Clothes, Shopping and Turf
USGA Southwest Region Agronomist Pat Gross told a parable at an educational event which made a lasting impression about growing turf in the various microclimates in Northern California. The parable states a person has to choose to wear either a wool sweater or a thin cotton T-shirt every day for one year. The fine print of this choice states that the person is required to resume everyday life activities, but allowed to leave his or her respective city limits. The person can not add or subtract any other clothing regardless of what the weather is for the day. This is a pretty drastic measure, especially if you are a member of the fashion police, but the point can translate to turfgrasses as well.
Picking one piece of clothing and wearing it day after day would be difficult no doubt.
Factor in the major heat wave which hit most of Northern California in July and the choice of a wool sweater or the cotton T-shirt suddenly becomes a huge ordeal.
Let’s start with an easy illustration ¾ a person lives in Monterey. What article of clothing would this person choose to wear? Most people who spend time in Monterey would probably recommend the wool sweater. Monterey enjoys a very moderate climate, or for those warm-blooded tourists – it is downright cold. There are several days though in which the temperatures can be warm and mild and the wool sweater would be considered uncomfortable.
Let’s look at another example ¾ Fresno. Depending on the time of year, this choice is a little more difficult. If we had to choose winter, the choice would be easy – wool sweater. However, we also have to factor in the other seasons. Since we have to pick one – let’s choose the cotton T-shirt. Obviously this is the garment of choice for the hot summer months and some of the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. Yet, there would be numerous times in the winter when this person would be extremely cold and seek shelter from the elements.
How do these analogies pertain to golf and turfgrass? Very simple ¾ the articles of clothing are analogous to the choices of turfgrasses. A golf course can grow either cool-season grasses, warm-season grasses or in some instances, both. Growing cool-season grasses in Monterey is a no-brainer as is the clothing article of choice: the wool sweater. Picking the right grasses for Fresno is a little more difficult because the climate can grow both cool and warm-season grasses.
The graphs provided by the PACE Turfgrass Research Institute document 30-year temperature trends in turfgrass growth potential and the calendar year. The blue line (or wool sweater), illustrates how conducive the environment is for growing cool-season grasses. When the blue line drops below 80% in the summer months, cool-season turf stands are being subjected to environmental stresses. The red line or (cotton t-shirt), is the warm-season grass growing potential. Warm-season turf thrives when the growth potential is greater than 50%.
Believe it or not, there are some warm-season grasses growing on the Monterey Peninsula.
Fresno has some great growing conditions for cool season turf in the shoulder seasons. The summer months lend themselves to playing golf on warm-season turfgrass stands or more heat-tolerant, cool-season turf varieties.
What happens to those golf courses whose climates are in between Monterey and Fresno? The turfgrass options are not quite as obvious. There are numerous golf courses in Northern California with playing surfaces that have both cool and warm season turfgrasses. This combination of grasses allows either the cool or warm-season grass to excel when the conditions are favorable. These shifts, much like the fashion designs, are not unusual and can change from season to season.
The best case scenario would allow the person to layer their garments. The cotton T-shirt is the base garment and the wool sweater is added when needed. Unfortunately most golf courses only get to go shopping once. Summer stress on golf courses is unpleasant for everyone, especially for the person or cool season turfgrass plant who is wearing a wool sweater in Fresno in August.