Wildflower Establishment at Golf Course Grow In

In the West Texas Panhandle, Lubbock Texas, I had just completed a construction and grow in of a 265 acre golf Facility for Texas Tech University. Opening day was set for Sept 2003 and it went flawless with Bobby Knight and Tom Arnold there to kick off the festive party for the University. While during that winter it was discussed about adding wildflowers to the course and around the 3,500 trees that were planted on the course.

I sat down with Zoe Kirkpatrick the author of “Wildflowers of the Western Plains” and she gave me her book on the subject. We toured the course and I showed her where I wanted to plant the flowers. She was very pleased that we chose native West Texas grasses that were drought tolerant. She was kind enough to give me answers on the flowers she preferred and the positives of adding wildflowers. The Year of 2005 the GCSAA gave a seminar on wild flowers and the best route to plant them and the cultural practices needed for them.

I was interested in doing the project after talking to Zoe and taking the GCSAA class but it was on a list of projects that I had. Probably not even on the front page of projects because we were full throttle in soil amendments during the winter and drainage on the course. We have a small staff in the winter and because of the labor the project was pushed further back on the list. During that late winter in Feb I kept on getting pressure from one person and thus that project was now on the front page. Just like there are  Physics Laws of the Universe there are unbroken Laws that superintendents deal with in the golf industry. One of the laws (probably number 15 of 200) is you will always have members that are tapped into the force of all knowing knowledge and THEY WILL GIVE YOU ADVICE (WHICH IS REALLY NOT ADVICE) but fact. I call them the DWS members for short. Depends Diaper Wearing Wannabe Superintendents, the DWS sith lord had me and thus that project was in the forefront. The sith lord said “let it be so.”

So in the spring I decided on the wild flowers from the book given to me and the information from the GCSAA class. I had only a couple of criteria's that the specific species of flowers needed to met.
(1) Some of the colors had to be red to match the Texas Tech Colors.
(2) Native species only.
(3) The leaves of the flowers had to be on the less noticeable side.
(4) The leaves should not have thorns. One personʼs wildflowers is another personʼs noxious weed.

The three flowers chosen for the first project were Indian Blanket, Mexican Hat, and Brown Eyed Susan. We purchased the seeds from the internet and used the rates supplied by the supplier.

The project was to cover an acre of rough and had to be in an area mostly out of play and yet a highly visual area. So we did the left side of 1 green about 40 yards off the green across the path. Number 1 hole was a short hole and over 95 percent of the 2nd shot should be within 125 yards thus making the left side really out of play. The golfers would park there cart to get to the green and to get back into the cart. It was also connected to the Championship tee box on 2.

In April of 2005 we scalped the dormant grass and gilled the surface of the soil leaving a 1/4 inch grove in the soil. We mixed the seed with sand. The sand acted as a carrier and was spread out buy hand instead of fertilizer spreader. I was afraid I would get a uniform look instead of a random look given by nature. We did not add any additional water to the area. In the GCSAA class they said it would take at least a year, and up to 3 years, for germination. That knowledge was void from the DWS member because I got an earful about how we did not do the project and if we did do it, it was wrong because the seeds should have germinated by the end of that summer.

Well, in 2006 and 2007 we saw the fruits of our labor and the pictures provided show the results. I was very happy with the results. We planted some more wildflowers on the course and added some Mexican feather grasses in the rough to give it a natural look. The course now has a mix of color with West Texas native grass.

The DWS member never said anything positive about the results but just like the 15th law of golf course maintenance, I ran into another law that is probably number 62. If I have a project list of 20 things, odds are I will have enough labor to get projects 1-8 done but the DWS member will let me have it. All because you did not complete projects 9-20. If I was in a parallel universe I would have done projects 9-20 first but DWS would have nailed me for not doing 1-8. Thus I will not win and I will have to succumb to the DWS sit lord. Rule number 1 is have a sense of humor on the job and do not take things seriously.

Eric Poul Johnson
806 445 3278

Brookside Agronomist
GCSAA Class A superintendent 10 years
Contruction/Grow in Warm Season and Cool Season
25 years experience in golf industry
Specialize in water conservation, organics, poor water quality in alkaline soils. Based out of Arizona area covering the Nevada, Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas areas.

1 Comments so far

Very enjoyable read. I agree, the sith lord would have nailed you for not doing 1 - 8.