Friday, June 20, 2014

Dr. Leslie's Orchard

Before Doctor Leslie donated the land for Leslie Park Golf Course, he and his wife had been running the land as a farm. On this farm, he planted wheat, corn and other annual crops, but a large portion of the land was devoted to orchards. They had cherries, pears and apples, as well as blueberries and raspberries.  The area where 5, 6, 7 and 8 are now located was predominately pears, apples and cherries. A small portion of this orchard was retained when the course was built. It was originally a 12 row by 12 row section, with a few trees outside of this square. That would have been 144 trees.

The Orchard looking toward #8 green from #6 fairway.

When I started with the City of Ann Arbor, there were less than 100 of these trees left. Through the previous 40 plus years, the trees naturally died out. Since the purpose of Leslie Park was to be a golf course and not an orchard, this was not a priority. The life expectancy of these trees is not overly long, and since they were planted around the time of World War II or before, it became clear to me that if nothing was done, we would lose the entire orchard. Since this was an integral part of the strategy for playing holes 6 and 8, as well as an homage to the former use of the land, we decided to start replanting the orchard.

Planting trees in 2012.

The first step was to decide what to plant. The "holes" in the orchard were filled in with a mixture of Bartlett pears, Comice pears, Honeycrisp apples and Red Delicious apples. The apples were added to bring about some of the historical feel to the orchard, even though this part did not have any apples. We started slowly on the 8 fairway side. This was to get a feel for how to proceed and give us some experience with the different trees. In 2010, we planted 16 apple and pear trees. We soon discovered that the deer love the apple trees but leave the pears pretty much alone. We started to experiment with deer deterrents and finally settled on cages. The following year, we planted another 18 pears and apples, along with 12 cherry trees.

The cherry trees are added to the northern section of the orchard, near #7 green. In 2009, there were 6 cherries here and stumps for 30 more. Over the past five years, four of these old cherries have died. Unfortunately, the last two do not appear to have survived the harsh winter.

The two old cherry trees still do not have leaves.

This pear has seen better days.

This is an apple tree we planted this year.

Since 2009, we have planted 39 apple and pear trees, as well as 23 cherry trees. The gaps in the old 144 tree orchard are now almost filled. When that happens, we will only be replacing the old trees when they die.

As a golf course manager, you have to stay one step ahead. As an ancient Chinese proverb says, "The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is right now."

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Turtles come back to Leslie Park

In the last couple of days, we have seen an increase in turtles. You may recall that one of the big objectives of the Traver Creek Project was to minimize the impact on turtle populations in the creek and ponds on the golf course. You can read more about this program HERE and HERE.

Here is a snapping turtle laying eggs near the creek.

Turtles have been laying eggs on this stream bank.

This turtle was laying eggs near #6 at Huron Hills.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Verticuting Greens

Vertical mowing, or "Verticuting" is a cultural practice used on golf courses for a number of reasons. The first is to sever lateral growth and promote an upright growth habit in the grass. Bentgrass that lies parallel to the putting surface creates "grain." Johnny Miller used to rail against this grain during television broadcasts of PGA tour events. As an aside, the courses the professionals play on do not have grain on the greens. Most of the time his comments Grass that stands upright will promote a faster, truer green. It also improves the quality of cut for the mowers. Depending on how deep the mowers are set, it can also remove a large amount of thatch and organic matter. It is a practice that I would like to implement three or four times a year.

Here is Jim verticutting #3 green at Leslie Park.

Here is the putting surface after vertical mowing. Not the organic matter and thatch.

After the mowing, we blow off the organic matter and thatch that is brought to the surface. We then spread a very light layer of sand over the green and brush it in. This brushing also has the benefit of standing up some of the blades of grass that the machine cut but did not lift. Then we mow the green. After a few days, you will not see the lines any more, but you will hopefully notice a smoother ball roll.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

May 2014 Weather Summary

The highest temperature recorded at Leslie Park for the month of May was 85.3 degrees, which happened on May 8th. The lowest temperature was 34.2 degrees (6th.)  The average temperature was 59.8 degrees.

The weather station recorded 5.17 inches of rain. May 12th saw the most rain at 1.31 inches of precipitation. The next day had 0.44 inches of rain which means that 1.75 inches of rain occurred during one rain event. Two days had over an inch of rain. May 7th saw 1.04 inches. There were 10 days were the golf course received over a tenth of an inch of rain and 15 days saw more than a trace of rain. The accumulated precipitation for the year is now just under 11 inches at 10.97.

The highest wind gust recorded was 42 mph. The average windspeed was 3.0 mph for the month.