difficult job of battling the heat out on the course. At the beginning of the year along with cooler temperatures the crews focus would be on bigger projects, such as course construction like the project on 4 North. Also we added many thousands of square feet of sod to the courses. 

However, now that the temperatures are peaking our focus must shift. Now that we have been exposed to prolonged stretches of high temperatures the soil temperature are starting to stay at temperatures high enough to restrict root growth. This happens when average soil temperatures remain above 77 degrees farenheit. When this happens the roots of the turf no longer dive deep into the soil to find moisture like they previously did. Instead, the root system shortens itself and looks upward for moisture. To account for this, much more attention is necessary to ensure that the turf doesn’t burn up. We have had some serious drought conditions so far this year and while the recent rains have been helpful it still isn’t enough to erase the long-term moisture deficit that the turf has been in all summer long. The only way to ensure healthy turf is by putting in long days monitoring moisture levels and keeping the grass alive. 

Root Growth Throughout The Year

 

Although heat plays a significant role in turf health, it also takes a large toll on the crew. Earlier in the year we may have been able to get away with pushing the crew for 10-12 hours days doing big projects but now with it getting hotter earlier in the day and temperatures routinely topping out in the 90’s such is not the case. The focus of the crew has switched from focusing on projects to focusing on maintaining both courses. Keeping the courses mowed, the bunkers raked, and everything in between trimmed and clean has replaced sod jobs, construction projects, and group cleanup jobs. having this focus ensures that both courses have a clean, aesthetic look and also that the crew isn’t getting worn out in the summer heat.  

Keep The Water Flowing

 

While in the past months the crew was busy preparing for the 3-day Junior PGA event we have now shifted our focus accordingly for the rest of the summer. Before we had a long list of smaller jobs that needed to get done but now we have one major task to focus on for the rest of the summer. Keep it alive, and keep it looking good.  

~Andrew P. Lanigan, Turf Intern~


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How To Water When It’s Hotter…

With temperatures climbing up to the summer norm I’m sure those of you out on the course have seen myself or one of the other interns out on the course in the afternoon dragging a hose out onto the green and asked yourself, “what is this kid doing?” I get a lot of golfers coming up to me asking “Hey, why don’t you guys just use the sprinklers, isn’t that what they’re there for?” Yes and No. While we do use the overhead irrigation during the hottest hours of the day, we tend to reserve such use for fairways and tee boxes. This is because the greens are held to a much stricter regimen for irrigation, mainly in part so that they are at the highest quality for you, the golfer. It is our goal to make sure that the greens are in the best possible shape in terms of playability and the biggest factor in making that happen is that the greens need to have a consistent and uniform profile. This means that when you are putting on a green, you are experiencing the same green speed and roll quality throughout the entire green and that every green on the course follows the same template. By accomplishing this it gives the golfer the ability to “dial-in” to a certain green speed and leave them confident that all of the greens on the course a playing at the same speed.

Since Stow Acres was constructed over 50 years ago and was also integrated into the natural landscape, this leaves the grounds crew with the added challenge of adapting to the varying profiles of certain greens. Most of the greens at Stow Acres have differing soil profiles. While some greens may have a sandy and more porous soil content others may have a silty profile and some may be composed of a more clay based soil then other greens. This means that each green has its own specific moisture profile that must be adapted to. For this reason, we use the practice of syringing and hand-watering. Syringing is the practice by which water is applied to correct plant water deficits, reduce plant tissue temperatures and remove substances from the leaves. Since the water is being applied principally to the turfgrass plant itself and not to restore soil moisture, we only require small amounts water, hence why we do so with a hose and not with overhead irrigation. Applying the practice of syringing at the first signs of heat stress on the greens, typically right at midday, we can insure proper plant health throughout the day. Now since some greens have different moisture profiles as I mentioned before, some greens may be able to survive with just one syringing whereas other may require two or three syringings throughout the course of the day. Being out on the course with the hose on hand and keeping a close eye on the greens helps assure us that we are staying on top of the situation and that we are not going to have any turf damage.

As I had mentioned previously about the different moisture profile from green to green, there is also a variance in the soil throughout the profile of the greens themselves. Due to the varying composition of the soil and the design of the green itself, as well as the surrounding landscape ( i.e., shade), certain parts of the green will require more water than others. These spots are commonly referred to as “hot spots” and will be the first spots on a green to show signs of stress. While some parts of the green require minimal water throughout the day, these “hot spots” will require much more water in order to survive throughout the day. This is where heavier hand-watering comes into play. By hose watering we can judge exactly how much water is necessary to sustain plant life and then apply the specific amounts to where the water is needed. This way the green as a whole remains consistent in terms of moisture which in turn means that the green will be consistent in terms of speed.

Another reason why we use minimal amounts of water on the greens is because when an area of turfgrass is mowed so often and at low heights it becomes more susceptible to all form of stress, including disease pressure. Fungal spores require surface moisture to germinate and breed infection in turf. Therefore by using proper irrigation practices and keeping moisture levels low, especially during the summer when nighttime temperature remain high and promote fungal growth, we can insure that we are not giving disease an environment to live in.

Practicing proper irrigation is an imperative step in maintaining a healthy and playable golf course, especially on greens where stress is at its highest. Hard work, good judgement, a keen eye for wilt, and attention to detail are the tools necessary to insure that the greens are at their highest quality. So when you see us out on the course dragging a long hose around and drenching ourselves with water you’ll now know that we’re racing around in order to keep the greens alive, and believe me, one misstep or oversight on a 100 degree day and a green can incur some pretty serious damage that is difficult to recover from. But at the end of those long summer days there is a sense of accomplishment knowing that you personally had a hand in the survival of those greens and while it may be easier to just dump hundred of gallons of water onto the greens via overhead irrigation, we put in the extra work and pay the closest attention to detail so that our fellow golfers are given greens to play on that would rival PGA Tour greens any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

~Andrew P. Lanigan-Turf Intern~


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Send in the Reinforcements…

In addition to not only being an industry that is dictated by the seasons, the golf course industry is one that is highly influenced by a much younger work force than you would see in most other industries. Aside from the core management staff, there is only a handful of workers that work in the earlier part of the season mainly from early March to mid May. The same can be said for later on the season, particularly after September and into the end of the season. While the youthful work force is good in a sense that it helps develop knowledgeable and dedicated workers later on in life for those that decide to remain in the industry, it is also somewhat of a handcuff on what the staff can accomplish when it’s working with small numbers.

Every spring is a bit of a struggle to get the course in shape for the busy summer months. However now that college semester is wrapping up and soon high schools will be closing up shop for summer break, we find ourselves with a quick and very welcome increase in staff members. The early spring staff has gotten the big things out of the way such as spring aeration, course cleanup/setup, and developing a mowing schedule. With these things out of the way and a beefed up staff at our disposal we can now focus on the smaller things so that we may bring you, the golfer, the best possible golf atmosphere available. Tasks that we may have struggling to get done with a smaller crew will now will done on a regular basis.

You can expect all areas of the course to be mowed often as part of our full-time summer mowing schedule. Detail work such as weed-whacking, course cleanup, and bunker maintenance is also now on a much more routine schedule. We will also be partaking in a few course improvement projects. Bunkers are having sand added at an aggressive pace now and our senior horticulturist, John Gibson will be adding mulch to needed areas as well as exercising his green thumb in an effort to perk up both courses with some plants and flowers. The renovation on 4 North is now fully complete and the previously bare areas next to the 6th green and behind the 7th green have been hydroseeded. The staff is working hard and projects are being completed in rapid succession. We are striving to bring golfers the best possible conditions for what will hopefully be a beautiful sunny summer. We look forward to seeing you out there.

~Andrew P. Lanigan, Turf Intern~


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4 North…

As some of you may have already noticed, a significant renovation has been undertaken on the fourth hole of the north course. As a result of the incredible amounts of rain we received this spring, the pond on 4 North had risen far beyond what could be considered a “comfortable” level. Because of this, the turf, mainly the approach and greens surrounds, had suffered some damage from being under water for so long.

To solve this problem we decided to take an aggressive approach to the situation. We have made an extensive drain line for the pond using 10 inch PVC drain pipe that ranges all the way from under the 3rd hole tee complex to the far side of 15 north. This will insure that the pond never reaches such an intolerable height again. We have also began to restructure and resurface the 4th approach, greens surrounds and bunker surrounds. The grounds crew renovated the two right side bunkers and also created a new shallow bunker which will be in front of the green on the left side. Drainage lines will be installed in the bunkers and liners will be put in to make sure that the bunkers are in top condition for a very long time. Later on this week we will be sodding the entire newly renovated area.

During work hours a temporary green will be in effect to allow for quick and efficient work to be done on the area and after work hours the green will be re-opened with a free drop available should you hit into any unplayable areas. We will keep you up to date with all progress this week regarding this project and will soon be putting up pictures detailing the process from start to finish. We thank you for your cooperation while we work hard to bring you a beautiful new greens complex.

~Andrew P. Lanigan, Turf Intern~


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Weeds-B-Gone…

Mayday. Mayday. Come in tower. We need your lawn care advice.

April is over and hopefully all of the rainy weather and cold mornings are gone with it. The soil temperatures are rising and as a result our home lawns are growing at a steady normal rate now. The lawnmowers are tuned-up, spring cleanups are done and out of the way and now it’s time to sit back and admire our beautifully manicured lawns.

Juusssst Kidding. While many of us would like to simply go from spring cleanup to beautiful lawn, such is not the case. As long as the grass is growing, so are the weeds. Those pesky little nuisances popping up from our lawns and laughing at us like there’s nothing we can do. Well jokes on them because through correct identification, application and control, your lawns will be back to beautiful in no time.

The most effective way to ensure your lawn is weed free is to apply a preemerging herbicide to your lawn. These are most effective against annual weeds such as crabgrass which germinate in the spring and mature in the fall. When applying a preemerging herbicide you must be sure to put down an application prior to seed germination. In the New England region this would typically be in early April seeing as crabgrass only needs a three-day window where nighttime soil temperatures are over 50 degrees. However when considering this you must realize that the earlier the application is put the earlier it will wear off so timing is critical.If you are already past this point and the weeds have already invaded your lawn then other steps must be taken. The first step in successfully ridding your lawn and property of weeds is to be able to correctly identify the weed(s) in question. By knowing this you will then have the knowledge to apply the proper herbicide necessary to eradicate the problem. If you are having trouble identifying the weed you may refer to a detailed weed identification chart at http://weedid.aces.uiuc.edu/.

Once you have identified the weed you may then decide the proper way or removing it. Since most weeds can regrow from any remnant left in the soil and getting down on your hands and knees to pull them out one by one can be time-consuming as well as tiring it is most prudent to rid your lawn of weeds through proper and controlled application of herbicides. Herbicides are often classified in two ways, selective and nonselective. A selective herbicide is effective in killing broadleaf weeds without causing damage to grass. However, a selective herbicide can severely damage trees, shrubs, and flowers so when applying such herbicides all precautions should be taken. An example of a  common selective herbicide would be 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid or 2,4-D. 2,4-D is used in over 1,500 herbicide products such as “Weed-B-Gon MAX” and “Trillion.” In cases where you need to eradicate weeds and turf damage isn’t a concern such as on your driveway or other areas where grass isn’t growing a nonselective herbicide may be used. Nonselective herbicides kill all plants regardless of whether you want to kill them or not so be sure to know exactly what you are targeting and to be extremely careful when in close proximity to turf. An example of a commonly used nonselective herbicide would be Glyphosate which can be found in popular weed killers such as “Round Up.”

Once you have rid your lawn of those pesky weeds you must then be sure to practice proper lawn maintenance procedures. Through the correct practices you can ensure an environment in which a luscious weed-free lawn can thrive. Aside from getting rid of the weeds your lawn may already have make sure to stick to these three simple rules. Mow high, feed your lawn and make sure you water properly. Keeping a high mowing height for your home lawn will ensure deep and healthy roots. The better the root system your lawn has the better your overall grass quality will be. A thick and healthy lawn will help keep weeds from getting their foot in the door. This also plays into the second rule which is to feed your lawn. your lawn is a living organism, and it needs nutrients. By spreading the proper fertilizers to your lawn you are not only helping the growth and overall health of the grass but now that many home lawn care fertilizers contain preemerging herbicides you are doubling up on your effectiveness at keeping a weed free lawn. Lastly, you must be sure to water your lawn properly. Too little water stresses the grass and leaves a weak lawn where weeds can thrive. Too much watering while seeming like a good thing for the grass actually creates an environment susceptible to weeds and disease. A deep watering once or twice a week should be good for your lawn.

By staying knowledgeable and keeping a close eye on your home lawn you should be boasting best yard in the neighborhood in no time. Knowing how to identify certain weeds and what herbicides to use is step one. Step two if following the proper lawn care practices. Stick to this simple plan of attack and you be looking at a beautiful green lawn for the upcoming summer.

~Andrew P. Lanigan- Turf Intern~