Saturday, March 17, 2012

Rabbit Season, Green Acres, Old Dogs and Robert Duvall!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Saturday, March 17, 2012 and a beautiful day in Charlotte, NC!  It may be St. Patrick's Day to most but today is also the start of rabbit, duck, rabbit, duck season...I mean tournament season!  At approximately 8:30 am this morning Patrick Leatherwood struck the opening tee shot of the Carolina Cup and the 2012 tournament season at Carolina Golf Club was underway.  Although the Carolina Cup may not be thought of as a "major" when compared to our slate of other member events it is still a great, fun way to kick off the year... and it warrants the same tournament treatment...painted cups! 

Good luck to all the participants the next couple of days!  The course is really greening up rapidly (hee hee) and with greens aeration scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, you definitely have the best putting surfaces in town to compete on.

Did I just say greens aeration?  I did, but more on that later!  This week we began bushogging and mowing all our natural areas in preparation for the 2012 growing season.  I felt a little like Eddie Albert as the tractor and bushog made its way around the course mowing the broomsedge areas.  We will finish the mowing next week and that will be the only scheduled mowing for this year.  Over the next couple of months the fine fescue will thicken and then produce its signature seed stalk as warmer weather approaches.  Also, don't forget we seeded many pounds of warm-season native grasses last fall and they will germinate in late spring/early summer and begin to contribute to the overall look and feel of CGC as well.  I will post more about the natural areas as the season progresses so be sure and check "The Greenkeeper" for updates!

Earlier I mentioned something about the course greening up thought this was where I was going to discuss greens aeration, not yet!  Thanks to my good friend John Szklinski (Golf Course Superintendent, Charlotte Country Club) this old dog learned a new trick this week (okay, so maybe I'm not that old...but you know what I mean).  John and his staff have been using ferrous sulfate to assist the process of bermudagrass breaking dormancy for some time now and I have been talking with him about it for a couple of years.  I decided last week I was going to give it a try and I am very pleased with the results thus far.  The application of ferrous sulfate darkens the turf canopy as shown here in this picture of the eighth fairway shortly after treatment.

The darker surface captures more of the sun's radiant energy and thus the soil surface warms more rapidly.  It's essentially the same phenomenon one experiences on their back when wearing a navy blue or black shirt on a sunny day.  As the darkened turf canopy heats up the hibernating bermudagrass underneath is jostled awake a little sooner than normal.  The whole process is really just an enhanced, acceleration to the natural order of things.

This is a small "check" plot we created at the beginning of the eighteenth fairway with a small piece of plywood (2'x4').  We began treatments to the tees, fairways and green surrounds Tuesday afternoon.  We worked late into that evening and finished just shortly after lunch the following day.  Today is Saturday and we are going to need to mow sometime real soon!  Anyway, I hope everyone is enjoying the sight of green tees and fairways and excited about golf at Carolina in 2012!

Now we've come to the part you've been waiting for.  This coming Monday morning you will be able to hear me exclaim in my best Lt. Colonel Kilgore's voice, "I love the smell of aerator cores in the morning!"  It is that time of year again and yes, I know the putting greens at CGC are absolutely fabulous right now, but they need to be in order to tolerate the mechanical stress imposed by the aeration process. 

Aeration is a mechanical process that creates more air space in the soil and promotes deeper rooting, thus helping the grass plants stay healthy.  In most cases, it's done by removing 1/2-inch cores. The spaces are then filled with sand "topdressing" that helps the soil retain air space and makes it easier for roots to grow downward.  Other aeration techniques use machines with "tines" or knives that simply poke holes through the soil profile.  There is even a technique that uses ultra high-pressure water injected through the soil profile to create small holes that relieve some compaction but heal quickly.

Like so many things, the quality of a good putting green is more than skin deep.  In fact, the condition of a green has a lot to do with what goes on below the surface.  In order to grow and maintain quality turf at 0.125 inches or less you have to have deep, healthy roots.  Good roots demand oxygen and in good soil, they get the oxygen from tiny pockets of air trapped between soil and sand particles.  Over time, the traffic from golfers' feet (as well as mowing and rolling equipment) tends to compact the soil under the putting green.  When soil becomes compacted, the air pockets on which the roots depend are crushed, and the roots are essentially left gasping for air.  Without oxygen, the grass plants will eventually wither and die.  The bottom line is aeration is a necessary practice and I sincerely hope you will think of it as a short-term disruption with the best long-term benefits.

That's all for now!  For those of you that requested I remind everyone about repairing ball marks, raking bunkers and filling divots can look forward to next time...I have to have something to blog about while we all wait for the aerated greens to heal!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

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