Here is Spring and that means Summer has the throttle twisted in a pre-run burnout and is headed our way. Summer means all kinds of things to turfgrass managers. Long days, different grass types and their needs, kids out of school and their needs, long days, golfers, irrigation issues, long days and of course, long days. For almost all of us, it is make or break time.
Why am I talking about this now? I have seen clearly that successful summer survivors are always months ahead of the game as it comes to preparing. One superintendent who was always way ahead of the curve explained that if he didn't start sending his turf telegrams way before the dog days, then the turf would never get the message. Brilliant. Think about it, when the environmental stress of the Spring is low, you have control of how and what kind of pre-stress conditioning to implement. The need for accuracy isn't as great. It's a great time to experiment a little and see how far you can take things. It's an important time to plan and be real about what your current situation is.
Water. Here is where I have seen more sins committed than almost any area of springtime agronomy. Too much, too soon and too often can put a total top to any kind of pre-stress conditioning for the plant. "Oh, it needs a little bit of water" is a warning sound for trouble to come. Don't give in to the temptation to do this and you'll see that not babying turf in cool weather pays off in spades later. Now, there are always exceptions, but they are rare. I've written about this before, here, if you want to know more.
Nitrogen Fertility. Spring Springs and so do then the Lelys and Vicons like big-mouth tulips anxious to pollinate the world. It's true, after a long and rainy (or snowy) winter we turfheads are always anxious to get our grow on. Yet, so often application timing too early leads to issues. Yes, nutrient management often dictates some growth being needed, but remember, as soil temps are coming up, biological activity is getting on the next train. So for many, that overzealous fert application is soon followed with a cry for help to keep up with the mowing. Easy does it' always works.
Mineral Fertility. On the other side of the coin is the fact that pre-stress conditioning can mean a need to fix or enhance soil nutrients in need of re-stocking. Your energies in getting materials out before summer are totally worth it. Be it Potassium or Calcium (or lots of Calcium for those monks wearing that robe), Phosphorous, Iron (or lots of Iron for the members of the other church) or whatever other corrective treatments, doing it now is never a bad idea.
Plant Protection. Call me crazy, but I think the days of application of any kind of plant protection "Just Because We Always Do" are long over. Careful consideration of the dollars available, the total program possible, the real stress that you have at your property is necessary. If indeed you battled Anthracnose or other Spring/ Early Summer Disease last year there is no guarantee that things will be the same. A watchful eye? Yes. Proper timing of applications? Of course. Fear, because you might end up like the course down the road did last year? Absurd. Expecting a material to suddenly work when it should have been applied earlier. Just as Dumb. Confused? Seek help. It's all around.
Growth Regulation. I love the many options we have with Growth Regulation these days. Specific, targeted materials and programs that make our efforts to grow grass a whole lot of fun when the growth needs to slow down or the seedhead just has to go. But like anything else, these materials need proper application timing, correct selection and an understanding of what they will and will not do. Again, "just because" can't be the way to approach the use of tools that are amazing in their ability to help us move into summer stress periods. If you are confused"¦ help is out there in many forms. There are no dumb questions.
You. Spring can be a great time for you to look in the mirror. Are you OK? Is your family OK? What health things can you address before the Dog Days come? Where are your priorities? Who is in your support network? How is your Faith? When is the last time you really laughed? All of these things are important. When we talk about pre-stress conditioning, this has to be an area of critical factor.
Preparation for anything is key. Take a moment and map out your world a bit. Look deep and see what the possibilities are for doing things better and different. Don't procrastinate. It won't help you when the heat is really on.