Thursday, 12 April 2012

Weeds, Another Perspective.

What is a weed?

One definition I found was: A plant considered undesirable, unattractive, or troublesome, especially one growing where it is not wanted, as in a garden.

On some golf courses weeds can be a constant battle. Turf managers often have to go out of their way to deal with the pesky plants. Often the weeds on a golf course are harmful to the turf and the environment. Invasive species for example are a major problem all over the world. In other instances it is the native species that are the culprits.

The past few years that I have worked at the Pender Harbour Golf Club have taught me a lot of things. One of those things is how to deal with weeds. At Pender Harbour we might look at "weeds" a little differently than most other golf courses.

Clover growing in the turf


Take White Clover (Trifolium repens) for example. Our rough, fairways and tees are full of clover. Clover is usually a sign of poor soil nutrition and drought. This is very true especially for the rough areas of our course. We do not water or fertilize our rough, never have, never will.

What the golfer sees
Now we could easily kill the clover by spraying some selective herbicides but what good would that do? The clover is there for a reason. It is there because it prefers those growing conditions where the turfgrass does not. If I was to kill off all the clover what would I be left with? I would more than likely be left with a patchy, ugly, poor playing surface for most of the year. Instead we leave the clover to do what it does best. Grow nice and green and fix nitrogen. The clippings from the clover are rich in nitrogen and this helps nurture the turf for most of the growing season. During the summer months the only green that can be seen in our rough areas is from the clover as the cool season turf has a very difficult time coping with the lack of water and high temperatures.

Closer look at from the above picture.
I hear of a lot of people who have begun to seed fine fescues to cope with the dry, low fertility conditions found on their fairways and rough areas of the course. Fine fescues are great but they still require a lot of work to produce a good playing surface compared to clover. To grow good clover carefully follow these instructions.
  1. Cut it every once in a while.
  2. Do not fertilize ever
  3. Water it, or don't
That's it, it is self fertilizing and really doesn't require anything else. Now there is nothing wrong with seeding fine fescues into your turf. They do however require some work to be a successful playing surface.

Yarrow naturally growing beside one of our sand traps
Another "weed" on our course is white yarrow (Achillea millefolium). White Yarrow is a native species to our area and tolerates dry sandy soils very well. I recently heard of another course in the area that deliberately seeded yarrow to their bunker surrounds. They found that it held up very well to the dry conditions and was also a great playing surface for golf. I thought that I would give it a try and will be seeding our bunker surrounds this spring with yarrow.

Another view shows the yarrow thriving in this sandy
environment
It isn't easy to grow good turf in the harsh bunker surrounds
Today while out working on the sand traps I came across something really neat. I found a patch of yarrow that had naturally started to grow on one of my bunker surrounds. This really pushed the idea home that seeding the trap surrounds with yarrow will be better for the sustainability of the golf course in the long run. Why should I constantly struggle to keep the turf lush and green around my traps when there is another plant species that will be lush, green and dense with virtually no inputs. Here is my secret of the trade to green sand trap surrounds.
  1. Plant Yarrow
  2. Cut it every once in a while.
  3. Do not water ever


Now you are probably thinking (or have been thinking for a long time) that I have completely lost my mind. You are probably right. But let me take this one step further.

Moss.

Yeah, moss.

Moss is a huge issue for so many people with their home lawns and some golf courses on their putting greens and rough areas.  I have discussed moss on putting greens at great length so I wont repeat those thoughts again. I will say this though.

What is wrong with the lie in the following picture?

Juicy moss grows where turf won't
 Maintaining this playing surface is easy if you follow these instructions.
  1. Cut the moss every once in a while.
  2. Do not fertilizer ever.
  3. Water a lot, or not at all, it doesn't matter.
There is no point in spraying the weeds here
as we lack the resources to grow good turf here.
I am constantly approached by people who are concerned about the moss in their lawns. The first thing I always ask them is if there are any trees that are shading their lawns? The answere is always yes. So I tell them to first cut down all their trees then if they still have a moss problem come and ask me again. You tell me if it is the moss or the turf that is the weed in this instance. The conditions are ideal for moss and terrible for turf. I tell you what, how about I come over and spray something to take care of that turf!

I guess the moral of the story here is to stop trying to maintain a plant species in a spot that it isn't suited to grow. Look into the other options that you have and plant something that will thrive and require the least amount of work. Ask yourself what the purpose and requirements are for that playing surface and plant to suite. A weed is only a weed if you make it one.