The Right Strategies When Water is as Scarce as the Sahara in Summer

on by Geoff Simril

Persistently dry weather, especially with high Evapotranspiration (ET) rates, creates real challenges for Golf Course Superintendents doing their best to maintain quality, healthy turf.

Drought and high ET rates suck the moisture out of the turf plant and cause root die-back at the same time.  This puts the plant at risk, especially at low mowing heights, as it struggles to stay alive.  At the same time, salts can build up, causing further risk to the turf and health of the soil environment.

The key is to retain enough moisture to keep the turf healthy without creating wet conditions.   You need to choose the right product and apply it in the right way.  At Harrell’s, we don’t believe that “one wetting agent size fits all,” so we created two different HydrOtecH productsSymphony®, a great retaining agent; and Fleet®, a great distributing agent.

To combat drought and high ET rates, apply Symphony in one of two ways—both at lower rates, more often than once a month.  Greater frequency gives you greater consistency without “overdoing” it.

  1. 1-2 oz/1,000 sf once a week.  This can be tank-mixed with foliars, Bio-MAX® 4-0-0, EarthMAX®, Salt Rx, PGRs, and/or fungicides.  Irrigate at night as you usually would.  If applying with fungicides, make sure that the dilution rate is appropriate.
  2. 2.5-3 oz/1,000 sf every two weeks.  This can be tank-mixed with foliars, fungicides, Bio-MAX® 4-0-0, EarthMAX®, and other soil products.  If applying with fungicides, make sure that the dilution rate is appropriate.
  3. If dew is not present at time of biweekly or monthly soil applications, spin the heads to wash the products applied off the leaf tissue.  Irrigate at night as you usually would.

To combat salt build-up—FLUSH!  Apply Fleet @5-6 oz/1,000 sf and Cal Plus @ 3-5 oz/1,000 sf once a month.  Irrigate heavily after play, to the point of puddling.  Let the water soak in, and cycle again.

To assist with root development and stress and drought tolerance, apply both EarthMAX®, and Bio-MAX® 4-0-0 at 4 oz/1,000 sf every two weeks.

One more strategy that can help in extremely dry conditions—instead of irrigating greens last at night, irrigate them first, after play.  Get water on the greens at the end of the day when the turf needs the water the most, especially with longer daylight hours.  Follow up with another irrigation cycle at the end of the night.  One of the real benefits of Fleet’s water distribution properties is that, when Fleet is used monthly, it enables you to give your turf all the water it really needs.

Finally, no matter what you do, there may be a time when you have to drag hoses, either because the greensmix depth varies or the architect saddled you with some severe slopes.  When that happens, you can get more from your hand-watering by using a wetting agent pellet like Harrell’s RootMAX.   RootMAX is the combination of a penetrant surfactant, humic acid, and seaweed extract which reduces water repellency, increases moisture retention, and encourages deeper root growth.