Strategies for Summer Stress
Like the simple, yet incredibly suspenseful, two-note motif “shark” theme from Jaws, we all are sensing the feeling of approaching danger now that we’ve entered the month of June. It is the inevitability of managing turfgrass in the worst possible environmental conditions that demands us to be as prepared as we possibly can be to handle whatever Mother Nature is going to throw at us and our golf courses.
The first part of the season was all about doing everything we could to prepare for the next 90 days of managing the turf. We’ve grown the roots, punched the canopies, properly fertilized and managed all the weeds to give the turf the best condition to survive the hot and humid climate that will undoubtedly arrive sooner than we would like. Now it is time to start playing defense.
Daily management of the golf course activities change as the wind blows…quite literally. Being adaptive and flexible is the key to successfully navigating this period of, too often, long days and short nights. There are several strategies that should be considered being implemented, in one form or another, to improve your chances of surviving.
- Raise the height of cut. This is simple but incredibly effective. A little more leaf tissue will create additional carbohydrate production that assists the plant in managing the stress. Yes, golfers aren’t fans of higher turf. I will guarantee you, however, they detest dead turf much more.
- Spray fungicides preventatively. Don’t risk turf health by playing a proverbial game of chicken with the numerous fungi pathogens laying in wait in, literally, every part of your course. Play it safe and guard against what you know is out there waiting.
- Utilize foliar fertilizers with biostimulants. The roots are going to be very efficient in uptaking granular fertilizer nutrition, so make it easier for the plant by spraying it on the leaf blades. The biostimulants will help with nutrients uptake, as well, while also assisting the plant to initiate internal defenses within the plant.
- Punch some holes. Solid tines were invented for summertime use, where venting the playing surfaces will increase the water infiltration, gas exchanges and help alleviate stress on the roots. This is equally beneficial for greens, tees and fairways.
- Roll the putting surfaces. It’s a great way to reduce stress on the greens. Set up a schedule that substitutes rolling the greens rather than cutting them. Many of us already so this for green speed reasons, but in the summer it should be for survivability reasons.
- Irrigate with common sense. Nothing will change more often than your irrigation practices in response to the weather. Walk (not ride) your course to see what it needs and where it needs it. Too much water and too little water are equally bad scenarios. Utilize wetting agents and surfactants to maximize the efficiency of your water use.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We live in a world where constant communication is a way of life and overly easy. Our profession of brethren is always willing to help one another out when issues arise. It’s one of the most admirable traits we all share. With all the outlets available to us through Twitter, Facebook, industry community boards and, yes, even the telephone…be sure to use one of them and seek advice and counsel from people in the same situation as you are.
I wish everyone the best of luck in surviving the “90 days of hell” and hope that the only time you hear the alternating notes of E and F is when you’re watch Chief Brody exclaim, “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”