On Monday, June 3rd, the golf course will open with 9 temporary greens, they are 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 13, 16, and 17. As a superintendent, one of the most depressing things you are forced to do is cut a temporary pin. We take pride in offering the best conditions possible to our clients and, unfortunately, the harsh winter followed by a cold spring has hampered our efforts to get the greens back into shape.
The last month has been trying for the east coast golf course community. Our staff have been fighting cold temperatures and a significant amount of rain during the recovery process. If you visit the Weather Office for Environment Canada, the weather records are available for May (for you data/weather buffs there’s some really neat stuff here). Click Here to see May 2019 weather. With a mean temperature of 8.9 and an average max high of about 14.5, this year is considerably colder than average. In 2018 the mean was 11.6 and the average max high was almost 20 degrees. In terms of propagating Bent grass (Agrostis Stolenifera), the important factor is the mean. The mean temp directly affects the soil temperature, and seed germination is directly related to that metric.
In general terms: Colder soils, less germination, warmer soils more germination.
Other factors included; seeding rate, moisture levels, seed species, depth of seed, seed to soil contact and some biological stuff that can get pretty dry as conversation.
Germination is referred to as a “catch”, and a good catch is where a larger portion of seed has germinated. The more boxes checked in the list of environment conditions as mentioned, the more germination we will see. Obviously this year some elements are missing to create the conditions for a large catch, with the consistent soil temperatures being the main detractor.
One of the tools in our toolbox to help with the process are germination tarps. These are plastic permeable tarps that allow water and gas exchange, while creating a green house effect above the turf. The tarps certainly do improve the daytime temperatures but do little to retain warmth during the night. As the air temps drop off at night the soil temps follow, reducing the consistency of temperatures necessary for a good catch. At this point we have stopped using the tarps. As temperatures get into the 20’s they can cause excessive heat and in effect “boil” the seedlings and the existing grass. For the most part we used the tarps from the onset of seeding, but continued use might set us back.
We began seeding the greens in late April, anticipating that the temperatures would be typical spring in the East Coast. Germination usually occurs within 7 to ten days, however I expected a longer time frame due to the lower temperature. There was little germination. By mid May I decide to reseed, taking the approach that by increasing the seed population we would improve our catch. Between the marginally warmer temps and the tarp use the germination was triggered but still not happy with the results we seeded again this week. To date we have applied about 250 lbs of seed to the weak areas on the greens.
The good news in that while there is some seed loss, as temperatures improve there will be more and more seed germinating. This week seems to be the turning point, and I am encouraged by the changes from Sunday to today.
The temporary greens will remain in place until the turf on greens has recovered enough to withstand the stress of the play. I expect as things warm up, we will see improvement very quickly.
Please feel free to take a look at the greens as your playing, but mind the seeded areas and watch out for sprinklers, they are running about every two hours.
Here are some comparison photos.
The fairways are beginning to recover as the seed germinates and the fertilizer starts to release. Due to the amount of watering and the tenderness of the seedlings carts will be restricted to the cart paths.
We are working hard to return the golf course to the conditions that our clients are used to. Please be patient and we will get there. Stay tuned!