Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Buffers

This is a picture of one of the greens at Swinley Forest Golf Club in England. The backdrop for this green is a huge thicket of Rhododendron.  This backdrop is not only attractive, it's also the most perfect vegetative buffer. It's perfect because it's dense, evergreen, and just the right height.  It's tall enough to hide or screen something in the background that you don't want to see, and not so tall that it will ever cause serious shade problems on the putting surface.  All too often vegetative buffers are designed using trees which ultimately grow to a height which cause serious shade problems. Such is the case at Tacoma where in the past the Douglas fir tree was planted extensively to screen the perimeter of the property.  The Douglas fir is an invasive native tree which grows rapidly and when it's planted in the wrong place it quickly can cause serious shade problems.  The trees planted between the freeway and the Club's boundary are starting to become a real problem in regard to shade.  The Club's Tree Management Plan is addressing this serious issue.  I thought I'd share some of what we've done so far.
This picture of 12 goes back to 2009.  In 2010, a sewer pipeline was installed along the east property line and that project involved removing hundreds of trees including those behind the 12th green.  This was great for improving growing conditions on the 12th green but it really exposed the view of the freeway and the fence-line.  Here's what it looked like after the trees were removed.  
You can imagine at the time there was a huge desire to quickly replant something to buffer the new unsightly backdrop.  We had to come up with a planting plan and in fact this exercise back in 2010 was the catalyst for creating the Club's Tree Management Plan.  You see at the time the Club didn't have a plan to deal with the growing problem of shade which was inevitably going to cause serious damage to the golf course playing surfaces.  When the sewer project came about, it was clear that we needed a plan, not only to restore the grounds impacted by the project, but to deal with the rapidly growing trees throughout the property.  We made some mistakes when we replanted after the sewer project, but we also got some things right.  Here's what 12 looks like today.  Good buffering of the fence-line with evergreen shrubs that will never cause a shade problem for the putting surface.  
Next case in point look at the work we did on #3 tee.  This was the first project following the approval of the current Tree Management Plan which clearly defines the Club's strategy in regard to buffer plantings.  Here's what it looked like before tree removal.  The goal here was to improve growing conditions for the teeing grounds and then buffering the view of the maintenance facility.  
Below is what this area looks like today.  Great buffering of the maintenance facility and lots of sunlight for the turf.  In fact the growing conditions are so good here that soon we will be removing this cart path as we've done with great success in other areas.  I should note that yes we are using trees in the new buffers, but we're only using species which when mature do not achieve a height that would cause a shade problem in the future.
Next case in point and in that same general area, check out this project we completed around #2 green.  Here's a look at the site before tree removal and buffer planting.  The project goal was to improve growing conditions for the putting green, and plant a buffer to screen the view of traffic on the road in the background.
There has been several tree removal projects for this particular putting surface and in this phase, 5 large firs were removed to capture a greater amount of morning light.  Here's what it looks like today.  Great buffering of the background and now the sward we have on this putting green is as good as any on the rest of the playing field.
Lastly, let's look at a very recent project near the south end of the property.  This is the 14th green before we performed any tree removal.  The goal with this project was to improve growing conditions on the putting surface and establish a buffer to screen the view of cars on Thorne Lane.
Here's the same view today.  Check out the obvious increase in sunlight, and the buffer planting is very effective which is cool considering it was just planted.  I can't wait to take this same picture in 5 years.
So this is pretty exciting stuff in my opinion.  The Tree Management Plan is not just about preserving the oak savanna or tree removal for improved growing conditions.  It specifically addresses the serious issue of the Club's perimeter where there is a need for an effective, sustainable privacy screen.  So you might be curious which area we're going to be working on next.  Click HERE for the Tree Management Strategic Plan which is a summary of the plan's upcoming projects.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Fairway Aeration - Success!

So yes, we delayed fairway aeration due to the persistent wet weather.  Was that a good decision? You bet! We had perfect weather the last week of April and here's some pictures which show just how well the process went.  
Check out the gorgeous sunshine as we're pulling cores around the 18th teeing grounds.  Okay I keep calling them fairways but really since our fairways and teeing grounds are all connected it's hard to distinguish between fairway and the other short grass areas like tees and approaches.  We treat all the short grass the same and we call all the short grass the "fine turf".
The machine we used to punch the holes is brand new and we just acquired it a few weeks ago.  The main reason for getting this new machine is that it simply is amazing compared to other aerifiers.  It is super fast and the cores come out of the ground in fragments.  Check out this close up of the turf right after this machine has done it's thing.
You can see there is quite a bit of soil brought to the surface.  That's really the whole idea.  Bringing up soil and then returning it back into the turf canopy is what in turn makes for a healthy stand of turf.  Yes punching holes and getting air into the surface is important and yes punching holes for better infiltration of water is nice too, but in my opinion it's the recycling of the soil that is the key here.  When soil is recycled there is nutrients and micro organisms that are turned over and this is where the power of nature takes over.  For centuries the "turning over" of soil has been known to be important for growing healthy plants.  We're getting back to the basics by pulling cores and it's working.  Our fine turf is now much healthier and our summer diseases like fairy ring are much more manageable. 
After punching the fine turf and letting the surface dry out a little, we drag the areas with a harrow mat.  This breaks up the soil and knocks it down into the turf canopy.
In this picture you can see the difference between an area that has been drug with the mat and an area that has not.  Pretty cool huh?
The last step is to now pick up that little turf plug which is left behind.  It helps to condense them by blowing them into long rows.
This marvelous time saving machine gathers them up and now we're done.  Waiting for the good weather, and having the new punching machine made this the most successful fairway aerification I've ever seen.  Thank you for your patience. The result is some pretty gorgeous fine turf.  Hope you're enjoying it today.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Fairway Aeration??

If you click on "Calendar" in the menu at the top of the blog you can see the entire golf schedule for the year which includes the dates for punching and sanding the greens and fairways.  Above you can see a picture of the calendar page and notice that we have 3 weeks blocked off for fairway aeration.  Does this mean it takes 3 weeks to punch fairways? No, in fact it takes about 5 or 6 days to punch fairways but this time of year it takes 3 weeks to find enough "good weather" days for the process.  Remember we absolutely cannot have it rain during the process or it turns out to be a big mess.  The reason I'm bringing this up is that in case you haven't noticed, we've only punched 5 fairways and there's only one week left on the schedule.  What's the hold up?  Check out this tweet from the other day sent by the national weather service....

Some how we managed to punch the greens on schedule, but as you can see we simply haven't had appropriate weather for punching the fairways so we are very much behind.  There is some hope though.......check out the forecast for the next two weeks.

It looks like starting this Wednesday we'll actually be seeing some spring like weather which should allow us to get all the fairways punched.  I just want you to know that since we are so far behind it's likely we will be finishing up on the 23rd or 24th.  I'm sorry if this inconveniences any of you but this spring the fairway aerification is very important since we skipped punching them last spring due to the demands of the new pro shop renovation.