Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Mid Winter Update

This winter has been one of extremes to be sure. Whether it's due to El Nino, global warming or something else, the fact is that we have been unusually warm for most of the winter with a few dramatic swings in temperature thrown in. As I write this today, we are experiencing very warm temperatures and rain. We have called in our seasonal staff to help clean the remaining snow, slush, and water, off all of our greens so there will be no ice cover when the temperature drops below zero tonight. We did have a thin layer of ice that had been in place since January 10th so this, "February thaw" is actually welcome from that perspective. Prior to January it was very warm throughout the late fall and early winter. So much so that even today the grass is still very green and really never had the chance to prepare itself for winter - a process called, "hardening off." When a plant is fully hardened off it has stopped growing, lost its green colour, and built up salts in its tissues to resist freezing (a natural type of anti-freeze). This natural process makes it resistant to harsh temperatures and wild swings in temperature over the winter.

Green Staff Removing Ice from #15 Green - notice how green it is!

So what does all this mean?  I will start with the good news. As of today, all of our turf looks very good and there are no signs of disease or winter injury. That's good because one of our concerns is that there are diseases that form over the winter with or without snow cover. As you probably know, we spray a combination of plant protectants every November to control these diseases - it is one of the most important applications we make all year. The concern is that all the warm weather and rain early in the winter actually broke down some of the efficacy of the products applied. Again there are no signs of disease anywhere so that is very positive.

The bad news? We have already had one wild swing in temperature - on January 10th we had rain in the morning and the temperature went from 5C to -10C in a matter of hours. That is when we got the initial ice cover which is now gone. Unfortunately, we are setting up for a similar situation tonight. It is currently 12C and the  forecast is for temperatures to drop to -2C tonight and -6C tomorrow night.  There is still quite a bit of winter left and every time we get a freeze/thaw cycle like this, it is worrisome.  And it is especially worrisome because the turf had not fully hardened off in the fall which would allow it to withstand these conditions.

Looking down #4 from #9 fairway

To summarize:

Our two main concerns at this point are winter injury caused by diseases because of the fact we may have lost some of the efficacy of our plant protectants; and winter injury due to ice cover / wild swings in temperature in combination with the plants not being fully hardened off heading into winter. There is no damage at the moment and we are doing everything we can to increase our odds of keeping it that way. The rest will be up to Mother Nature and the weather we receive going forward. I will be updating this blog more often as we head into Spring so stay tuned and thanks for reading.          

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