Monday, November 23, 2009

My Aerification Process Explained

Aerifying Greens

Drag the sand in or Wash it in?

Theres always more then one way to get the job done?

I have had a few friends ask me to write this article so other Superintendents can see another alternative to filling in the holes left over from the aerification process. I realized a long time ago that our cultural practices are only limited by our imagination. With good common sense we can tweak the old practices to fit our individual courses and their needs, making these practices much better then before. I have come across one of these tweaks that ended up changing the way I use to fill in the holes from our aerification process. While it may seem more labor intensive up front it pays huge dividends in that it allows the holes to be filled and practically grown in within 14 days total and rolling really smooth. I will try my best to layout my process within this report, but be open to changes in your thinking and in the older ways we completed these processes. Feel free to adapt them to your own individual needs, because that is what I did.

The first stage when we start our aerification process is to topdress my greens heavy before we start pulling our cores. I do this for two reasons, first is putting the machine on my greens with all of it’s weight before we soften up them and leaving open holes, thus reducing the tire ruts left to level back out later. Secondly is to also build a layer of clean sand between the surface of the green and the area the core will be thrown onto before it is removed.

aerifying after topdressing

The second stage is the actual aerification of our greens. Our Tifeagle greens require three to four aerifications per year to help control the organics. We generally pull a .640” outside diameter hole, which takes out a .500” core. We use a GA-30 and with the help of another local course, by lending us their machine we are able to cut our plugging time in half.

Pulled cores
(Started on Monday)

The third stage consists of cleaning up the old cores. For this we use our sand pro, which has a flat blade on the front that we slip an aluminum pipe under to protect our turf while pushing the cores off the green into our collars. You can use whatever works best for your club and crew. Make sure you push the cores in the same direction as you aerified, this helps to keep all of your ruts going in the same direction, which will make leveling them out later in the process easier.

(Monday) Pushing cores

Cores Left on collars for cleanup

I have a crew standing by with utility vehicles, shovels and rakes to clean up the cores and haul off to holes throughout the course. After this process is completed. (Hint, it is easier to mark off any holes on the course to be filled in, in advance to keep your crew from hunting for them during the process)

The fourth stage, consist of washing off the leftover debris on the greens. We use a 1” water hose with an adjustable nozzle to blow off the leftover plug tops and organics. By holding the hose closer to the greens and working from the highest point of the green downward you can push off the rest of the core material for cleanup later. This section needs to be performed by crewmembers that have a tendency to pay attention to details, due to it being the first surface your members can resume play on.

Washing off debris #1
At this point you should be left with a completely aerified, topdressed and cleaned up surface that is very bumpy but also real soft. Once the crew cleaning up the plugs have finished, I move them all to water hoses to start the most important aspect of this aerification process, hand watering in all of the topdressing sand by hand. This process requires complete attention by your crew. We start at the top of the green washing an area about 5’ wide using a wide angled nozzle (the bear adjustable nozzles work really great for all watering details of the task) at full pressure, pointing straight down at the green. We work the nozzle back and forth front left to right using the water to flush the sand into the holes. It is very important that you not try to push all of the sand in a line during this process. Too many times untrained crewmembers will always try to wash all of the sand off of the green and this is not the desired outcome. The leftover sand will be needed later in the process. Just quickly work the nozzle back and forth and when you start seeing a line form, move past it or try to wash it back up hill a little. The plan is to flood the greens during this process by each person staying on a green from 1-2 hours total. This whole process will take you two days to complete (all greens done twice) but once completed, your holes will be full and packed as well as your greens being flushed out of all toxins along with leaching any salts that can be broke down. We do this process to all 21 greens on my course and the process is repeated a second time the following day but during the repeat process your men should move a little faster, completing the second time in almost 2/3 the time. It may be helpful to have them switch the direction that they work the sand from top to bottom to just a little off that like going from 1 to 7 on a clock. This will help break up any sand bars that they had formed.

Flushing the sand into the holes
(Done Tuesday & Wednesday)

Finished Product

The fifth stage is when we first start to get our mowers back on the greens. I have a set of greens rollers that we go out with on the third day and roll the greens the same direction of our tire ruts from our aerifier (do not travel across them). I use my verticutting reels set at .125” cutting at a very slight angle off from the roller angle, using a drag mat or brush behind this machine. This process is used to level out all of the sand bars created from the flushing process. Since I generally cut at .125” I have my mowers raise to .150” to avoid scalping from tire ruts. My mower cuts in the same direction as the roller traveled. These angles are critical to avoiding scalping the greens throughout the first week of the process.


Verticutting and dragging to re-level sand

Cutting (Thursday am)

After these processes are completed we used our water hoses to lightly wash the sand back into the turf. We take extra care not to disturb the decent product we have worked to achieve. The process above was done on Thursday morning and was followed by adding another light topdressing in the afternoon followed by another light topdressing that is again re-watered into the surface canopy.

Lightly washing in
Completed product (Thursday pm)

Thursday pm Day 4

The next steps are to continue to roll the greens before cutting them on Friday followed by a light hand watering. We roll the greens again Saturday morning followed by another light hand watering to wash the sand back in again. We cut them on Saturday evening right at dark and we again roll them the next morning as well as wash the sand in. we only change our direction of rolling and cutting throughout the first seven days by little margins working back and forth from 11:00 to 1:00, using the clock method of direction. This allows us to cut them without scalping any areas due to the tire ruts. It is important to be patient with your directions of cut since it can take two weeks to recover from serious scalping. By Monday (8th day) you will see most of your holes ½ to ¾ of the way covered and you will be ready to topdress them lightly again. Between Tuesday and Wednesday of the second week we repeat our rolling, verticutting, and cutting process again followed with another light topdressing if needed. I also start working my cutting height of cut back down during this week. I work in increments of .010” every two days starting on Wednesday. If you notice any scalping you will need to roll them again before cutting. You will also want to avoid a cleanup lap until the 12th day to ensure that you have them rolled out as smooth as possible.
9 days out

Day 12 Friday

Aerification holes!

My Tifeagle greens have responded outstanding when using this process in filling in the holes. Generally by the second weekend (13th day) my greens are around 90% healed over and rolling about 95% as smooth as right before we started the process. I make sure that I fertilize and make my primo applications to my greens 1-2 weeks before starting the aerification process. I feel that the biggest reason my greens heal over this fast is related to the large amount of water that is put into them during the first three days. Like laying sod, the more water you put on it the faster it grows. The second factor to a quicker recovery is that we do not drag the sand into our holes, which can be compared, to using sandpaper on the leaf blades, which is a huge stress to the plant. While I know this process may not be good for everyone, it may help out many that have existing problems with their soil, severe hot spots or members that complain about how long it takes for your greens to get back into shape. My members have grown to accept the first four days of the process in trade for the better then average putting surfaces on the greens during the first weekend and the outstanding conditions during the second weekend. I truly believe that this process heals over a minimum of 7 days quicker then the conventional methods. Try it on your putting greens and see if it is right for your club.
GCSA James (Randy) Smith