Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Tree Problems at Victoria Park East

3 white pine trees in different stages of death
I have noticed in the spring of this year a couple of white pines trees had died. At first I didn't think much of it because it is not uncommon for trees to occasionally die. Later in the summer I noticed some more White Pine trees looked off colour. The needles were no longer dark green. They has a slight chlorotic look (meaning yellow). This discolouration got worse throughout the fall and I realized we were going to loose some more trees. I became quite concerned because the Eastern White Pine is the only healthy pine species we have left on the golf course and it is a beautiful tree. I contacted Jennifer Llewellyn a nursery crop specialist with with OMAFRA to come and have a look. She came out and agreed there is a problem with many of our white pines and has seen similar problems throughout southern Ontario. She requested a follow up visit with some colleagues. In early December she came out again with a pathologist from the University of Guelph and two tree specialists from the MNR. They spent some time analysing an affected tree and took samples back to the lab for further analysis. They feel it is a combination of environmental stresses from drought, high temperatures etc and disease or insect pressure. My main concern is how bad is this problem, are we going to loose every white pine on the property. I am also concerned about our Valley golf course since most of the trees on the property are white pines.
Once the specialists figure out exactly what is killing the white pines then hopefully they can recommend some strategies for future protection. If there are any! I will keep you posted.

Shown here are from left to right: Jennifer Llewellyn from OMAFRA, Tom Hsiang form the University of Guelph, John Mclaughlin from the MNR inspecting the tree.
Shown above John and Thom are inspection the tree after it was cut down to determine if the tree died from the roots up or from the top down.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Closing Time!

It is that time of year to start preparing for the winter. This week both the Valley and East courses are blowing out their lines. The annual practice involves using compressed air to empty all the irrigation lines of water. As you all know water in the pipes will freeze and crack the pipes.
Other jobs to do at this time of year are apply a dormant fertilzer which was done last week and apply a fungicide to protect against a very serious disease called Snow Mould. This will be done sometime next week. All the golf course accessories will come off the golf course in the next week or two. We do not have an official closing date but it will probably be some time next week with the long range forecast. Once the course is closed will address any projects like rebulding sand traps, cart path work and tree trimming or removal.
Until next time...

Monday, 15 October 2012

Turf Renovation

Many turf areas on our golf course as well as many lawns in the area did not survive the severe summer drought or are being destroyed by Grubs. The picture to the left is an area that we recently renovated. We raked up as much of the loose dead grass as possible, topdressed with a screened topsoil and broadcast a good bluegrass seed mixture. The seed was lightly raked in. Seed must be in contact with the soil for good germination. Any seed dropped now will now be a dormant seed meaning it will probably not germinate until next spring. It is still a great time of year to lay sod if you choose to go that route.
I hope you did not suffer too much damage this year. I know it is frustrating trying to maintain a healthy lawn with water restrictions and now pesticide bans. Good luck and do not underestimate the benefits of healthy turfgrass!

This picture shows skunk or racoon damage in an area looking for grubs. The skunks and racoons usually cause more damage than the grubs themselves.

This picture shows many grubs feeding on the roots. If the grass is healthy and there is plenty of moisture the turf may survive without and symptoms.

Until next time... David

Monday, 3 September 2012

Aeration Time!

We started core aeration at the East course last week. It is a great time to aerate. Many golf courses aerate this time of year. The turf will heal quickly at this time of year. We aerated the greens, tees and fairways.
This was the first time we aerated the whole golf course in one week. In past years we would only get the greens done. We decided to aerate everything at once to minimize the disruption for the golfers. To achieve this we contracted out some of the fairway aeration.  The dry conditions are a concern and I hope we get some rain this week. The procedure for the greens is to core aerate, matt the cores off the greens, followed by a heavy topdressing of sand. Our goal is to fill all the holes in with sand. This allows them to heal quicker. Healing time will take about a week. The procedure for tees and fairways is to core aerate and matt the cores to break off the soil. The left over tufts of thatch is blown into the center of the fairway and picked up by a sweeper/vacuum. There are many reasons for aerating. We do it primary for thatch control. We plan to start aerating the Valley greens tomorrow. 
Until next time.... David

Friday, 10 August 2012

Cultrual Practices

The term cultural practices refers to any practice or task that will benefit the turf. Examples of this are aeration, dethatching, and sand topdressing. There are different reasons for each practice. The practice itself or frequency of the practice may also change depending on what you are trying to achieve. For example we recently aerated the greens at both the Valley and East course with solid spikes. The intent was to "open up" the turf canopy to improve water penetration and improve air exchange. Remember oxygen is as important as water for optimum growing conditions. This spiking or venting of the greens can be done with minimal disruption to the greens. Most golfers would not even realize the practice was done.

Another very important cultural practice for golf course greens is dethatching or verticutting. Healthy greens tend to get "heavy" meaning there is a lot of grass which needs to be thinned out. A thatch layer could build up causing the greens to become spongy. Too much thatch is will cause many problems and will definitely result in slow greens. We use a mower with vertical blades which cut into the turf canopy removing excess grass. The need and frequency of verticutting will depend on how much grass you want to remove. This practice is also good for your  home lawn. Be careful! Too aggressive verticutting at the wrong time of year will definitely damage your turf.
Please contact me if you have any questions.
Until next time...

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Drought Conditions

Hello everybody, I am back. I apologize for not posting more regularly. What has been happening?- lately it has been very dry.  It has actually been dry all year, yet we have not really seen the extent of the drought until the last few weeks. We are doing our best to keep up with the lack of water but as you can see there are numerous "dry areas" on the course and the ponds are getting low.
Water restrictions have started in areas very close to us and it is just a matter of time before there is a Level 2 condition declared for this area. This means stopping all non-essential watering and a 20% voluntary reduction for water users with a Permit to Take Water. Golf courses fall into the latter. We will start conserving  more water as a result. This will mean taking less water from the deep underground aquifer and more from the storage ponds. We only have so much water to irrigate with and we will prioritize the greens followed by tees and fairways. Fairways and tees will continue to be irrigated but certain "hot spots" will go dormant. This will not affect the long term health of the grass and or playability. In fact firm fast conditions will be much more common in the future as we realize lush green conditions all the time are not sustainable or necessary. If you notice some PGA events on television (especially the British Open) you will notice similar conditions at times and everyone is quite happy with this.
Thanks for reading and wish for some good rains - at least at night!
Until next time...

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Hand Watering Hot Spots

The weather this spring has been great for golf. We have not had many rain days. Irrigation systems have been working at full capacity. The picture on the left shows me hand watering the back of 13 green at the East course. The reason we hand water is because some areas of the greens dry out before others. Most greens have dry areas or hot spots. This is due to inconsistent soil conditions, not even irrigation distribution, undulations in the green, exposed spots or shade areas etc. Irrigation systems usually delivery the same amount of water over the entire green with some variation. Because of this we either add too much water to get the dry spots or the opposite. It is much better to adequately water the majority of the green and hand water any dry spots. This will conserve water and avoid areas of the green being too wet. We do not want the greens to be consistently wet. This promotes poa annua, promotes disease, the greens will be susceptible to ball marks, foot printing and compaction, and will generally be slower. Thus the term firm and fast.
Dry conditions this early is a big concern. Large water users like golf courses must have a Permit to Take Water which is regulated by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. Water conditions are highly monitored throughout the area and when drought conditions occur and water tables and or creek levels decrease water restrictions will take place. It is important to note a few facts regarding golf courses and water. Golf courses only use water when and where necessary. If it rains we do not use water. All the water we use goes right back into the ground. Golf courses have implemented water conservation strategies of the last few years in order to help protect this valuable resource.
No matter how much we water with the irrigation system. Nothing is better than natural rainfall.
Let's hope we get some rain - at least at night!
Until next time...

Saturday, 12 May 2012

The Poa has Started Seeding

The poa or annual bluegrass has just started seeding at Victoria Park East. This picture is from my blog last year (May 27, 2011). I don't want to repeat the exact same post, however poa annua is such an important aspect of golf course greens I think we should review it. Poa Annua or annual bluegrass is an invasive turf species that invades golf course greens, tees, and fairways. It is very aggressive and once it is established it is hard to control. It is an annual vs perennial which means the plant will grow for one year, produce seed, and die off. The white seedheads are very visible especially this time of year and make the greens look blotchy. The seed heads also affect putting which is very undesirable. It will establish in putting greens where ever there is some damage to the turf such as ball marks, wear from mowers, turf loss from disease or insects etc. The seed heads will last a few weeks and will probably affect putting quality. For more information check out my blog from May 27,2011. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Until next time...

Monday, 30 April 2012

The Valley Finally Opens!

Peter Morgan of the Victoria Park Valley Grounds crew making last minute repairs before the golf course opened on Saturday. There was a tremendous amount of work done the last few days before we opened.  I would like to thank all staff from both the Valley, the East course and contractors who all worked together to make it happen. One hundred and fiftey golfers came to play on Saturday and all the comments were very positive.

The grounds staff will continue to make repairs and improvements throughout the season. Although is has been quite dry this is the perfect time to overseed or sod areas on your home lawn. Soil temperatures need to be at least 10 degrees C for seed to germinate. Soil temperature will reach this when air temperatures are consistantly around 15 to 20 degrees. With the mild temperatures forecasted this week we should reach these temperatures. Good luck and feel free to contact me with your questions.
Until next time ...

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Conditions at Victoria Park East

Tee times cancelled at Victoria Park East! The golf course has been open for almost six weeks with mostly great weather. Most of us realized we were not going to escape this spring without another dose of old man winter. Rest assured the snow will be gone by tomorrow. People always ask me if this weather can hurt the grass. The answer is no it wont. In fact the conditions were very dry. The precipiation in any form was welcome.
Until next time..

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Valley Updates

With one week left the staff are working extremely hard for the anticipated golf course opening of April 28th. The picture on the left shows driving range netting being installed. The range will also open on April 28th. The turf conditions are looking good. We have been mowing regularly. We have also been watering. The spring has been quite dry. Hopefully not a sign of the summer ahead. I don't really want to think about drought conditions and water restrictions in April.

Golf Course Superintendent Jason Sewell is topdressing the tee on Hole # 1 - Lakes course.
Topdressing the tees with a sand/peat mixture will help level out the surface, prevent the turf from becoming too thatchy, allow us to lower the height of cut without scalping, and help cover up any rocks in the topsoil underneath.

Until Next Time...

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Victoria Park Valley is Looking Good?

I am back with my weekly blog to discuss the "turf side" of things at Victoria Park East and the development updates for Victoria Park Valley.
As you would expect with such a mild winter the golf courses overwintered extremely well. We are experiencing early summer conditions in late winter! The picture on the left shows assistant superintendent John Watson mowing # 4 green on the Valley nine.
Our planned opening date for the Valley will be at the end of April. I will keep you posted - promise.

The crew kept busy most of the winter. They spent about 6 weeks tree trimming and clearing brush at the Valley. Some tree work was also done on Hole # 18 at the East course. The main purpose of this was to make the course more playable. With so many trees on some holes we want to make sure golfers will find their golf balls and can easily chip out. There were some holes where tree work was done to improve sunlight and air circulation.

Victoria Park East - The golf course fully opened for play March 16. Since then we have mowed the greens at least 6 times and the conditions are awesome for this time of year. We have been a bit overwhelmed with the nice weather and the amount of golfers. With the more seasonable weather this week the crew will have a chance to get caught up on their course opening duties. This includes cleaning up branches and debris, edging and working up the bunkers, and installing all the course accessories (ball washers, bunker rakes etc.) I want to thank all of you for coming out to play and for your patience getting the course ready.
Until next time