Friday, August 26, 2016

Finishing The Race:

The 2016 Olympic season is over and again the United States dominated in the medal count.  It was exciting to watch our very own Lilly King walk away with two gold medals.  Her success in Rio was because of the extensive training, hard work and dedication to her goals of winning.  Here at Victoria National we have been running through our own “Olympic run” to finish the race strong for 2016.  Unlike the Olympic Games, the race for healthy turf and great playing conditions is a nine month marathon vs. a two week competition.
2016 has been very stressful on the turf due to the extremes of the weather.  June was hot and dry with average temperatures in the mid 90’s. July followed up with a combination of being very hot, very humid, and very wet.  Now August has been a combination of all these conditions.  As we look at the comparison of Olympians to the management of turfgrass, it becomes apparent that there are many similarities when trying to finish a competition strong.  Both must go through intense training, proper conditioning and overall maintaining the health of the “body”. 
Over-working the “tissues” by not having the proper oxygen levels, nutrients, and water can cause serious damage overall.  Plants and humans require a lot of the same things when it comes to how the organisms work.  We aerify multiple times to encourage oxygen levels in the soil, which is no different than an athlete going into a hyperbaric chamber to increase oxygen levels within the muscle tissue.  The plants do not have the luxury of taking breaks like athletes, or having “off days” in the middle of the summer. 
This summer has been “the perfect storm” as our daytime temperature was consistently above 90 degrees F.  Nighttime temperatures have consistently been in the upper 70’s (minus 3 days this past weekend). We have received untimely rains that have saturated the soils and depleted the oxygen in the soils, along with soil temperatures that have been consistently at the 80-90 degree mark with little decline at night.  Relative humidity has been extreme during both days/nights causing inadequate evapotranspiration (ability for water to evaporate or plant to “sweat”) for the soils to dry out.   With all of this combined the roots of our plants have been in decline causing us to water more frequently than we would like to.
Cool-season grasses can handle the conditions explained above, but it becomes difficult for the turf to survive without intermittent breaks in these extreme conditions during the summer months.  These intermittent breaks in the weather usually bring cooler nights, less humidity and a chance for the plant to recuperate.  This allows the staff the ability to bring firm and faster conditions as the plant can be pushed a little harder.  This summer has been a continuous 400 meter race with very few breaks, even during the nighttime.  

We will finish the race strong and keep our eyes on the gold, not without a few cramps and aches on the way to our finish-line, AERIFICATION.  While protecting our turf and achieving our goal we must make some decisions for the fine turf.  Compounded cart traffic on fairways during these conditions this year has begun to cause damage to the weak areas no matter how carefully or respectful they are driven and sharp turns seem to accentuate the damage.   Due to the circumstances, I am asking that carts remain in the roughs and request the players walk to their shots on the fairways until we are able to get through aerification.  I am optimistic that after September 15th, conditions will be more favorable for turf health and carts can access fairways with no damage.  This is the best compromise for our Agronomy department to ensure healthy turf and an enjoyable experience for our members and guests.  Please continue to scatter where applicable and avoid weak areas, repair ball marks on greens and sand fill divots on fine turf.  After aerification we also request that pelts are replaced back in the fairways as optimal weather draws near.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Producing your own garden:

Last spring we made the decision to begin our own Herb and Vegetable garden from scratch. What seemed to be “simply” one more thing added to the list has definitely been a learning experience for us. After “careful” planning, consulting, and purchasing of plants we quickly realized that gardening takes patience and dedication.
     The first year we planted everything slightly late and thought things were going really well, but the weeds took over and we realized that our soil structure was not the greatest for our garden.  We spent this past fall trying to improve the soil by adding aerification plugs and grass clippings to help aide in soil structure.
   This year we felt more prepared and by early spring the garden was prepped and ready for a great season.  Spring started out very well with our plants quickly rooting and what seemed to have had good growth, but something still looked off as the vegetables and plants looked stunted compared to others in the area.  Luckily we had a good rapport with a master gardener who thought we needed to have more soil/ compost to give the soil the ability to retain more moisture and nutrients, thus allowing a healthier and more robust plant.  
     My recommendation would be that if you are getting ready to plant a garden, to go ahead and get your soil tested for not only heavy metals and nutrients, but your soil structure.   It would also be beneficial to build a relationship with your local master gardeners prior to planting your garden.  There is a lot of good literature, apps, and how-to-guides for gardeners, but there’s no one more knowledgeable than your local gardeners.  These folks can minimize your headaches by guiding you to proper varieties, plants, and resources to making your garden a success.  
In the end, we were able to add a granular form of humus and organic matter to alter the nutrient holding capacity of the soil directly associated with the plant.  The amount of vegetables we have pulled has been slightly less than average, but the second half of the season we have been very fortunate in our yield.   This year we are pulling cantaloupes in excess of 10 lbs. regularly.  

-Written by: Tony Oxley 
Victoria National Horticulturist

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