In the same way you might develop a strategy for your golf swing, the golf course itself requires a strategic plan too. A well-planned golf course maintenance fertility program is essential to achieving the consistent, deep green turf expected of golf courses the world over.
Due to temperature changes from October to December, fall is the best time of year to fertilize your turf, trees, shrubs and groundcovers. Add these three concepts to your fertility program for green golf courses year round.
Leverage the Cooler Temperatures
When turf growth begins to slow down and leaves start to fall, it might be tempting to reduce the amount of nutritional inputs across your golf course, but there are several advantages to late season fertilization.
From an agronomic angle, application of a quality fertilizer in the fall improves root growth and shoot density as roots dig deeper during the cooler weather. In turn, this leads to an increase in the plant material’s ability to store energy reserves (carbohydrates) to last through the winter.
Aesthetically, fall fertilization is popular because it leads to better fall and winter color with an earlier green up as nature transitions into spring. The option to take advantage of these conditions isn’t available for spring or summer applications.
Just like the process for overseeding, keep an eye on the local weather prior to fertilizer application to avoid adverse weather conditions. Rain, for example, can lead to runoff or cause the newly applied fertilizer to leach out, sliding into unwanted areas or storm drains and watershed basins.
Utilize the 3:1:2 Ratio
You’ve likely heard the ratio before, but it’s a cornerstone of healthy fertilization: plant materials should receive an adequate amount of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) in a 3:1:2 ratio respectively.
Nitrogen provides nutrients for continued greening and shoot growth before the onset of extreme cold temperatures. Phosphorus develops and strengthens plant root systems as well as respiration and cell division as plants prepare for colder winter temperatures and approach dormancy.
Potassium promotes pest resistance and helps to prevent diseases, frost damage and drought stress from freezing and thawing, which may go unrecognized during harsh winter months.
Actual application of fall fertilizer will also vary depending on whether you have cool season or warm season turfgrass species, whether trees are evergreen or deciduous and whether groundcover is woody or ornamental. Conducting a soil test is the best way to determine accurate amounts of each nutrient prior to fertilization.
Think about the Long-Term Budget
Due to COVID-19 concerns, reduced operating budgets are the norm in multiple industries as well as golf course maintenance. However, fertilizing in the fall is about more than the immediate cost and how it will impact your maintenance plan for this week.
Because of the changing seasons and cooler temperatures, fall is the best time to fertilize in order to sustain the health of your golf course year round. As you plan for the remainder of this year and into the next, think long term about the costs of a healthy fertility program and position your golf course this fall for a strong ecosystem that lasts all year long.