Multiple people aerating the greens so the seed can catch.

West Hills


/ Greenside blog

Weather and Temporary Greens

Measuring the weather is an important part of maintaining a golf course. I often rely on historical and typical weather to determine what to expect from various aspects of our maintenance regime and when to time them. Because this year has been such an outlier from the typical trends its been difficult to follow our application plans. Our known trends have been pushed back by at least two weeks, maybe even three.

Most biological functions in our climate are based largely on how our seasons change from one to the next. Everything from bears hibernating to mosquitoes hatching to plants beginning to bud are affected by the temperature and photo period. As a culture we often use biological change as a marker to indicate where we are in the season. I know that when crocuses and tulips break ground the soil temperatures are up, and when the black flies hatch summer will get going very soon. Ask anyone with allergies and they can tell exactly when trees are pollinating. While these measurements are anecdotal, they have enough value that a scientific method was developed to measure these changes, these are called Growing Degree Days.  

In essence GDD measure heat units that plants require to start various stages of development, growth, fruiting, and harvest. For example, by measuring the GDD each spring and watching to see when a Sugar Maple buds, we can determine when they will bud in future springs. GDD plays an enormous role in farming, as corn requires a certain amount heat units to grow, mature, and be ready for harvest.

Conner Mooney, one of our staff members this year is studying Environmental Science and is tracking the GDD for us. He put this chart together to illustrate the spring GDD (by the way he’s also looking for a job in the environmental industry, so contact me if there are any leads).  

A line graph showing the accumulated growing degree days. Comparing the 2019 average to the average of 2013-2018. The 2019 average is significantly less.

The difference is significant, so significant, that it may effect the food market in North America. Potato plantings in PEI are way behind schedule. Corn plantings in the US as of last week were only at 36 % of the normal 90% by this time of year. To quote a fertilizer manufacture and friend of mine, “if this keeps up, the price of tortillas will go through the roof.”

In terms of the golf industry, understandably, it means the whole machine has slowed down. It explains how seed remained dormant, fertilizers didn’t breakdown, and growth has been less than expected.

There were a couple of times where I was convinced summer had just started only to have the temps drop back to well below the norms. As of Monday last week the temperatures have become some what closer to norm, and judging from the number of mosquitoes harassing me on Wednesday night, I think (fingers crossed) it’s finally here.

As the temperatures improve and the growth is spurred on we will see a great improvement in the damaged greens. Already this week has shown a visible improvement and germination rate has climbed.  This is a critical time for recovery, if put back into play to early, the greens will go backwards and remain sub par for the summer.  

One suggestion was to open part of the green and rope off the damaged section. Unfortunately this would hamper the the recover for a few reasons. We need irrigate the seed on a regular basis, which would obviously conflict with play. The closed greens are cut at much higher length and less often then the open greens to alleviate stress and compaction. The seed at this point is very tender and quite susceptible to damage. Even foot traffic, especially with spikes, will cause the process to slow. 

The green from a distance only showing slight damage.
From a distance the greens look playable.
A close up of the green showing there is significant gaps.
As you get closer, the gaps are more evident, however there has been visible improvement this week.
A close up showing the seedlings growing in the green.
And even closer you can see the very small seedlings taking off. Continued stress from mowing, foot traffic and compaction would surely set back our efforts. 

Having the greens closed also allows us to continue to work on them without interfering with play. Most of the work is done by hand, rather than machine, to reduce stress on the plants.

Multiple people aerating the greens so the seed can catch.
Here the guys are hand aerating number seven, where I felt the seed catch was too slow. Do to the minimal impact we also use this technique on open greens ahead of play to seed weak areas.
A close up of the aerated greens showing tiny holes in the ground.
Basically a board with nails in it, the aerator creates the perfect hole for the tiny bent grass seed.
A lawn level working sand into the green after the seeding.
After seeding, the greens are top dressed, and the sand is worked in using this rake called a lawn level.  Normally we would tow a brush behind a cart, but it would probably tear out the seedlings.

Everyone I’ve spoken to have been very supportive regarding the less than ideal situation, please continue with your patients as we continue strive to restore the quality of our product. Stay tuned!