By: Gabe Diaz-Saavedra, Regional Manager

I recently worked with Steve Durand, sales represen-tative for Harrell’s, Inc., in Southwest Florida. We called on several courses that have Champion or Eagle greens. By their very nature, these ultra dwarfs pose some unique management challenges as we head into summer. Now is the time for south Florida superintendents to begin aeration and summer feeding programs. The snowbirds are gone and the 90-100 degree temperatures result in less play.

In the past, the strategy for feeding ultra dwarfs was to keep them “lean and mean” by feeding them with a foliar program and keep them barely holding on. If ultra dwarfs are fed excessively, you end up with slow green speeds and scalping. The pitfall of this strategy is that a superintendent can get into trouble quickly if he faces any kind of stress (recovery from aeration, verticutting, hydrophobic conditions, etc.). Drought, extreme summer heat and mole crickets can also be turf stressors. Given the slow growing nature of Champion or Eagle grasses, it could be a long, uphill battle to get the greens back in shape.

“An improved feeding strategy is necessary for these types of grasses,” says Steve. “Get superintendents started on a program of consistent feeding with low rates of organic N. Why organic?

  • These grasses want to be fed with a slow release type fertilizer. They will respond to a synthetic application but you end up with a see saw growth curve, flushes after fertilization followed by periods where growth is difficult to sustain.
  • These greens are raised on substrates that are largely sand, USGA specifications that require 90/10 or similar mixes.
  • While disease is generally not a problem with ultra dwarfs, Nature Safe can provide a degree of protection against disease by out competing the pathogenic disease organisms

“My recommendation is based on experience in feeding ultra dwarfs with a consistent program of Nature Safe 8-3-5 SF at rates of no more than .25 lb./1,000 sf/month beginning late spring through early fall.”

Nature Safe’s the 8-3-5 formulation has been greatly improved over the past two years with the inclusion of wetting agents and a dispersant resulting in a quicker breakdown and dispersion through tight-nit turf.

There’s no better time than now to be talking to your superintendents about the value of starting a summer feeding program of Nature Safe. It’s better to test application rates during the summer months when a bit of erratic growth won’t result in complaints from golfers. The courses that began using Nature Safe for summer fertilization and are now on a year-round program.