May Bowls Diary 2018

Editorin Bowls
Expected weather for this month:

It should be a pretty average May: part-dry, part-rain, and mid-teen temperatures.

Key Tasks for May

The emphasis at this time of the year will be on mowing frequency, as long as there is sufficient moisture within the soil:
  • Apply 'little and often' foliar feed, consisting of mainly Nitrogen, with other nutrients and ingredients, such as Potassium.
  • Continue to seed sparse or bare areas.

Mowing. Greens should be mown at least three times a week, with some grooming, verti-cutting or brushing being undertaken on a weekly or twice weekly cycle to improve air movement and reduce thatch levels building up in the sward profile.

The sward will be actively growing due to the increased soil temperatures, coupled with the stimulation of fertiliser applications. Regular mowing will be required to maintain sward height at around 4-5mm. Verti-cutting/grooming fortnightly can be carried out to help speed up the green and help improve the health of your turf.

Aeration should continue, using a mix of micro, needle or star tines which give maximum effect and almost zero turf disturbance.

Regular use of a sarrel roller will be beneficial and the use of micro tines to aerate the green will help reduce soil compaction, 'vent' the root-zone and to allow water to move quickly from the surface and into the root-zone, thus encouraging the turf to root deeper.

Irrigation: Soil and air temperatures usually increase in May, often bringing on the need to irrigate. If soil profiles, particularly sandy soils, are allowed to dry out too much they often become water repellent (hydrophobic), a state when soils can become difficult to re-wet. Often the first areas to suffer on greens particularly crown greens are the high spots on the green. You may need to spend more time hand watering these problem areas.

When you do water, ensure you go to a depth of 100-150mm to encourage the roots to go down to find the water.

Fertilising: On surfaces requiring an injection of growth, a nitrogen source such nitrate or ammonium will be readily available to the plant. Something such as Advanced Generate 12-3-9 +2Mg +2Fe has the benefit of the whole 12% nitrogen source being ammonium which is readily available to the plant in cooler conditions. It also contains a big hit of sulphate at 34% which is an essential element for plant metabolism and amino acid production in the spring. On top of that, it also contains magnesium and iron, which will increase chlorophyll production to maximise the efficiency of photosynthesis as well as harden the leaf cell walls against disease and cold weather stress.

It has been a challenging spring for everyone in the turf industry. With weather patterns causing prolonged periods of cold temperatures which have restricted growth. Unseasonably warm period at the end of April encouraged much needed winter recovery growth across the country which helped with the start of summer sporting seasons, some of which had been delayed a week or two.


The long range forecast for May is rather more typical with indications of temperatures around average for the time of year and projections of warmer and drier spells towards the end of the month. However the old English proverb of 'Ne'er cast a clout till May be out' should be kept in mind as colder and wetter spells with low nighttime temperatures are likely to crop up.


As a result it is likely we will experience peaks and troughs in growth and consideration towards the timing of inputs for maximum uptake and effect when soil temperatures and moisture are suitable will produce the best results. 





Growth will generate plant demand for nutrition. Nitrate and ammonia have been good nitrogen sources in the colder temperatures. Out of the two ammonia remains a constant favorite throughout the spring and summer but as soil temperatures consistently warm into double figures urea and the controlled release source methylene urea will come into play.

As a foliar application Urea is very effectively absorbed into leaf tissue over a period of 48 hours where it is then metabolized into free nitrogen by the plant very effectively. As a soil source of nitrogen urea first needs to be broken apart by the enzyme urease before then being converted into the plant available form of nitrogen ammonium and nitrate.  This process is dependent on the presence and activity of soil microorganisms. Consequently urea makes nitrogen less available to the plant in colder soils with its availability increasing as soil temperatures rise. The full concersion process in good growing conditions can take between 7-10 days.


A similar process is at work with organic fertilisers as microbiology goes to work on degrading and mineralizing the nutritional contents of the organic matter. So an application of organics during the month is a good option for steady sustained results.



It seems like every month  is a good month for biostimulants and in many respects this is true. The three key components are summarized below.


Seaweed –          contains hormones (Gibberellic acids) which accelerate germination of seed and seedling maturity. Also acts as a chelate and growth  

promotor and elicitor of plant protection mechanisms in response to heat, drough and cold (abiotic) stress

Humates –          Chelation and enhanced root absorption of nutrients, improved nutrient retention in soils and bacterial habitat as well as stable carbon source.

Sugar -                  Provide carbon energy which is the base foundation of energy processing in all plants an soil life. Consequently supports greater soil biodiversity and efficiency of fertiliser use.


By understanding the numerous benefits of the key biostulants turf mangers can utilize them to support specific desired responses from other work.


For example:     Overseeding?


Apply liquid seaweed over the seed to enhance germination before adding humates and carbon into the mix at the first feed 5 days post germination with the aim of driving and accelerate growth thanks to better response from fertilisers driven by increased availability and energy in the system.




As winter sport seasons reach their conclusion the pitch renovation season begins.


When over seeding opting for the best cultivars you can afford is a wise investment in the base foundation of your surface.


Taking a broad spectrum soil analysis prior to renovation allows the identification of deficient secondary macronutrients and micronutrients. All nutrients share equal importance and by identifying the weakest link in the chain you can maximise health and performance throughout a growing in period and beyond.


One trap which can occur is to apply vast quantities of phosphorous to drive establishment regardless of the soil sample result. This is questionable wisdom because a soil sample result details plant available nutrient. Where phosphorous is high it will inhibit the availability of copper, calcium, potassium, iron, and zinc and adding more P in to the system will not encourage the plant to uptake a greater quantity. The plant will take what it needs and no more, something which is true of all nutrients.


The same can be said of nitrogen, young seedlings cannot absorb large quantities of nitrogen, a base foundation of granular fertiliser is essential as a reserve once roots develop but, wherever possible little and often foliar applications accompanied by biostimulants will support their needs much more responsibly.


Water management


As a master variable water is the key ingredient to the successful health and performance of any turf surface. Residual polymer wetting agent programs hopefully started in March to give the chemistry time to build up in the soil ahead of likely drier periods and heat stress from the end of May into June.


Monitoring of literal hotspots and considered application of water onto these areas helps to keep consistency. Where irrigation is installed ensure you are aware of the liter per minute rates for your sprinklers (speak to manufacturers and installers if unsure) and monitor weather forecasts for local information on evapotranspiration rates. When irrigating during hot periods aim to replace 50% of daily ET loss in the form of millimeters of water applied rather than minutes of water applied. There are many resources to assist with this approach which is much more beneficial and accurate towards the plants needs rather than an arbitrary amount of sprinkler time. 



Weeds, Pests and Diseases


Disease pressure is likely to be low throughout May with the plant being able to outgrow any pathogen attacks which do occur. Be mindful of any longer spells of cold damp weather which do occur but only apply fungicides if deemed absolutely necessary.


Active growth is the perfect time to apply herbicides, whether it be total weed killers to paths and paving or selective herbicides to turf areas. In the case of the latter consult label recommendations with regards to timing this around any seeding operations.


May would usually be a little late to treat mature leather jackets with Entomopathogenic nematodes however, with such a delayed spring applications may still be successful. Be aware that Steinernema feltiae is the preferential spring species being more active at colder temperatures of 10°C and upwards. That being said the primary window for control is August through to October. Spring applications require a double dose rate of nematodes and even then control is likely to be reduced from what would be expected later in the year.


There is no effective spring control for chafer grubs however chafer grub pheromone traps will collect adult males on the wing and form the basis of an integrated management plan of monitoring and recording the pest life cycle so you can better time nematode applications later in the year.

  • Keep machines overhauled and clean.
  • Inspect and repair any watering or irrigation systems.
  • Continue to check and service your floodlighting systems.
  • Replace any worn tines on your aeration equipment.

We are pleased to announce the launch of our new Grounds Training website, together with our new suite of Online Courses

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. There is also the option of attending a one day practical course.

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

More information

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

The Course Manual is available for purchase separately.

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