November: Time to forget?

By |  November 12, 2018 0 Comments
Headshot: Karl Danneberger

Karl Danneberger

November is a unique month because we have forgotten most of what happened the previous year. Martha Gellhorn, the famous war correspondent and one of the wives of Ernest Hemingway, said, “In November you begin to know how long the winter will be.” This weekend while raking leaves, I was thinking for the first time about this past season.

Golf courses in the past year faced a range of extreme challenges, from excessive heat throughout the Southwest, extended heat duration through September in the Midwest; heat, flooding and extensive rain through the Midwest and Southeast, the hurricane in the Carolinas and the Southwest tropical storm. Given that weather extremes are more the norm than the exception, I was not thinking of these events.

What I pondered was a few weeds and an insect. What popped into my mind were weeds — spotted spurge, yellow nutsedge, Virginia buttonweed — and ticks. Hardly what I would expect to be thinking about.

Spotted spurge isn’t exactly a glamorous weed. Most of the time I don’t think much about it. This year, however, I continually observed this weed invading turf stands throughout the summer. Granted, spotted spurge is a yearly problem in ornamental beds and within cracks on patios, but this year I continually saw spotted spurge colonizing weak turf areas, and amazingly, growing over the top of turf canopies. Superintendents can control spotted spurge by hand pulling and through (what I think is) a limited number of herbicide options. The thing that stuck with me was the continual need for control practices through the year.

Yellow nutsedge, given its perennial lifecycle and affinity for wet or moist areas, seems to be everywhere. In areas where humid hot conditions have persisted over the last several summers, this weed appears in thinning or damaged turf areas. In the Midwest, it generally germinates in April/May and persists through the first frost, only to overwinter as tubers. Yellow nutsedge spreads by underground rhizomes, so it seems to just “pop up” in the turf.

Whether I was on a home lawn or on a golf course, I found myself bending down to pull out the weed. Unfortunately, hand pulling works only temporarily until a new plant is generated by the rhizome or from tubers. Herbicides are effective, but if not controlled early in the spring the weed becomes a continual problem through the summer — and a major concern becomes which areas to treat.

What would a look back on this summer be without something new occurring? My colleague David Gardner, Ph.D., identified Virginia buttonweed for the first time along the Ohio River.

Virginia buttonweed is considered the most invasive weed infesting turf in the Southeastern United States. I’m already starting to miss the days when the majority of my “weed thoughts” focused on Poa annua and whether it was a friend or foe.

My other thought was the increase in tick populations this year. I saw golf course superintendents come out of native areas with ticks on their legs and golfers brushing them off and complaining about them, so ticks increasingly are seen as a problem.

Why are we seeing the presence of ticks in these numbers? Climate change. Milder winters have allowed for increases in tick populations. What we need this winter — and for maybe a few more — is a full frontal hit of freezing cold temperatures from November to March. Maybe a return of the Vortex. And if that happens, maybe I should head to Florida.

As I mentioned previously, November is a month when the past year should be and often is forgotten. So I dropped my rake and headed inside to watch college football.

In November, every football game takes on a larger-than-life importance, while those games played in September, whether won or lost, are not even remembered.

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