August Bowls Diary 2017

Editorin Bowls
Expected weather for this month:

Generally changeable but drier spell in middle of the month

With the season now in full swing, there will be plenty of work to do maintaining the green and keeping the members happy. Those of you with flat greens should remember the importance of rink rotation; if you are having problems convincing some of the members, I suggest you refer them to the article on the Pitchcare website - Rink Rotation. If they ignore the advice, they only have themselves to blame if there are problems in the future.

Whilst the season is underway, and there's more than enough to think about, you do need to give some thought to the very important end of season renovations. Making sure you have the right equipment and materials, at the right time, is critical. The end of season work will determine how good the green is next year. Start planning now.


Key Tasks for August

General Maintenance

Mowing daily, or at least three times a week, to maintain sward height at around 4-8mm. Some clubs reduce their mowing heights further, perhaps down to 3mm to help speed up the greens for club competitions. Prolonged mowing at these heights will lead to plant stress.

The speed of greens can be affected by other factors - too much thatch is the main cause of slow greens, or the fact that the greens have not had enough topdressings to maintain levels.

Many bowlers complain about slow, inconsistent greens, often resulting in clubs trying to speed them up by shaving off more grass. In the short term, this may increase speed but, in the long term, it will be very damaging to the green.

  • Remove and control the rate of unwanted vegetative growth (thatch and side growth) by regular grooming and verticutting operations.
  • Light applications of topdressing will restore and maintain surface levels, thus increasing green speed.
  • Mowing in several directions to reduce nap layering will help increase green speed.
  • Double cutting for matches will increase green speed.
  • Controlling soil moisture will help influence green speed.
  • Brushing/switching of the playing surface keeps the green clean and removes any dew or surface water. Keeping the surface dry will improve resistance to disease.

Mowing. Too many bowls clubs choose to cut their greens far too low during the summer months, mainly influenced by club members who want faster greens. Do not be tempted to cut below 4mm unless you have the expertise, resources and knowledge to support this type of maintenance regime. Mowing the green below 4mm will, in the short term, give the members what they want - fast greens - however, there is often a cost to bear for doing this. It generally comes in the form of the green suffering in many ways, grass cover begins to thin out, bare areas develop which allow weeds and mosses to establish. Beneath the surface, the constant rolling will have compacted the soil profile, reducing the air spaces. This leads to poorer root growth, less movement of water and resulting in flooded surfaces.

In fact, the most common cause of slow bowling greens is the presence of a layer of accumulated organic fibre, commonly known as thatch. This is found just below the surface and is caused by the accumulation of matted grass stems. This is easily detectable when you walk across the green and the surface feels soft.

Aeration is a key activity to ensure that there is a good air/gas exchange going on in the soil profile. The use of a sarel roller (depth 5mm) helps to keep the surface open without disturbing the playing surface. Deeper aeration should only be done with micro tines when moist conditions allow penetration.

Irrigation. Water is influential in all chemical, physiological and biological processes of plant growth. The soil/plant water relationships is critical to the sustainability of any grass plant. Having an understanding of these relationships is critical. All grass plants are a continuum of water movement. Over 90% of the plant's water requirements are transported through the plant from the soil profile, via the roots and stem tissues into the leaves and out into the atmosphere. Knowledge of these relationships is important when designing and operating irrigation systems. The main aim is to achieve a water balance within the soil profile ensuring that the grass plant is able to access available water from the soil.

Irrigation scheduling by the water balance approach is based on estimating the soil water content. In the field, daily evapotranspiration (ET) amounts are withdrawn from storage in the soil profile. Any rainfall or irrigation are added to storage. Should the water balance calculations project soil water to drop below some minimum level, irrigation is indicated. Weather forecasts enable prediction of ET rates and projection of soil water balance to indicate whether irrigation is needed in the near future.

The soil water balance will be affected by a number of factors:

  • Soil type and condition; the water holding capacity of soils will vary depending on their classification. Clay soils can hold more water than loamy or sandy soils, therefore soil type will effect and contribute to the amount of water required. Soils are continually going through phases of wetting and drying caused by local weather conditions.
  • Turf type and condition; healthy vigorous turf will transpire more water than an unhealthy turf plant.
  • Time of the year; there is likely to be more soil water present during the spring, autumn and winter months when temperatures are cooler coupled with higher levels of rainfall.
  • Weather; air temperature, daylight hours, solar energy inputs, wind speed and shading are factors that will affect evapotranspiration rates.
  • Maintenance regimes; keeping the soil open and aerated will increase the drainage capacity of the soil. On the other hand compacted soils will prevent the movement of water through soils, often creating an environment that prevents water getting down into the soil profile. By carrying out effective regular maintenance regimes that include aeration, scarifying, harrowing, brushing, top dressing all help to keep the soil in good condition.
  • Irrigation system; type, capacity, running time, calibration and efficiency.
  • Water resources; quantity and quality. The quantity of water available, and the amount licensed for use in any one year, will determine the performance of any system and irrigation capabilities.
  • Facility type; design and construction. 
  • Greenkeeper knowledge; it is important that there is someone who understands all of the above parameters and can access the water requirements of the turf and correctly implement the right irrigation schedule for the facility.

Soil water relationships are key drivers in maintaining plant health, so it is vitally important you readily water your bowling green and ensure the plant does not become stressed from the lack of water, on the other hand you do not want to be over watering, as this may bring you other problems.

Fertilising. Fertiliser treatment and turf tonics can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested; try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results.

A regular feeding programme is essential to maintain colour, vigour and well-being of the sward. A combination of a slow release granular based fertiliser, topped up with some organics/liquid feeds, are becoming a popular method of feeding bowling greens. The slow release will generally last around three months, whilst the liquids can be applied every 4-6 weeks depending on the plant's needs.

The use of wetting agents are a good preventative cure for dry patch. Many groundsmen are now using these products regularly on fine turf situations. Wetting agents are usually applied on a monthly basis.

Soil wetting agents are available in three forms - Residual, Penetrant and Curative.

Residuals keep working over a given stated period, depending on the amount of time you require it to work they hold water near the surface.

Curatives combat the problem of dry patch by stripping off the waxy organic coating on the soil particle which renders the soil profile water repellent, but never totally alleviates the problem as, every time you topdress with sand, you add a further layer of water repellent organic coating to your soil profile. This type of wetting agent is believed by some to also remove beneficial bacteria etc from the soil and therefore can be controversial. One of the lesser known facts is that when using curatives your water consumption can reduce by up to 30% year on year. Product example Correct Oars by Vitax.

Penetrants help remove standing water as well as move water through the profile. Many turf managers use penetrants in a tank mix, when using other chemicals to get the product through the profile immediately.

To achieve the best from wetting agents any factors contributing to the dry patch should be addressed. Such as alleviation of compaction, removal of thatch and preventing the rootzone from reaching the critical moisture content by ensuring even and timely irrigation.

Best results are achieved by applying wetting agents in a programmed approach, starting early in the season before symptoms are observed. Blanket applications are also more effective than spot treatments.


Generally, you should be looking at a programme of scarifying in several directions to remove unwanted thatch layers and dead matter, aerating with some deep solid tines to break up compaction, topdressing with some 70-30 topdressing to restore levels, and overseeding with some new grass seed.

Unfortunately, one of the deciding factors that often reduces the effectiveness of these planned works is the amount of money the club has available. It can cost anything between £1200-£1500 for a contractor to come in and do all the work. 

Savings can be made if the club undertake the work themselves, however, the effectiveness of the work carried out will be determined by the equipment they have at their disposal.

Savings can also be made if clubs buy materials in bulk (several clubs group buying).

Full details of bowls green maintenance regimes and renovations are available with our Online Bowls Green Maintenance Course

The vagaries of the climate drive all factors with regard to turf management, and increasingly we see extremes of rainfall and dryness with the apparent turnaround from one to the other being short and dramatic.

This places increasing pressure on sports turf ecosystems in the form of biotic and abiotic stress. As a result, it is increasingly important that turf managers are seeking alternative strategies and techniques to mitigate against the effects of these stress factors upon the playing surface.

Warmth and humidity will be sure to activate a number of fungal diseases, from take-all patch, microdochium patch, dollar spot, anthracnose, waitea patch, fairy rings, leaf spot and red thread. Successful management of each disease requires knowledge of the contributing factors and considered, planned proactive treatment;

Increasingly, Integrated Turf Management should be applied to all situations. Practically this may look like the following

Monitor - historic site data – disease predictors e.g. Syngenta’s Greencast – five day weather forecast

Identify  - correctly identify the disease, learn about the life cycle and contributing factors.

Plan - create disease management plans predict and mark high risk windows using data from monitoring process – hold stock or treatments.

Do - apply calcium, phosphite and silicon ahead of suspected activity periods. Use your data and monitoring to time fungicide treatments BEFORE you see active disease.

Record - periods of susceptibility, outbreaks, details of treatments.

Review - the success rate, how things responded to different treatments, assess how things can be refined. Short examples for each may include:

Controls and Management Techniques:

Take-all patch – check manganese levels and apply as a little and often foliar treatment -  target roots with fungicide.

Microdochium patch -  remove leaf wetness, do not promote soft growth.

Dollar spot – avoid low fertility, remove dew.

Anthracnose – avoid stress through drought or low fertility, secondary effect from nematode feeding.

Waitea patch – minimise thatch, improve surface drainage.

Fairy rings – assess for hydrophobic areas in the profile by dropping water down soil cores, target with wetting agents.

Leaf spot – remove dews, do not overfeed with nitrogen, plant resistant cultivars.

Red thread – remove dews, feed to grow out, plant resistant cultivars.

Surface abrasion can facilitate the infection of diseases, so a well-timed systemic fungicide can help to prevent attack.

Nutritionally speaking, maintaining plant vigour without promoting excessive growth is as always the key thing to aim for. It is not too late for a good quality organic based fertiliser which should give consistent results for up to eight weeks. The organic sources will also help to promote and support soil microbiology as we head towards autumn.

Continue wetting agent programmes to facilitate effective moisture management throughout the profile. Seek out evapotranspiration rates during hot spells and irrigate in millimetres not minutes. Your irrigation engineers should be able to provide the relevant information for your sprinklers.

August is peak season for the proactive control of Leatherjackets and chafer grubs with Entomopathogenic nematodes, Considered application as part of an integrated turf management plan, accompanied by a penetrant wetting agent and plenty of available moisture both before and after application will help to get the best out of nature’s practical answer to this problem and prevent issues come spring 2018.


Regular brushing and sweeping are important tasks to keep the surface clean, open and dry. A dry surface will aid resistance to disease. Keep an eye on fungal disease attack and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.

A selective weedkiller will help control any broadleaf weeds; the timing of application is key, apply when weed growth is vigorous. With the renovations due to start in September, it would be a good practice to eradicate any weeds using a selective weed killer, invest in a professional product and choose the right active chemical ingredient to deal with the weed problem you have.

Please note: More information on diseases can be found here:

Keep your machinery clean and well serviced, check bottom blades and cylinders for sharpness. It is a good idea to get into a habit of washing down and and cleaning after use.

With renovations around the corner, make sure you have all the equipment and materials you need - including mower, scarifier, aerator, topdressing, seed and fertiliser - with some irrigation on hand in case we have a dry spell.

Our Lantra Accredited Bowls Green Maintenance Course is now available as an online course.

Now you can learn about maintaining a bowls green in the comfort of your own home and in your own time. This newly developed course consists of a number of videos with assessment questions, and an accompanying hard copy Course Manual. The Online Course is Lantra accredited and provides you with all the basic knowledge required to maintain a green over a 12 month period. The price is £125 plus VAT, and includes the Course Manual.

Pitchcare is the only provider of LANTRA accredited training courses in the maintenance of Bowls Greens. More information

Our next course will be taking place;

Friday 25th August - Allscott, Telford TF6 5DY

More information and booking details

We can also arrange Lantra accredited training on site to groups of 6 – 10 people. Email Chris Johnson for information.

The Course Manual is £30 and is available for purchase separately.

Do not be afraid to cut a sample plug from the green and check to see the extent of the thatch layer. Problems start occurring when you have more than 15mm depth of thatch. This thatch layer is the main cause of many problems associated with the performance of the green. It is essential you control the amount of thatch by means of verticutting, grooming and scarification. Greens that have high levels of thatch will take longer to dry out due to the thatch acting like a sponge.

On the Pitchcare Forum, there is a discussion on bowling green edges; a member has black edges and is looking for advice - Edge Problem

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