The massive cleanup after a destructive tropical storm or hurricane is overwhelming. Once the flood waters recede, the first step is removing branches, leaves, trees and all the other debris littering the golf course. When that is complete, the damaged turf underneath can be evaluated. The tees, fairways and greens may be covered in sand and silt. Turf that has been submerged under floodwater suffers loss of oxygen and nitrogen and may be yellow or brown.
One of the long-term agronomic effects of flooding and storm surge is weed control. The floodwaters carry and spread weed seeds and dilute or leach previously applied preemergence herbicides. Here are some tips to boost turf recovery and minimize weed outbreaks:
- Remove silt and sediment. Depending on how deep it is, the sediment deposit may need to be physically removed or blasted away with high-pressure water. It can be labor-intensive, but even a thin layer can cause long-term drainage issues.
- Increase fertility. Because the root systems have been damaged, a light nitrogen fertilizer application will give the turf a boost and help improve nutrient and water uptake.
- Cultivate. Core aerification of all impacted areas will provide needed oxygen to roots to promote healthy growth and encourage drainage.
- Reestablish turf. Seed or sod bare areas as soon as possible to establish turf and prevent weeds from taking over voids. For best results, use proper cultural practices and mechanical equipment to maximize seed-to-soil contact.
- Weed control. With initial efforts focused on turf recovery and establishing new turfgrass, increased weed pressure is inevitable. Wait until damaged turf has significantly recovered and newly seeded areas are well established before making herbicide applications. Always read and follow label directions. If planning to overseed, it may be best to skip a year or delay as long as possible to aid in Poa annua control. In coming seasons, plan to make split preemergence and multiple postemergence herbicide applications to get weeds under control.
Complete turf recovery from a devastating hurricane takes time and requires patience. Reopening the course too soon before flooded areas are dry and fully recovered can cause more damage.