Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Alternate Winter Damage Recovery Solutions

It's no secret that I, and many others in the area, have suffered winter damage on our greens. Needless to say I have done a ton of research on strategies to recover from the damage as quickly as possible. Long story short, it almost always requires temperatures to warm up. There are, however, a few tricks that I have picked up this winter that I haven't read about much online so I thought I would pass them on with hopes that maybe they will help speed up the recovery of any winter damaged grass you might have.

Last month while at a turfgrass conference in Victoria, B.C. I had some awesome discussions with other turfgrass professionals about their experience with winter damage recovery. The following 2 strategies are things that I picked up from others, and will be trying and sharing about this spring.

Seed Priming

There really isn't much info out there about this relatively old practice. It's kind of funny because when it was suggested that I prime my seed to speed germination it was new to me even though it is exactly what we do for our wet divot mix that we put down on our tees! I had just never thought about doing it for greens.

The thing about winter damage is that it rarely happens when the winters are easy and warm. It happens during the bad winters and this only makes recovery more difficult. It is currently mid March and I have bentgrass growing from seed on my greens even though the average temperature this month has been only 5c (41F).

There are some rather complicated ways of seed priming but I decided to keep it simple. I decided to prime 5KG of dominant extreme 7 bentgrass seed.

Step 1: Soak Seed in water for 2 days at 20C. I didn't use any fancy air bubblers, just seed in water and stirred it a few times each day and kept the lid on.

Step 2: After 2 days of soaking I filtered the seed out of the water using a paint strainer cloth. It captured 100% of the seed. I squeezed out as much water as I could in this step.
Step 3: I mixed the primed seed with 25Kg compost and 25Kg sand. The sand helped break up the seed clumps and the compost helped retain moisture. I then added some water to the mixture and covered it with a plastic bag to keep the humidity up. I stored the mixture in our lunch room at 30 C (86F) for 2 days. I turned the mixture a few times each day.

plastic bag used to keep mixutre humid.
Step 4: This is where I made a mistake. I seeded the grass 1 day early. When we first noticed the seed start to break I decided to spread the primed seed. I should have waited 1 extra day.
After 2 days in the sand/compost mixture the seed started to pop.
I kept a test batch indoors to see what 1 extra day would do. I didn't want to compromise the entire mixture by waiting too long so I seeded it all at this time.
Test batch (3 days in sand) germinated less than 1 week after taking it outdoors.
Seeding a wet sand/seed/compost mixture is easier said than done.

First we dimple tined the greens with our aerator. If course we had to shovel the snow off the greens first!
Gross. Thankfully we don't get winter like this very often.

Homemade dimple tines

Then we tried spreading it with a drop spreader with no success, it was still too wet to spread.
Trying to dry mixture for spreading with no luck
Eventually we went back to basics.

Yes we sowed the seed by hand! To get even coverage we further diluted the mixture 50/50 with sand to allow us to throw more material with less seed to hopefully get better coverage.

After spreading the seed we blew the mixture to try and get it into the holes we punched. Then we rolled the greens.

A roll and a blow
The mixture that we kept indoors for 3 days after mixing with sand is now almost 0.5" tall where the stuff we sowed on greens took 2 weeks to become visible in the aeration holes!
Baby bentgrass growing after 2 weeks with 5c average temps. Seeded 1 day later and it would be a week ahead.
Pre-germ that was kept indoors in sand for 3 days at 30C 2 weeks after planting outdoors. Photo: John Taylor
So what would I do next time? Well I am doing it as we speak! I am priming seed to spread on the rest of my undamaged greens to try and get some more bent established. This time, I'll keep the seed in the sand mixture indoors for 3 days before sowing on the greens.

I'll keep everyone updated on how the recovery goes this spring. Will it make a difference? I don't know. I do know, that the seed I didn't prime, still hasn't germinated (I also have a test for that with 0 growth yet).


While at the same conference it was suggested that we try vegetative propagation to re-establish the damaged areas. We were talking with Larry Stowell who informed us how Torrey Pines converted their bentgrass greens to poa.

Basically they cored the greens they wanted to covert with a large hollow tine. Something like 5/8" and removed the cores. Then they cored the greens they wanted to use as a source of poa with 1/2" cores. They then spread the poa cores to the bentgrass greens and brushed them into the open holes.

This exact same thing could be done on greens damaged in the winter. Core the dead areas, and spread cores from live areas into the holes on the dead spots. No sod, no seed.

I won't be trying this method this year but a friend of mine might be. I'll pass on the results if it ever warms up enough to see results!

So there you go, 2 ways of dealing with winter damage that aren't often talked about. Maybe it is because they aren't worth doing? I don't know. What I do know is that regardless of what you do, the most important thing is temperature which we have little control over. I wonder if this will result in quicker recovery or if seed planted later when it's warmer will quickly make up lost ground with the warmer temps?
Using black impermeable tarps to get warm temps to push germination on sunny days.

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