December Bowls Diary 2012

Laurence Gale MScin Bowls

Up to the last week in November, many parts of the country were still experiencing spells of mild, but very wet, weather, with soil and air temperatures still in double figures, with grass still growing. This mild weather was also exacerbating a lot of fungal disease, with outbreaks of fusarium and red thread causing the most concerns.

This mild weather, if it lasts, will also require the green to be mown. There is no such thing as putting the green to bed and forgetting about it until the spring. It is important to keep the sward cut (topped) at between 10-12mm, and carry out regular aeration and brushing to keep the surface clean and open to the elements. A dose of liquid iron would not go amiss, this helps harden the grass plant and maintain some colour.

It is also a good month to get some deep aeration done to the green, with the aim to get below 100mm and, if possible, down to 300mm to alleviate any deep compaction.

With most of the autumn leaves fallen, it is time to clear them from the green and perimeter ditches.

Ditch infill materials also need regular cleaning and levelling. Clubs use an array of ditch infill materials ranging from sand, bark, corks, rubber mats and rubber crumb. Moss, algae and weed material can soon build up in poorly maintained ditches.

Temperatures are likely to plummet in the next few weeks, bringing in the likelihood of heavy frosts so, to prevent any damage to irrigation systems, it is important these systems are drained down.

Many greens are surrounded by fences or hedges; these will need some maintenance; natural hedges may need a prune/cut to keep them tidy and manageable.

Key Tasks for December

Frost on the grass leaf blades tells us that the water inside the leaves is frozen. Remember that 80%+ of plant tissue is made up of water, the primary component of plant tissue. When this water is frozen, foot traffic on the turf causes the ice crystals in the cells to puncture through the plant's cell walls, thus killing plant tissue.

When they are frozen, the leaves of the turf get easily bruised by players' feet. After thawing, the affected turf turns black or brown and becomes sparse. The turf can often remain thin for long periods if damage occurs early in the winter. The fine turf on greens becomes more susceptible to disease and the surface becomes very uneven.

More long-term damage can be caused when play takes place, as the turf is thawing after a prolonged freeze. Under these conditions the top surface of the turf may be soft, but the underlying soil can still be frozen. Root damage occurs easily from a shearing action as players' feet move the soft top surface against the frozen sub soil.

The process of damage to the turf normally occurs in the following pattern:

* Bruising and damage to the leaf
* Loss of turf colour
* Severing of grass roots
* Compaction of the soil
* Thinning of the swards

Remember to keep off your bowling greens during frosty conditions

Useful Information for Frost

Articles Products
Frost - to play or not to play?
Snow and Frost Solutions
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The need to cut the grass on a regular basis will have diminished. However, it is still a good idea, when weather conditions prevail, to keep the sward topped at between 10-12mm (winter height of cut). The use of a pedestrian rear roller rotary mower will help keep the green mown whilst, at the same time, hoover up any surface debris .

Pest & Disease
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Earthworms may be a problem, particularly with the recent heavy rains, so regular dragbrushing will be necessary. Brushing can be daily when conditions are right. Regular aeration to keep the surface open will aid drying. A drier surface may help towards reducing the effects of the earthworm activity near the surface.

Diseases have been widely reported, particularly Fusarium. These outbreaks have been mainly due to the heavy dews and changing climatic air temperatures we have recently experienced.

Moisture on the leaf will allow diseases to move and spread easily. Regular brushing in the mornings to remove the moisture from the leaf is an important maintenance regime to deter an attack of disease.

Useful Information for Pest & Disease

Articles Products
Don't let turf disease catch up with you over Christmas
Professional Fungicides
Outfield Aeration

Many greens may well be still recovering from the season's wear and tear. It will be essential to get some life back into the green, improving the gaseous exchange in the soil profile whilst, at the same time, increasing the capacity of the green to drain more efficiently during the winter months.

This will be achieved by some frequent surface and deep soil aeration. However, care should be taken when choosing the type and size of tines to be used. Remember, you do not want to be aerating at the same depth all the time, as this will eventually cause a pan layer to form which, in turn, will cause you more problems. Ideally, you should be using a range of tines at different depths within the range of your soil profile.

Useful Information for Aeration

Articles Products
Why should we carry out aeration?
Genuine SISIS Tines
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Remember to check the condition of your machinery, and plan to get it repaired/serviced during the winter months. Check all moving parts and ensure they are properly greased and topped up with the right recommended lubricants. With the winter weather kicking in, with heavy falls of snow and a long term forecast of cold weather in many parts of the country, many greens will be covered in frost and snow, preventing any real tangible maintenance work being undertaken.

It will be a case of keeping off the greens and spending time doing other jobs. Some that spring to mind are winter overhaul of equipment and machinery, a good time to take stock of what you have in your shed and what condition it is in. Take the opportunity to repair and get any equipment serviced.

Even your hand held sprayers should be checked over. Remember to protect your sprayer's spray lines, pump and pressure regulator by leaving anti-freeze in it over winter. This saves split junctions and writing off pump or pressure regulator housings, and nozzle holders damaged by expanding ice.

Useful Information for Machinery

Articles Products
Winter Servicing a must after such a washout summer
Other Tasks for the Month
  • Repair Structures:- Bench seats, scoreboards and any other fittings around the green.

  • Machinery:- Check and overhaul all machinery. Make arrangements to get mowers serviced.

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