Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Here's What Happened and Why, What to Expect and More Entomology!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Wednesday, August 22, 2012 and it really August?  Oh my, where did the dog days go?  Oh well, who am I to complain about the weather :) ...this current pattern (although wet) is absolutely heavenly in regards to temperatures.  The bentgrass putting greens are actually excited and enthusiastic again and we are the same when it comes to maintaining them!  Real quick let me give you the weather update courtesy of my inner Jim Cantore...
Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel

Recall July brought an end to the drought in our region with 6.62 inches rain.  Thus far we have received an additional  6.71 inches rain in August with 5.73 inches coming in the last week of the dog days!  Needless to say but that is enough water to drown a whale (tic) let alone bentgrass.  This past week we have received nearly an inch (0.96 inches) as we performed some agronomic practices to the putting surfaces to assist their recovery as fall quickly approaches.

Thanks Jim!  If you have been to the course the past couple of days you may have been surprised to find the putting surfaces looking a little different.  No, we didn't aerate them (that is still nearly 5 weeks away) but we did perform another agronomic operation.  This past Monday the greens were verticut, fertilized, topdressed moderately and brushed.  The entire process looked a little something like this...

Debris Blown from Surface
Ready for Sand

Topdressing Applied
Brushed In

The process took nearly all day but the good news is we were able to effectively remove some excess organic material which builds up naturally in the upper portion of the putting surface as well as removed some tired leaf blades and make room for the sand.  Since ball marks do not recover during the dog days of summer very well, we have also reduced their size and the sand topdressing will both smooth and aid their recovery now the weather is more conducive for bentgrass growth and development.

What does all this mean in the coming days and weeks?  Quite simply it means smoother, firmer and faster putting greens as our fall tournament season fast approaches.  Ok, firmer when it quits raining but you know what I mean!  Yesterday the greens were double cut (mowed two times) and tomorrow the plan is to mow AND roll.  Also, we have already initiated gradual cutting height adjustments as we work our way down from the summer stress setting to our standard peak season setting as September is locked in our sights!  Thank you to the entire membership for another patient summer and my staff and I hope you enjoy the conditions of the golf course as fall golf quickly approaches!

In other news, late last week something was spotted on the golf course that caught the attention of one of my crew members who quickly called me over to take a closer look.  This thing was beautiful and hideous at the same time and to be honest...I didn't know what it was (thank God for the Internet)

Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar
It's Big!

Turns out this was a Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar and it was crawling across the 11th fairway.  My crew member was operating a tractor blower and spotted this critter from over 50 feet away because of its size.  It was nearly 6 inches long and close to 3/4 inch in diameter (normal size for one of these large caterpillars).  I scooped him up in a small shovel and released him near the creek at the edge of the woods before returning to do a little research.  Turns out this is the 5th and final instar stage just before pupation of the Regal Moth (Citheronia regalis) also known as the Royal Walnut Moth.

Regal Moth

The Regal Moth is the largest moth in all latitudes north of Mexico and to see a Hickory Horned Devil in that stage is definitely not something you see every day.  Turns out the caterpillar is harmless and easy to handle as pictures on the world wide web clearly indicate.  Oh well, just thought I would share with you bug lovers!

Until next time...

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton
Golf Course Superintendent

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