It's hot out. Like, really hot. And typically, mid-July is the toughest stretch of weather for golf course superintendents operating in the Mid-Atlantic. While most everyone seems to be holding strong, the weather has certainly been a topic of conversation as we grind through July. And here in the Mid-Atlantic, we have what's known as the transition zone where superintendents are tasked with growing cool-season turfgrasses in a climate akin to sitting in a hot tub on a 95-degree afternoon in the middle of the rain forest.
So that got me thinking: has it really been hotter than usual? I evaluated the July weather over the past three years. In a nutshell, yes, according to the Weather Underground website, the average maximum temperatures during July have been higher than two years previous in nearly all cities throughout the region. The only exception being Richmond, Va. In most cases, the temperatures are up 2-5 degrees. And although 2-5 degrees may not seem like a lot, when temperatures are this high, every degree makes a difference. Please see the first graph below for an illustration.
Secondly, I took a look at average precipitation for the month of July (2nd graph). While both these graphs only evaluate July 2016 weather to date (July 26th), we can still make a fair assessment of where we are relative to past years. This time of year, the weather is such a delicate balance. The heat is a given. But with regard to precipitation, too much can be problematic when soils approach saturation (wet-wilt).
Likewise, when precipitation is too scarce, irrigation only gets you so far. There is nothing quite like a good rainfall. While we like the precipitation to fall somewhere in the middle, you can see by observing the graphs below that multiple cities have experienced well above-average precipitation (Philly), or well below-average precipitation (Pitt, DC, Baltimore, Ocean City).
So while we can't control the weather, we can certainly react. Employing best practices is crucial to surviving these tough stretches. Best practices include raising mowing heights, reducing mowing frequency, encouraging air movement with fans and needle-tine aeration, and maintaining diligence with fungicide programs, to name a few.
Stay patient, stay cool, and good luck!