Stu Rowland, Director of Agronomy
As the hot summer days begin to fade and the cooler temperatures of the fall season start blessing us with amazing mornings and evenings, it is essential that we prepare the course turf for the winter months. A healthy turf going to sleep in the fall is a healthy turf waking up out of dormancy next spring.
During most years this is a simple process, however, progressing through our second year of an exceptional drought, we are ever focused on gaining as much turf health as possible and then protecting it for winter. Moving into September and October, the days start to shorten a little and the sun angle begins to drop. It may not seem significant to the eye, but the impact on turf is extraordinarily positive. Albeit still warm, we see Evapotranspiration (ET) rates drop and we can rehydrate the turf plant from its daily moisture loss. Once the turf is adequately replenished each day, we then know it can again uptake nutrients and we begin our fall applications.
It seems odd that we fertilize when turf begins to go dormant, but we must make sure it has enough nutrient storage for when it awakens in the spring. Additionally, even if there isn’t significant growth on the surface, the plants are still growing roots and therefore we must feed accordingly. The fall is when we will apply grub worm prevention just as we do in the spring when their lifecycle begins. The fall is also when we apply patch disease prevention, as this becomes prevalent when soil temperatures are around 55 degrees. This prevention aids in preventing spring disease as well.
Prepping for fall/winter is essential but we try to extend the growing season as long as possible by spraying a pigment on the turf to keep it stained a darker color. By doing this, we keep the grass warmer, as it holds more heat from direct light. This will keep the turf growing a few weeks longer and thus slightly delay the dormancy period while we push for more growth.
Finally, although all warm-season grasses are prepping for dormancy, our bentgrass greens are entering their main months for growth and recovery. October is when we will aerify the greens while conditions are prime for a quick recovery. We’ve been successful despite the drought and look forward to the fall and winter months where we see ideal putting surfaces, while pushing root growth for the next summer season. Truly, we are always preparing for the next season.
Stu Rowland is the Director of Agronomy at The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 760.275.9459.