Atypical Aerification Practices for Putting Greens
Ah, yes…Springtime is right around the corner, which almost certainly means that the joy of aerification is not too far behind. Most of us have our time-tested process and procedures well thought out and feel comfortable with completing the incredibly necessary cultural practice. The equipment has been serviced…the tines have been ordered…now we just wait until Mother Nature provides us the environmental window to get all the holes punched and let the putting greens breathe fresh air once again.
Perhaps this year might be the right time to try and incorporate a few new practices in addition to simply opening up the putting greens and dropping in some new sand into the profile. I’ve always been a big fan of wanting to make the most of opportunities like these to better prepare the putting surface for the long season ahead of them, which includes looking at new things to try. Here’s a couple of suggestions that may fit into your maintenance program when it’s time to fire up the aerifier this Spring.
Add Mycorrhizal Fungi
While this certainly isn’t a new concept to the golf industry, it’s often an overlooked aspect during aerification. There is no better time to add these highly beneficial fungi into the putting green then when the holes have been opened. These microscopic friends of the turf form a mutually beneficial relationship with the grass roots and then colonize them. The result is an incredible expansion of the roots in both mass and length which increase the absorptive capacity and overall depth and root reach into the profile. Since we’re all trying to grow the roots as much as possible in the Spring, this practice falls in line with our overall goals. Since most mycorrhizal fungi are incorporated into low nutrient fertilizer products, applying this type of product will also help fill in the aerification holes quicker, reducing the overall time needed to heal the green.
Add Bentgrass Seed
For my fellow cool-season brethren with creeping bentgrass putting greens, the practice of overseeding is often overlooked and underutilized. If you’re happy with your cultivar, continual additions of seed when the canopy is open consistently adds to the seed bank of the putting green. A healthy seed bank will help keep the green “pure” and become less susceptible to Poa annua. While it’s certainly not an inexpensive practice to incorporate, the dividends are huge over time.
Now if you’re looking to upgrade to better performing bentgrass cultivar, the practice of interseeding is a viable option to explore during aerification. By and large, the newer bents are more aggressive than old ones, which allows them to slowly establish and transition a putting green over time, but without the disruption of play that would be a part of a one-time conversion. Yes, it will take some time to convert a putting green, but if this is a long-term goal for your course, I recommend exploring this option.
For those of us who aren’t overly familiar with Zeolites, here’s a quick synopsis. They are crystalline solids structures made of silicon, aluminum and oxygen that form a framework with cavities and channels inside where cations, water and/or small molecules may reside. Because of their unique porous properties, zeolites are used now in a variety of applications…including turf management.
There are several important agronomic advantages of adding Zeolites into the open holes during aerification. First, nitrate leaching from sand-based greens are measurably reduced. Second, there is an increase in the shoot growth rate and nitrogen uptake into the plant. And finally, there is an increase water holding capacity and air exchange rates. All these benefits make it worth considering as a part of the aerification process.
These are just a couple of atypical ideas to kick around and explore implementing for your next aerification.