Year-End and planning for next year

Another year has ended. Father Time and Mother Nature are similar in that they press on and can be looked at as both cruel and kind. Perspective is a wonderful thing. If you grow things for a living much needed rain is a welcomed blessing. If you are a bride on your wedding day maybe not so much. As a child we are always rushing time, we cannot wait to be older for one thing or another. As we get older we may curse the latest ache or how fast a vacation went and groan about the passage of time.

This time of year brings a fair amount of reconciliation and report filing: Water use, Pesticide use, Fuel use, Rainfall etc. Part of the job is to scrutinize plans with how they worked and formulate new ones with the goals of a better year in mind. No plan is perfect and when you deal with Mother Nature the variables are infinite. Father Time is more predictable as we know the sun will come up and go down. For us in the Northeast the seasons will change and the weather along with it. When it comes to rain totals perspective is everything. The numbers do not always tell the story. I have explained here in the past how we seem to get the same amount of rain every year yet the summer can have very dry stretches. Timing is everything. If it does not rain in the off-season the amount of irrigation we use does not change but the same drought during the summer is very different. Sometimes the type of rain makes all the difference. A 3" thunderstorm for instance may take the edge off a dry spell and increase the total but it does not last very long since most of it did not penetrate more than 1/2" of the soil. That was the case here last summer. Our drought was not as severe as off-island because we received a few storms they did not.

Personal rain totals 2016
One plan Brian Murphy and I came up with last off-season was put into action last year and it worked beyond our wildest expectations. In retrospect it seems so simple I wonder what took so long to think of it. Over the last two decades we have added a lot of sprinklers to improve the coverage. It was evident this summer where we do not have coverage or where we had failures. It turned brown in a hurry and stayed that way for most of the summer.

There are only a couple of greens that have perimeter coverage or heads that water just the rough. Irrigation technology has changed tremendously over the years. I worked at a course that had a single manual connection in the center of the green called "center cup". You would put in this massive cannon of a sprinkler and it would cover the entire green and some surrounds, a massive area. We then progressed to 4 smaller automatic heads in the corners. The problem with these systems is the majority of coverage is on the green and the surrounds suffer. To solve this you add more heads that are part circle going out only and maybe even have the green heads go in only. This is referred to as "in and outs". We have done this on a few spots but mostly have 4 sprinklers in the corners. Our plan was to change the drive or guts of the sprinklers to fully adjustable 0-360 degrees. We have gone to a deep watering cycle on greens and usually only water them once every 5-7 days. This has been awesome for the greens and helping to convert them to Bentgrass from Poa Annua. Problem is the surrounds were not getting enough water. We adjusted a few of the heads to water only the rough and watered them every day then switched them back to full circle for greens. It was labor intensive, confusing, ripe for missing one and other potential issues but it worked so well in a drought year we kept expanding it to more and more heads. The pictures below show how brown the surrounds on the right of one green would get and then how well the first phase worked in the front right surround. Pictures are looking toward the tee.
before in 2015

One head in program being used

Poa is off color and being taken over by bentgrass
Deep watering = deep roots = healthy turf

The goals for 2017 are the same. Have the best possible conditions we are able to with the tools, budget and manpower we have available to us. I would also like to continue my efforts to use less inputs whether that is fertilizer, chemicals, fuel or water. Total perfection is never part of the equation. Mink Meadows was designed in a time where rough and tumble were the norm. Completely manicured and lush green were the opposite of desirable.  We have morphed into a combination of the two and will continue to find our most sustainable niche. I want to thank-you all once again for living with a few imperfections as we strive to be as friendly to the environment as we can. The two go hand in hand.

Happy New Year!!

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