By Michael Gardner, Senior Director of Huma Gro® Turf Sales at Bio Huma Netics, Inc.
[NOTE: This article first appeared in the October 2018 issue of Tee Times Golf Guide Magazine.]
With fall just beginning, it’s hard to believe that it’s time to think about spring. This is how far ahead local superintendents are planning, so that you, the golfer, can have the best playing conditions coming out of winter. Great early spring playing conditions are hugely dependent on the important techniques and action we take in the fall.
The consensus among turf grass specialists is the healthiest turf going into winter makes for the healthiest turf coming out of winter. Fighting against our best efforts is Mother Nature, with extreme temperatures, snow, wind, short days and long, cold nights.
We have been talking about and working on turf health throughout the long, hot, dry summer. Now is the time to start a fall program, before turf goes dormant for winter. The following are a few of the things that our local superintendents do to prepare for going into winter.
- Balance nutrients.
- Eliminate the thatch layer.
- Maximize root systems.
- Stimulate microbial diversity.
- Eliminate and prevent fungus.
Balanced nutrition is important while turf and soil are still receptive. Balanced nutrition includes micronutrients in addition to the macronutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Most turf grass specialists recommend avoiding high nitrogen going into winter as it can feed winter molds, such as snow mold. At Huma Gro® Turf, we like to start with the balanced nutrients in Turfplex® VII, which has a guaranteed analysis of 7-7-7 with 8 micronutrients.
Eliminate Thatch Layer
In addition to balanced nutrition, turf needs access to water. A key component in helping turf grass survive the winter is eliminating excess thatch and organic matter. We do this because water has trouble penetrating thatch layers, resulting in dry soils and limited root growth and microbial activity. Excessive thatch also holds moisture at the surface, which is a breeding ground for disease.
In addition, when we have a thatch layer over one quarter inch, the crowns of the plants are exposed to the cold winter temperatures. Soils with less thatch keep those crowns deeper in the soil and protected from extreme temperatures.
Fertil Humus® is a great way to decompose thatch and organic matter, resulting in a fertile and humus-rich soil. Surf-Max® is one of the few surfactants on the market that allows water to quickly penetrate the thatch layer.
Maximize Root Systems
Root systems are the anchor of our turf grass. The more extensive the root system, the better chance we have to achieve plant health. Huma Gro® Turf Breakout® encourages a dense, fibrous root system through hormone stimulation and horizontal cell division.
Stimulate Microbial Diversity
Soil is its own complex ecosystem. The more diverse this ecosystem, the healthier the soil. This diversity must be focused on beneficial microbes, beneficial bacteria and fungi. When beneficial biology levels are high, pathogens are naturally suppressed. Huma Gro® Turf Zap® feeds and stimulates this diverse population of beneficial organisms, achieving a proper, balanced soil biology.
All the work to achieve overall turf and soil health can go to waste if we fail to protect our course against winter fungus. Turf grass specialists recommend a healthy dose of fungicide going into winter. At Huma Gro® Turf, we prefer to do this organically. Promax® is an OMRI-Listed organic fungicide that is effective against turf pathogens. Not only does Promax® control turf grass disease but, unlike other harsh pesticides, it also builds soil health at the same time –– a win-win.
In summary, healthy turf withstands the stresses of winter and the extremes of Mother Nature. These preventive steps help superintendents take a proactive approach to prepare for winter. A proactive fall program reduces or eliminates the need for reactive spring repair and recovery.
When you notice how great your local course looks in the spring, be sure to tell your golf course superintendent how much you appreciate all the planning and hard work.