Native areas encourage biodiversity on the golf course, frame course architecture, and reduce rough acreage that must be mowed on a regular basis. That said, native areas should not be considered low-maintenance. Poorly maintained native areas can take away from course aesthetics, slow pace of play, and become increasingly challenging to reclaim.
We spend a lot of time each October planning for the next year’s growing season. Here are a few things to consider when planning for native area management in 2019:
How much area do you have?
Quantifying treatable acreage is essential to proper calibration of equipment, purchasing the correct volume of products needed for weed or insect management, and forecasting the amount of labor required to maintain these areas. Here are two free tools available to estimate land area. These tools are equally effective for estimating area of playing surfaces or other areas of interest:
Use the right tool for the job
Mowing frequency and makeup of desirable species in native areas are a couple factors that contribute to the makeup of weeds that populate these areas. Often, native area weed control requires different active ingredients for satisfactory control than what might be used for broadleaf or grassy weed control on playing surfaces. This can also be true for insect control.
Having the right tool for the job is not limited to pesticide selection. Correct equipment selection for mowing and pesticide application is equally essential to an effective management program. Generally, these areas require equipment capable of mowing thick, tall, native grasses and light brush. Undulations can be significant and a challenge to mow with equipment designed to maintain playable rough areas. Considerations should be made for pesticide application equipment for the same reasons. Depending on total area and topography, proper application equipment can range from a backpack sprayer to a 300-gallon sprayer with a hand-gun attachment.
Native areas are not a playing surface… who cares about playability? As an 18-handicapper I’m exceedingly average on the golf course, meaning I spend a lot of time everywhere but the short grass. Time spent ball-hunting accumulates throughout the course of a round. This influences golfer satisfaction with the course and number of rounds that can be played on a given day. Further, improving playability of natural areas decreases golfer frustration, increasing the likelihood they will come back to play another day.
Playability of these areas is defined differently by each course; however, golfers want to find their ball and want to have a swing at it. This becomes increasingly important adjacent to fairway landing areas. Improving playability of these areas is a topic for another blog post, but consideration of fertility, irrigation, and mowing practices are a major part of the discussion.
The intent of this short post is to outline a few bullet points for consideration during the planning process of a native area management program. October is the best time to plan for and purchase the products you need to manage your native areas in 2019. Manufacturer EOP programs are mostly available into December, but maximum savings can be realized in October. Give your Harrell’s sales representative a call to build an effective plan specific to your property for a successful 2019.