Friday, February 11, 2011

First Look Under Tarps

I am currently optimistic about what we have seen under the snow and tarps.  I always have to remember at this point we still have two and half months of solid snow cover until we reach the middle of April.  I must also say, it took a week and a few phone calls for my optimism to arrive.  Let me explain.

After cutting into the tarps on the practice green, first and twelfth greens on January 27th  I was surprised by what we found under the tarps.  Each of these greens had ice under the bubble wrap.  This was not expected.  It showed up in different forms on each green.   The practice green and twelfth green showed light ice between the bubbles on the bubble wrap.  The first green had ice covering the majority of the sample area.  This can be seen in the photo below; when the bubble wrap was peeled back a mirror image of the bubble wrap in ice was found on the surface of the green.  We noted the iced to be very light, milky in nature, and not very dense.  It could easily be removed with a finger nail or the edge of a knife.

Ice Under Tarp 1st Green

Ice Was Not Thick - Easily Removed
Even though the ice was light in nature I became very concerned.  I had expected to see no ice and green turf.   Did we have a leak?  I could understand one leak but three leaks in different locations on the golf course?    This seemed highly unlikely.  Was this the result of condensation and respiration?  Had moisture blown under the tarps as a result of venting?  Was there something else we did not understand or take into account? 

Our crew discussed the issue.  We suspected the primary cause was condensation and respiration.  We also hypothesized that we may have blown moisture through the venting system during a few humid weeks in January when we had heavy snow and some rain.  This scenario seemed less likely than respiration and condensation theory. 

We suspected respiration and condensation was the cause of the ice under the traps.   When we initially installed the tarps we tried to install the tarps just prior to snow fall on frozen turf.  This would insure the greens were dormant and frozen prior to an insulating blanket of snow arrived.  In October we monitored the forecast and started tarping four days before the snow was forecast to arrive at Panorama.  But Mother Nature, decided to challenge us.  After a few cold days when it looked as if was going to snow, the weather changed and we received two weeks of warm weather after the tarps were installed.  Great weather for early November, but concerning weather if you have tarps on your greens.  Were we going to “cook” the greens?

We closely monitored the weather and the temperatures under the greens.  Temperatures reached a high as 10 oC on November 6th.  Luckily the evening temps were dropping as low as -5 degrees.  With the days becoming shorter, the tarps on, and the cooler evening temperatures, the average temperature under the tarps was around 1 oC.  Therefore the temperatures under the tarps were not following the day time highs.    The turf was still living under the tarps, but was very close to dormant.  But during this time the greens were still respiring and causing moisture to collect under the tarps.  We were not monitored moisture conditions under the tarps.  Therefore when we sampled the greens this January we were surprised at the amounts of moisture in the form of ice, under the tarps.

After discovering the ice I immediately called colleagues at the Prairie Turf Research Centre and a fellow golf course Superintendent at the Glendale Golf and Country Club Club who has been using the same system for years.  They told me they had seen the same thing under the tarps in different years.  The also told me to “calm down!”

Besides the ice, which we did not expect, our sampling program has proven what our monitoring equipment was indicating.   When we got down to the turf it was frozen on the surface but one inch into the rootzone the turf was not frozen.   Very cold but not frozen.  After warming the test samples in the shop for a few days they immediately began to green up and grow, showing no signs of disease infection or ice damage. 

Sample #1 Green

Practice Green Sample

These samples indicate our tarping system is doing the job of protecting the turf from ice.  But we still have lots of winter left.  Only three months until opening date – May 6th.

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