September Bowls Diary 2007

Laurence Gale MScin Bowls

bowring-park-verticutting.jpgFor many clubs this year's weather has probably been a bonus; many struggle to keep their greens watered in normal summers and they will have benefited from all the rain. Most greens drain reasonable well and grass growth has been good.

However, the down side of having a good growing season is that the grass plant will have produced a layer of thatch which, if not controlled, will affect the performance and well being of the green. Ttherefore, it is important to undertake a programme of vertictting/scarifying to keep thatch levels down. Ideally, a programme of verticutting and light scarification should be carried out monthy throughout the season. In the main, thatch is controlled by heavy scarification in several directions during end of season renovations in September

With this season's match play now coming to an end many clubs should now be organising and sourcing materials and products for their end of season renovations. Most bowling clubs will looking to begin their renovations towards the end of September making good use of the warm soil temperatures to initiate seed germination.bowring-park-verticutting-2.jpg

September is also be an ideal time to undertake any major or minor repair jobs on the green, such as improvements to drainage system or addressing levels or redefining crown heights on crown greens.

The objectives of end of season renovations are:

· To repair worn areas
· Prevent a build up of thatch layers (scarification)
· Restore surface levels (top dressing)
· Alleviate compaction (aeration)
· Re-establish sward densities (overseeding)
· Application of pre seeding/autumn fertilisers to promote sward and root establishment

The success of these renovations can often be dictated by a number of factors.

· Timing of operations
· Weather conditions
· Type and, often, the condition of the machinery used (aerators, scarifiers, overseeders and top dressers).
· Choice of materials
· Knowledge and experience of the persons undertaking these works.
· Budgets Available

If you do decide to use external contractors to carry out your renovations, ensure you have checked their credentials and they have the relevant skills, experience and machinery to do the job. Obtain references.

It is important to ensure that all materials (seed, fertilisers, topdressings and any hired machinery) have arrived and are secured and stored safely on site ready for use. Often, when ordering materials late, you may be faced with delays on delivery or not being able to get the products you want in time for your planned works.

Timing of operations

The earlier you can get on with your renovations the better (mid September through to mid October are usually optimal times for renovations). It is important to make good use of the warm soil and air temperatures that will aid seed germination.

Also, there needs to be some moisture in the ground to allow adequate penetration of both the scarifiers and aerators.

Weather conditions

It is important to work with the weather conditions, particularly when applying and spreading top dressing materials, the surface needs to be dry. However, there needs to be adequate moisture in the soil profile when applying granular fertilizer products so that they become activated and made soluble, enabling then to be taken up by the plant.

Types of machinery

Choice of machinery is vital for successful renovations; ensure that scarifiers and aerators are fit for purpose and that the blades and tines are sharp, clean and of the correct length. Also, check that they are safe to use and have the appropriate guards fitted.

There are many different makes and models of machines available, all of which offer different techniques or modes of action. Some scarifiers are more aggressive than others.

Ideally, you need to take a soil profile of your green and measure the thatch layer present. If it measures 25mm you will need to ensure the scarifier is capable of operating to this depth, therefore being able to eradicate the thatch layer you have.

Aerators come in many different forms offering different tine spacing and depth and size of tines. Again, you need to choose the appropriate aerator for your needs.

In most cases the biggest factor dictating the clubs choice of machinery is often what they have or what they can afford to hire.

Watering will be essential if you are faced with a dry period soon after seeding. Make sure you can water uniformly. The choice of sprinkler will be dictated by what water pressure you have on site. Also, do not over water. I have seen instances where some clubs switch on their water systems every night without fail, thus ending up with a waterlogged facility.

Choice of materials

Ensure you use compatible topdressing materials. Changing materials can often have disastrous results. Layering of different materials can cause root breaks and interfere with the hydraulic movement of water through the soil profile.

Seed should be used from approved suppliers and be certified. The use of old seed (more than twelve months old) may decrease its germination rates.

Knowledge and experience of the persons undertaking these works

Without doubt it is the experience and knowledge of the Greenkeeper that dictates the success or failure of these renovations. The experience and knowledge in choosing the right materials and methods of work are critical.


However, the overriding factor that nearly always dictates the level of renovations undertaken is what budgets are available. Materials alone - topdressing, seed and fertilizers are likely to set you back anything between £600-£1200 depending on the amount or quality of products chosen.

Hiring in contractors to do the work - a ball park figure for supplying labour and specialist machinery to mow, scarify, aerate, topdress, fertilise and overseed will be anything between £1500 and £2000.


General maintenance regimes will continue - brushing, mowing and watering as and when required.

Brushing/switching of the playing surface keeps the green clean and removes any dew or surface water. Keeping the surface dry will aid resistance to disease.bowring-paRK-SWITCHING-3.jpg

Keep an eye on fungal disease attack and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. Red thread can be very prominent at this time of the season. Other diseases are also active at this time of the year, namely fairy rings and fusarium.

Inspect and clean drainage outfalls and gullies. Replace and level up drainage ditch materials.

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.

With the development of mowing technology, most fine turf mowers have cassette fitting attachments that offer additional maintenance operations such as grooming and verticutting. Both are operations that effectively remove thatch and side shoot growth enabling the promotion of an upright plant and denser turf growth.

September weather can be quite unpredictable. Often we can experience warm, hot dry spells which will require groundstaff to address the irrigation needs of the greens. This will be an important factor especially during the end of season renovation works. Scarifying dry grass surfaces will result in very little debris being removed. There needs to some moisture in the surface to promote effective scarification works. Also, after overseeding, adequate soil moisture is required to stimulate germination.

Keep machines overhauled and clean.

It is important that the rinks on flat bowling greens are moved on a regular basis to prevent wear.

The sward will be actively growing due to the amount of moisture in the ground, coupled with the stimulation of fertiliser applications. Regular mowing will be required to maintain sward height at around 4-8mm.

Carry out any repairs to ditches, paths, gates, floodlights and other building features.

It is important that you use a compatible rootzone material for any repairs. These may come in different combinations; a 70/30 sand soil mix is the one commonly used by most groundstaff who mix their grass seed into this rootzone medium prior to spreading and integrating it into the worn areas.

Seeding sparse or bare areas can be continued. Any rise in soil or air temperatures will help germination. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for diseases. Remember that without good seed to soil contact the operation is useless.

Ensure you use new seed as old material may not give you the required germination rates.

Soil sampling is an important part of groundmanship. The results will enable the manager to have a better understanding of the current status of his soil and turf. There are many tests that can be undertaken, but usually the main three tests to consider are:

Particle Size Distribution (PSD) this will give you accurate information on the soil type and it's particle make up, enabling you to match up with appropriate top dressing materials and ensuring you are able to maintain a consistent hydraulic conductivity (drainage rate) of your soil profile.

Soil pH, it is important to keep the soil at a pH of 5.5-6.5, a suitable level for most grass plants. Organic matter content, it is important to keep a balanced level of organic matter content in the soil profile.

Nutrient Levels. Keeping a balance of N P K nutrients within the soil profile is essential for healthy plant growth.

Autumn Renovations

The following activities are generally implemented during autumn renovations and usually carried out in the following order, when conditions allow. The sequence of operations and their intensity will vary from green to green according to the condition of the green at the end of the season.

Mowing the sward, preparing surfaces for renovation. Lower cutting height to about 3-4mm to clean and prepare green for renovation operations. The mower can then be used to clean up the green after scarifying has been completed.

Scarification, removal of unwanted debris. Collect and disposal of arisings. Depending on the severity of the thatch, you may need to scarify several times in different directions. However, in most cases if regular verticutting/grooming has taken place during the growing season you would probably only be required to scarify in two directions. Do not scarify at right angles. Depth of scarification between 4-15mm depending on depth of thatch to remove.

Aeration is the decompaction of soil, improving air and gas exchange in the soil profile. Depending on the turf's condition, you can choose to carry out hollow or solid tine spiking, Hollow tines are generally used on a bi annual basis or when you have a severe thatch problem. Depth of aeration will be determined by the depth of your soil profile and what problems you want to rectify. Hollow tining is best achieved to a depth of between 75-100mm. Solid or slit tines can be set to penetrate deeper, ideally between 150-200mm.

Topdressing restores levels and improves surface drainage. Ensure you use compatible top dressing materials, sands, sand/soil mixes. Spreading can be achieved by several methods, utilising pedestrian or ride on disc or drop action top spreaders, or by hand using a shovel and a barrow. Best carried out in dry weather. It is important that the top dressings are spread uniformly.

Overseeding restores grass populations. Important to ensure a good groove or hole is made to receive the seed, good seed soil contact is essential for seed germination. Good moisture and soil temperatures will see the seed germinate between 7-14 days.

Fertilising, provides nutrients for grass growth. Apply a low N nitrogen fertiliser product something like an Autumn Fertiliser NPK 5:5:15 to help the sward through the autumn period.

Brushing to incorporate dressings and to help the grass stand back up. Brushing in with a lute or drag brush/mat to restore levels.

Watering/Irrigation. It is essential to keep the sward watered after renovations to ensure your seed germinates.

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