Sunday, March 28, 2010

To Aerate or Not; What is the Answer?

The answer is... It depends. Every Superintendent has to ask themselves what the purpose of aerating is for them and their club. It use to be because aerating was just what you did. Now, with the demand for high quality golf consistently and the need to make up revenue wherever you can in these economic times, you have to focus on what you are trying to accomplish by aerating.

At the Villages Golf Club, they aerate to help improve their drainage on their native soil push up greens by getting as much sand in the green as possible. San Juan Oaks Golf Club isn't doing a traditional aeration, but they are incorporating a soil amendment that will help with their water management with minimal disruption. Crystal Springs will put out bentgrass seed every time they aerate which has been a HUGE success for them.

Here at Cinnabar we are not aerating this spring (still aerating in August) and I'll take you through my thought process. First off, remember the core reasons for aerating; thatch removal, increase drainage, relieve compaction, and allowing more oxygen in the soil profile. Let's take one at a time.

Thatch removal- Our thatch levels aren't that bad and I believe that we can maintain them by lightly verti-cutting and topdressing. Both much less disruptive than the alternative.

Increase drainage- We regularly apply wetting agents that help move water through the soil and we will also be doing small solid tine holes throughout the summer to help out. Both much less disruptive than the alternative.

Compaction relief- Again, we will be doing several solid tine hole applications this year which will help alleviate all the compaction we have from people coming to Cinnabar because we didn't aerate! Much less disruptive than the alternative.

There is one last factor and that is Poa annua. When we typically aerate, the soil temps are in the mid 40's which in my case has resulted in a slower recovery time for the bentgrass(60 degree temps or above are ideal). Every summer when we are picking Poa, it always seems to have fresh sand around the roots meaning the Poa liked the aeration hole better than the bentgrass.

Wrapping it all up, if I can do other procedures to mimic the benefits of aeration and keep Poa annua under control, than that is what I will choose. My ideas may all come crashing down on me, but it is my professional opinion for now and it is subject to change (had to have some sort of disclaimer).