This has been one interesting season. By all accounts it is normal to slightly above in rainfall amounts. It certainly seems hotter at times but I have yet to look over those numbers. I know 90 degrees at 10 am last week was sure hot. Luckily for us it has been windy which makes the heat and humidity bearable. Many places are much hotter so we should all be thankful we are here and not there.
The high humidity for long stretches is not the best for cool season turf growth. Warm season grasses such as crabgrass are having a ball and thriving. The humidity is also good for several fungi that like to disrupt all the good efforts we have put into the course. When our turf comes under severe heat stress it inevitably slides backwards, mostly due to disease since we do not treat most of the course. Some is insect damage as again we do not treat wall to wall but instead target specific areas like greens and tees. Still some of the stress is self induced such as the havoc wreaked by the salt water intrusion we have in our well. This salt build up in the soil messes up everything: nutrient mobility and availability, water uptake and availability, water movement through the soil and if it builds up enough it will also change the physical structure of the soil. This is where the soil no longer has structure. It becomes slimy, soft and holds water at the surface. This will increase the damage done to turf by any physical strain whether mowing equipment or even golf carts. Hard stops and starts will skid and peel up turf like it was just laid down. To combat this we will water with potable water hoping to flush the salts lower in the soil profile. This can get expensive paying for water. We will also apply gypsum to flush the salts. Again expensive and also time consuming. I am hoping to stave off the application of gypsum until our new 300 gallon sprayer arrives. This will cut my application time in half as our current sprayer is 160 gallons and it takes 7 loads to cover all the fairways. That's a lot of mixing and driving back and forth which equals time. I am hoping to be able to cover the fairways in 4 to 4.5 tanks and greatly reduce the time it takes. With all the above issues you might ask what can be done to solve the saltwater intrusion? One answer would be to drill a new well and try to stay higher in the fresh water profile. No guarantees and we do not know what our yield will be and whether it will be sufficient. Another might be to build a large retention pond that could be partially filled with rain water and possibly run off from the roads and course. With the current state of the economy and lower interest in golf nationally larger projects such as these stay on the back burner. So we chip away at the problem on a curative side and hope for favorable weather. It is not a new phenomenon but one we have managed for close to a decade. Another approach would be to use less water. This is a very deep issue and not as simple as it sounds. As I have stated on this blog and possibly in club newsletters in the past Americans like green grass. Thank the deluge of commercials and print ads which show lush green grass for every marketing pitch you can think of: lawn furniture, real estate, cars, mowers it's endless. The only time you see bad turf is when they are touting a product to improve it and inevitably there will be the green one shown to compare. Much like the organic food movement there is a movement to reduce chemical use on turf. I am all for it. Huge estates on MV that see limited use certainly can have a few weeds in my opinion. The idea of total perfection needs to go away. Seems a bit contradictory when you see us out there spraying for crabgrass or something but we are using smaller sprayers and targeting specific weeds. I could spray the entire place wall to wall but that would use a lot more product unnecessarily. Look hard enough and you will see plenty of weeds. Trust me. I have had to re-train myself to live with the less chemical use approach and if I can do it a a professional turf manager so can you!