Annual Bluegrass (Poa annua) edition, Spring 2021
By Superintendent Darren Little
Over the past weeks, while being in another stay-at-home lockdown, the Greens department has been hard at work preparing the course for your return. We had plenty of things to complete including asphalting, bridge painting, aerating, and repairing turf in high-traffic areas.
Now that you are back you may have noticed some of the work that was completed and maybe have a question or two. I hope this message answers some of the questions you may have;
- The Monday and Tuesday (April 19-20th) following the announcement of the lockdown extension, we carried out our 5th drill & fill on the greens which delivered close to 50 tons of dried sand into the greens profile. Some of the holes can still be seen but they have come a long way in their recovery, and with a little timely rain from Mother Nature this will help with the final closure of the remaining little sand holes.
- Tees and fairways were aerified during the week of May 10 with the completion on May 18. The aeration process would normally take 3 days but with the course being closed we took advantage of this opportunity to slow down the process and remove additional material, almost like a double aeration process, which will benefit the surfaces over the course of the season. Millions of little holes were created for water, fertilizer, and oxygen absorption, relieving soil compaction, and removing the layer of thatch which causes the “spongy feeling” on the tees and fairways. The aeration will help the plant prepare for the environmental stresses that come from a long and warm golf season with high traffic. Some rain will help move the recovery along.
- As the soil temperature warmed up the grass has had a growth flush in the rough areas around fairways and greens. Combined with the growth flush we are experiencing the Poa seed head flush casting a sea of white across the course on all stands (is this supposed to say strands?) of turf. This flush came later this season due to the cold temperatures experienced in April and early May. For instance, the trees this year were approximately 2 weeks later than normal putting out buds compared to past years, but it demonstrates that the temperatures in the air and ground were too cold for the trees to start budding. This would also be true for the Poa Annual seeding on the greens, tees and fairways, and even the long rough. Poa is an invasive weed that also doubles as a good putting surface; however, this isn’t without a few catches along the way. The first thing is this grass is self-seeding, which is more apparent on greens and this goes on for a period of 2-3 weeks causing a white cast over the turf and causing an uneven putting surface when mowed, the grass grows at twice the speed trying to replenish the seed it lost. The good news is that this disruption will pass in time and we will be back to normal within a couple of weeks.
Another question you may have regarding poa is “what can be done about the poa on the greens?” When the seed is in full bloom we always make sure on a day-to-day basis to harvest as much of the seed as possible via mowing and removing it in buckets. Next we introduce grooming to remove as best as possible the excess seed from the putting surfaces. With the above process we are also doing daily rolling of the greens to help with ball roll, but later in the day things can be bumpier than you would like due to plant growth as explained earlier. Once the seeding stops, the poa plant will still be present and the overall appearance will blend in and the ball roll will be smoother.
Finally we are now back to having close to a full staff complement and things will progress with getting some additional projects completed. This coupled with staying ahead of the trimming and the attention to detail jobs will make the course shine like I want it to.
In the meantime, we will be busy cutting some “rough” grass to help in lowering some scores and continue to offer a great golf experience to all. Please enjoy and I look forward to seeing you on the course.