Sunday, January 26, 2020

Making Omelets

You know the saying, "You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs".  Well, we are definitely breaking some eggs right now as all our winter projects have gotten started, but the wet weather won't allow us to finish anything. Our average rainfall in January is upwards of 6 inches and we are already there with still a week left to go.   The rain and snow has made it challenging, but things are finally starting to come together. We're almost done making messes and the team is excited to get things cleaned up and restored.  I guess you could say we're ready to pour the omelet into the pan.  Here's an update our winter projects.
 We always have a project planned for when it snows.  Weather like this is limiting, but with good planning we can always keep the crew working at peak efficiency.  Last year when it snowed we expanded the parking lot at the practice hole.  It was then that the Committee and the Board discussed the next snow event and put in motion the project you see here which is to replace the huge cedar trees in the guest parking lot.  They had simply gotten too big for their space.

This is what it looks like today.  The stumps have been pulled out and we'll be getting some new plant material for these planting strips as soon as possible.  Typically, it isn't till March or April when we can get a nursery to dig up and deliver new plants.  In the meantime it looks pretty good, and it's certainly a lot safer now that you can clearly see down the road when trying to pull out of the parking lot.  The project on the 8th green is also starting to look a lot better.  The new evergreen buffer is going in quickly.  Check out this series of pictures.

Here's another series of pictures from a different angle.

You can see that we're about half way done with the planting phase.  It looks fantastic and there is so much more light, air, and space to play golf over there near the greenside bunker.  I knew this project was going to turn out great, but it's already exceeded my expectations.  Things aren't going so well on holes 11 and 7 where we're working on an "oak release" project. Work started on New Years Day but since then little has been done given the wet weather.

Getting the trees off the property requires the use of big machines and to avoid injury to the fairways we need to wait a little longer for the right opportunity.  Lastly I want to show you where we're at with the project on #9 green near the driving range tee.

Yes it's kind of a mess right now but once we get a couple of dry days this should come together quickly. The new plants have been dug out and they should easily be transplanted to this location when the opportunity arises. Thank you for your patience as we try and get these omelets cooked up to perfection.  

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Tree Bases

Tree bases are challenging areas to maintain, especially those under the fir trees.  These trees have very shallow root systems which compete for every bit of soil moisture near the surface.  In addition, the needles that fall from these trees makes the soil beneath them very acidic.  Basically, the conditions at the base of fir trees is extremely unfavorable for the culture of turfgrass.  When you can't grow grass in a certain area, inevitably you find soil, rocks, tree roots.....etc. or in essence a playing surface adverse to the playing of golf.  Check out the typical turf quality under a canopy of fir trees.
Areas like this are not attractive and not good for golf.  Now check out the typical conditions under the canopy of an oak grove.   
Notice there is grass covering virtually every square inch of the surface.  The oak trees are deeply rooted and compete very little for surface moisture.  For a good part of the growing season there is considerable sunlight under oak trees which is essential for turfgrass persistence.  It's not hard to imagine why oak prairie land such as that here at Tacoma is so perfect for golf.  Oak prairies are grasslands with gently rolling terrain and well draining soils.  Can you think of a better short description of desirable golf land?  Anyway, we do have some fir trees and they pose some serious challenges when you're trying to grow good turfgrass.  Sure they are messy and cause shade problems, but as I said earlier they are thirsty buggers and growing grass around the base of them takes a lot of work.
We try very hard to grow decent turfgrass around the base of some of the key fir trees which are near the greens and tees.  We've limbed up these trees to allow for sufficient sunlight and added sandy soil to cover the rocks and roots near the surface.  We hand water around these trees during the summer and use wetting agent products to relieve the drought condition caused by the thirsty shallow root systems.  To eliminate trimming the grass right around the trunk of these key trees we've worked at keeping those areas free of grass and dressed with mulch.  This practice adds another set of problems.  Keeping the mulch in place is difficult when we're constantly cleaning up after these trees using big debris blowers.  Keeping these mulched areas weed free requires hand pulling and hand applications of herbicide.  On top of that we have to consider playability and hitting golf shots from the course mulch is absolutely no fun.  Yes we could use some finer mulch around the base of these trees and you might think that's what we've done around the trees near the first green. 
The fact is we are not switching to a fine dark mulch to dress up around these trees.  Actually this dark fine mulch is just plain compost which we are using to aid germination of grass seed around the base of these trees.  We are trying a new solution around these key trees.  Actually I guess you could say we're trying an old solution which is to grow grass around them, but now we have a new tactic which is a little different.  The key to this new strategy is we're seeding these areas to straight chewings fescue.  Here's what it looks like when the new fescue grass emerges through the compost.  
So why do we think this is going to work?  Well, we've been experimenting.  Here's a look at a tree where we employed this strategy a couple of years ago.  
Obviously this is a very attractive and natural look.  With grass around thee trees we don't have to worry about using the big blowers near them.  You can definitely play a golf shot off this grass and best of all the maintenance of this tree base has been very simple.  The chewings fescue is very drought tolerant so it persists throughout the year without supplemental hand watering.  Also, the poor soil condition means the fescue grows extremely slow and that means very little mowing is required.  In fact over the past year I think we've mowed the fescue around this tree maybe 2 or 3 times.  We're hopeful this is going to be a long term solution for maintaining these challenging areas at the base of the fir trees.  

Friday, November 8, 2019

Buffers Buffers Buffers

So check this out.  We've been working very hard to salvage as many plants as possible from the home site which is soon to be completely cleared for new construction.  Look at these two huge Japanese maples.
There's a lot of different places we could have re-planted these trees, but we decided it was most important to keep working on the buffer between the freeway and the golf course.  Specifically we planted them behind the green on #2 where we had a gap in the existing buffer and thus a clear view of the chemical storage building and freeway traffic. The next two pictures show how it looked before and now after the transplant.  
For the next several months we will be working on buffer plantings. You already know we're removing the trees behind #9 green and adding an evergreen buffer.  Likewise we're replacing those fir trees to the right of #8 green with a new planting to buffer the freeway. Today I want to inform you of our newest project which is to replace some more of the fir trees to the left of #4.
If you haven't already noticed there are 4 fir trees near the left fairway bunker that are marked for removal.  The next two pictures show the typical existing condition of that area.

There's two big problems here.  One is we have young fir trees which are planted very close to the fairway and are already causing shade problems.  We need to be very careful about the number of fir trees planted along the east property line.  Considering  the orientation of the golf course in relation to the path of the sun, it is imperative that we minimize the planting of anything that can grow several hundred feet high.  There are other tree species which can provide a good buffer while not growing so high that they cause shade problems on the golf course.  The other big problem with this area on #4 is the long grass or "native" area.  The grass here sometimes gets very long and people are loosing balls or spending an exorbitant amount of time looking for their ball.  The committee has decided to remove this "native" area and treat it similar to our primary rough.  In order to do this we need to completely renovate the area so that it is smooth enough to mow with our primary rough mowers.  The first step will be to remove the fir trees which we will do sometime after the first of the year.  After the stumps are ground out, we will then spray out the existing native grasses and then use a rototiller to prepare the soil for grading and new seed. Lastly we will plant new trees and or buffer plants which have been deemed suitable by our Tree Management Plan.  Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any comments or concerns regarding this project.