Doubling down on drainage issues

By |  June 9, 2015 0 Comments

Drainage-related issues have steadily increased in the 15 years Dave Smith has been superintendent of Fawn Lake Country Club, in Spotsylvania, Va. Woven through wetlands, the course sits on heavy clay soils and excess rainfall often leads to moisture-related problems.

“If we’re in a dry spell the place is perfect but give us a little rain and it lingers for a while,” says Smith , who holds a degree in turfgrass management from Clemson University. “Our greens are USGA spec, so they hold up pretty well. But poor drainage affects turf quality in the native soils.”

With zoysiagrass fairways, bentgrass greens and tees and fescue/bluegrass roughs, Fawn Lake is an Arnold Palmer Design, built in 1995.

“Now that we’re 20 years old, the margins are getting a little fuzzy between all the different turf varieties,” says Smith. “Our boundaries are not as crisp as we’d like them. Drainage has a lot to do with it.”

Noting that it was a good decision to plant zoysiagrass, Smith says his fairways are fairly low maintenance and low input. “They tend to be a little thatchy, but overall our fairways are great,” he adds. “However, zoysia can be rather spongy so the rainfall doesn’t perc well into the soil.”

Drainage-Related Issues

Besides affecting rooting, poor drainage leads to cart path issues with Fawn Lake’s mostly older members. “They’re against any cart path restrictions because they want to take their carts everywhere on the course,” he continues. “So we have to compromise during wet conditions.”

Smith faces another drainage-related problem: weed control. In particular, green kyllinga is troublesome on his zoysiagrass fairways. “Kyllinga is not attractive to look at and it grows at 10 times the rate of the zoysia,” he explains. “Because we drain poorly, we don’t get the mowers out as soon as other courses are cranking them up after a rain. We may have to sit on it for a day or two — and the kyllinga can get pretty ugly. It’s not only bigger but a little different-colored green, so it stands out like a sore thumb!”

In the past, Smith used a variety of postemergence herbicides to gain control of kyllinga. Many of them had damaging effects on the cool-season grasses around the perimeter of the fairways. But a few years ago, he started using Echelon herbicide from FMC and had excellent results.

One Application Controls Kyllinga

“We wait until we see the beginning stages of kyllinga and that tells us it’s time to spray Echelon,” he adds. “We usually spray in late April or early May. That one application kills the existing kyllinga and then it doesn’t come back.”

Formulated to be both root- and shoot-absorbed, Echelon controls weeds from the foliage down and from the root up. The dual mode of action reduces follow-up applications by working to control other weeds at the time of application, including preemergence and postemergence sedges and a variety of broadleaf weeds

“In 2014, we had the wettest year in the 15 years I’ve been here and I thought we’d be overrun with kyllinga,” says Smith. “We sprayed Echelon on May 1 and right after that we had a lot of rain. I kept looking and never saw any kyllinga. Echelon really works.”

Smith only wishes he could fix his drainage problems as easily as he can control kyllinga. “The best way to handle it would take a major investment for an overall renovation,” he says. “I’m hoping that can happen sometime in the near future.”

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About the Author: Debbie Clayton

Debbie Clayton is a public relations consultant based in Ambler, Pa. She has more than 25 years of experience writing about agriculture, turf (golf, lawn, and landscape), ornamentals and specialty crops, among other topics.

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