The truth is that we have had a great winter so far. We had frozen ground which allowed us to traverse the course for our annual tree work. We accomplished our goals.
Now we have a protective, insulating blanket of snow on our fine turf areas. The best part is there is no ice beneath the snow! The deep blanket of snow is actually a blessing because it protects the fine turf areas from dramatic temperature changes and potential desiccation.
We may have to plow the white fluffy stuff off the parking lots, but I’ll take that any day!
We are expecting another six plus inches on early Monday, but that only fortifies our protection from the deep freeze that is forecasted.
The next hurdle will be how we come out of the deep freeze as Spring approaches. I am hoping that as the snow melts we don’t form ice layers directly on our green surfaces. More importantly is the hope that when the snow is gone, we don’t see several days of warm temperatures, then a severe drop in temperature. That is a critical time for us.
We usually are “holding our breath” in early March. The snow is gone and we have a few days in a row when temperatures hit the forties. Then we get a dramatic drop in temperature that goes into the “teens”. This is when our turf on greens is most vulnerable.
The warm days tell the plant to start growing and imbibe water as if Spring is here. A following cold-snap can cause what is called crown hydration injury. This damage is most severe on greens that are predominately Poa Annua. Our greens are very susceptible to this damage.
Basically, the Poa Annua hydrates with moisture and the following freezing causes ice crystals to form and rupture the cells in the crown (heart) of the plant.
Understand, we constantly try to reduce the Poa Annua population and increase creeping bentgrass percentages. We are slowly winning the war!
I am being generous when I say our average Poa Annua percentage on greens is over fifty percent! Five years ago I would have said seventy percent!
Our adoption of the plan of a slow transition to increase creeping bentgrass populations through less aggressive measures has served us well. Overseeding genetically superior creeping bentgrass varieties, at proper aerification times, and the use of plant growth regulators which effect Poa Annua more than the desirable creeping bentgrass varieties has been integral and successful. We also stress the Poa via cultural maintenance practices like allowing it to wilt during summer stress and allowing insects, which only effect Poa Annua, to feed until we reach an agronomic threshold (the point at which you, as a player, notice damage and it effects your enjoyment and playability of the course).
Creeping bentgrass has a much more sustainable and genetically deeper root system than Poa Annua during summer months.
Ultimately, creeping bentgrass has less “enemies” than Poa Annua. Our agricultural program, in all accounts, is designed to continually increase creeping bentgrass populations without reducing playability yet reducing immediate and future maintenance costs.
We manipulate our turf management strategies, in detail, down to every micro climate, in an effort to gain ground every year. This means we look at every individual green, tee and fairway on an individual basis and formulate our management plan.
In my ideal world, the snow and ground frost will be gone by the second week of March leaving me with dry ground conditions so I can hit the ground running. I just can’t wait!!!