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Wilt Watch – What to Do to Keep the Green in Your Greens

Follow these expert tips to avoid golf course wilt and be sure your turf doesn’t suffer summer stress

Summertime is full of highs, including high temperatures. Don’t let hot weather get the best of your course. Follow these tips from Dr. Todd Bunnell, our in-house PhD agronomist, to avoid golf course wilt and be sure your turf doesn’t suffer summer stress.

How to Ward Off Wilt

sprinklers watering a golf course
Have only a few hot spots? Beware of overwatering.

Think of it like this: plants are a lot like people. When we get hot, we hydrate and then cool ourselves by sweating. Plants are similar. They take up water and move it through their systems and up into their leaves to create a cooling process.

As water evaporates from the leaf surface, it pulls heat energy from the leaf and cools the plant — all of which is fine, provided the plant has the water it needs to begin with. When it doesn’t, plants or turf, as the case may be, get stressed and the telltale purpling or dry spots appear.

Maybe it’s due to a problem in the soil. Perhaps it’s irrigation issues. Whatever the reason, there are a few proactive measures you can take.

1. Do Watch the Dew

Early morning dew provides a clue as to the health of your turf. Watch it carefully. Note whether the dew collection is uniform or if the turf looks dry in spots. Have your superintendent make this a daily practice, consistently monitoring and sampling around the same areas so as to build a knowledge base by which you can gauge the health and track the moisture status of your turf.

2. Do Use a Soil Moisture Probe

A soil moisture probe is a tool that should be in every superintendent’s kit. These probes determine the soil’s volumetric water content — basically, the percentage of water in the soil versus the percentage of soil particles and air. Depending on the type of soil, plants, and rooting depths, the range of water can be anywhere from 10 to 40 percent.

Testing soil moisture daily helps create a record or threshold by which you can gauge what percentage best suits your greens and what percentage precludes wilt. This can take up to a month of regular testing. Our BrightView team actually records the data on a grid/spreadsheet for each green. This has been tremendously helpful in monitoring and preventing wilt.

3. Do Go Back Out There in the Afternoon

Check back in with your greens in the afternoon when it’s getting hot. Again, use the soil moisture probe to test the same areas. If it looks like the turf is dehydrated, apply a small amount of water in one of two ways:

  • If the moisture status is okay, but the plant looks stressed, use a syringe — a light mist of water that relieves the plant through evaporative cooling. 

  •  If soil moisture is deficient, apply a small amount of water, but don’t soak the plant, as too much water increases the heat of the soil and humidity of the plant, which leads to further problems.

Finally, whatever you do, don’t overwater if you only have a few hot spots on a green. Too much water where not needed increases potential for disease and negatively impacts play by creating softer playing surfaces. Follow the steps above and hopefully wilt will skip your greens this summer.

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