Monday, March 23, 2015

Aerification Update

The combination of the dusting of snow on Friday and cold night temperatures over the weekend has caused multiple greens to re-freeze; thus preventing us from starting aerification today.  In fact, greens will likely not thaw out till after the mid week warm-up and forecasted rain due to the cooler night temperatures across the region over the next couple of days.  The extended forecast remains a question mark as temperatures are expected to drop come Friday; calling for day time temps in the mid to low 40s with nights dropping into the low 20s throughout the weekend. 

I apologize for the inconvenience and trust me, I am chomping at the bit to start prepping for the season just as much as you are ready to start venturing to the course.  Multiple factors go into pulling the trigger on spring aerification;
  1. Is the forecast favorable for completion:  This time of year, the process of aerification on greens takes multiple days due to staff numbers and the timing of getting started on each given day.   Frost is common this time of year,  night temps can create a frost that prevents us from getting started till mid morning thus reducing the hours of daylight and prolonging the process.  Having those two factors weighing on your mind, you then have to think about rain.  Is there rain forecasted within that window that can set you even further back because of the effects on clean-up, reducing the uniformity of core depths and prevention of topdressing.
  2. Are the greens ready for the stress:  "Well they have aerified, how come we haven't?"  This is a common question for this time of year and I understand everyone's curiosity.  I think there are two factors that have to be considered when answering that question.  First, every course has its own unique environment that may allow them to poke holes. The elevation of our property makes our environment unique and creates different conditions.  We may have experienced longer snow cover or cooler temperatures compared to our neighbors and other courses in the region preventing us from getting started or being ready.  The other factor may have the biggest influence, I ask myself the question of "Am I causing more harm than good?' every year around this time.  I have to make the decision on what's best for our property.  Aerification causes stress on any surface regardless of the time of year, therefore I like to see some signs of life in the greens while monitoring soil temperatures, plant growth and the extended forecast to show that the greens are starting to wake up from the harsh winter conditions.  Why self inflict stress to our most valuable asset if they aren't ready?
  3. Will the extended forecast aid in recovery:  As mentioned, aerification during this time of year can be stressful and you have to make sure that the forecast is favorable not to prolong recovery are create problems towards the future.  A steady increase in both day and night temperatures would indicate a continued increase in soil temperatures.  The rise in soil temperature stimulates plant activity and in return stimulates root growth and recovery following the aerification process.  The concern would be a prolonged drop in temperatures or extreme changes in combination with moisture events.  The holes created from aerification create channels to promote root growth along with other beneficial factors.  These channels can also create exposure to environmental conditions during the recovery process;  moisture in combination with freezing temperatures can heighten the risk of winter injury, reduce root growth and influence recovery time.  To simplify, a stress plant in combination with freezing and thawing could set us back going into the start of the season.
As you can see it is a balancing act and the biggest factor of them all may simply be patience.  We can never control Mother Nature and we can never control the conditions post winter.  We can however make decisions that are best for the golf course both in the present and towards the future.  Stay tuned for updates on conditions towards aerification.  Till then, think warmth and think spring!

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