Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Winter Update

The record breaking winter of 2014 produced widespread turf loss throughout the Northeast and Canada.  Here at Huntsville we suffered significant damage to three of our greens; # 4, # 5 and # 6.  So far, the winter of 2015 is proving to be just as cold and brutal as last years.  February was particularly bad as we did not go more than 2 consecutive days without at least a trace amount of snow and broke several low temperature records.  One morning we had a temperature of -13 degrees on our weather station.  Needless to say we are quite concerned about the health of our greens and are looking for ways to avoid a repeat of last spring.  

With that in mind, we have been closely monitoring the conditions of the greens.  Around the middle of January we discovered an ice layer under the snow on several of our greens. Once the ice layer formed, we knew that the clock was ticking.  Our greens are a mixture of Bentgrass and Poa annua.  Bentgrass is very cold hardy and can easily survive 120 days under continuous ice cover.  Poa annua, on the other hand, is very susceptible to ice damage.  The rule of thumb is that Poa annua can only survive under ice for 30 to 45 days.  

In mid February we pulled samples of turf from the greens that had the ice layer.  The samples were then brought inside and placed in a window sill for observation.  Within a few days the plugs greened up and began to grow.  This was an encouraging sign but we were still concerned. 

Using a cordless drill to remove a plug from the green.

Plugs inside for observation.
The plugs a week later.

On Monday March 2, with warmer temperatures forecasted for the weekend, we made the decision to remove the snow from greens # 4, # 5, # 6, and # 9. Using a snow blower, we removed snow that in many places was over 2 feet deep.  It took some work but in the end we prevailed. What we found was that while some areas of the greens had ice a few inches thick many areas had little to no ice.  By removing the snow and exposing the ice to the warmer temperatures and sunlight I feel that we will see most of the ice disappear.  

Beginning to remove snow from #5 green.

The snow was deep.

The finished product.

If the ice layer persists, our next step will be to apply a black dyed sand to the greens.  The black sand absorbs sunlight, heats up and speeds up the melting process.  

Although it is far too early to determine if we suffered any turf loss, I am optimistic based on what I have observed so far.  Going forward we will continue to closely monitor the greens and take whatever action necessary to avoid turf loss.  Keep your fingers crossed and pray for an early spring.