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. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

New Driving Range Tee - Phase 1

The driving range tee turned 30 years old this past spring so it's no surprise that it's in need of a renovation.  Typically, practice tees can last 10 - 20 years.  The fact that ours has lasted so long is really remarkable. We've been talking about this project for several years now and we are actively trying to work it into the Asset Replacement Fund (ARF).  The image above is from the Club's Master Plan and shows the footprint of the new practice tee.  With today's technology and the distance that the golf ball travels, it's necessary that we build the new practice tee as far back as possible which brings it closer to the trees that are behind the 9th green.  Below is an image which shows that grove of trees between the practice tee and the 9th green.
Although we're still trying to set a date for the construction of the new practice tee, we have the exciting opportunity right now to complete the first phase of the project which is to remove some of the trees in order to make space for the new practice teeing ground.  The reason we want to move on this project now is because we have just been given dozens of very large evergreen shrubs which are perfect replacements for the lost trees. These evergreen shrubs, which are really small trees, need to be removed from a nearby residence within the next several weeks as the home site is being completely cleared off for the construction of a new home.  So, the plan is to remove 6 of the 9 trees between the practice tee and the 9th green, and then transplant those large shrubs to this area and create a vegetative buffer.  Below is a picture of the 9th green as it looks today and then another picture showing what it will look like when we are finished planting the new buffer.

My photo-shop skills aren't the best, but you get the idea. The new look with one majestic tree is definitely more appropriate given the surrounding oak savanna landscape.Something I found interesting is that these trees behind the 9th green are not as old as they look.  Below is a picture of the golf course taken around 100 years ago and that arrow is pointing to the location where those trees are today.  Back then this was the 16th green and those trees were planted to protect players from errant shots being hit towards the 18th green.  
One more thing I need to mention is that there are so many large plants coming off this home site near the 11th hole, that we also will be using them to replace those small fir trees near the 8th green.  See the picture below.
Obviously the fir trees will get way too large for this area being they are immediately adjacent to a putting green.  These trees were planted in 2010 as a temporary buffer following the installation of the sewer utility, and the new evergreen shrubs will be a perfect permanent solution.  For those of you that weren't here in 2010 or if you don't really remember that project I created a photo album of pictures I took during that crazy 6 month period.  Over 190 trees were removed to facilitate installation of that utility.  Click here to check it out.  All of the trees that I've mentioned here which will be removed this fall are now marked with ribbon so please take a look at these areas the next time you're on the playing field.