Golf courses throughout the northern part of the country are just starting to enjoy spring weather, and some are probably dealing with lingering winter injury. Here are a few tips to speed recovery from winter damage.
Aerate to Stimulate Root Growth
For cool season grasses, aeration in the spring helps stimulate root growth, warm the soil, and provide a breath of fresh air (oxygen) to the turfgrass root system. The stimulation of growth and root development will help to fill in small weak spots and get the turf off to a good start for the growing season.
Fertilize When the Temperature is Right
While it is tempting to push turf growth and recovery with an application of fertilizer, soil and air temperature need to be above 50 F before the nitrogen can be processed into a form that can be used by the turf. Fertilizing too early just wastes money and does not benefit the turf.
Patch Weak Areas with Pre-germinated Seed
Applying pre-germinated perennial ryegrass seed can help weak areas recover more rapidly. Here is the basic process:
- Day 1 – Start in the morning by using a clean, plastic bucket (1 gallon or larger). Fill the bucket with perennial ryegrass seed, and add water to the top of the bucket. Soak the seed for three hours.
- At lunch time, transfer the seed to a clean, plastic garbage can with holes drilled in the bottom and sides at 6-inch centers. Drain for about four to five hours.
- In the afternoon, stir the seed by hand, and cover the garbage can. Bring the can into the garage/ maintenance building to keep warm overnight.
- Day 2 – Remove the cover, and bring the can outside. Stir the seed in the morning, midday, and afternoon. Cover the can, and bring it into the garage to keep warm for the second night.
- Day 3 – The seed is ready to spread. Mix the seed with sand and compost, and apply by hand to any weak areas. Hand water the seeded areas one or more times per day to keep it moist until the seed has fully germinated and been established.
- Keep in mind that pre-germinated seed needs to be applied in one day; it won’t keep for several days. Only make as much as you can use at one time or start several batches that can be used over successive days.
These strategies will get the golf course off to a good start in the spring and help to rapidly heal any weak spots. Please email me if you have any questions about winter injury or other turf related topics.