Talking turf - a worrying winter

James Kimmingsin Golf

Pitchcare spoke to Head Greenkeeper, Myles Davies from Upton-by-Chester Golf Club. In this quick-fire Q and A, he reflects how the wet summer and consistent extreme weather has affected the management of his course.

Golf courses and their managers are under constant pressure to achieve ideal moisture levels to promote good healthy turf growth. Myles tells more…   

When we have a wet summer, what are the effects of this come wintertime? How have you managed it?

It has been really tough this year trying to manage through the extremely wet summer. The ground is a lot softer than it should be for this time of year and is resulting in earlier course closures. Many in the industry are struggling to get out and do proper work due to the consistently poor weather conditions.

What have you done in order to maintain the greens and keep them to a good standard?

We have been clearing the dew off daily to keep the leaf as dry as possible. Aerating to allow water to percolate and provide more air into the soil. We have also raised the height of cut to 5.5mm to reduce stress and iron the greens whenever possible to maintain a firm surface. We have definitely had to put the work in.

What are the challenges when rain is as torrential as it’s been for the last few weeks?  

Being on a course that is built on heavy clay, it can get really wet and hard to navigate around without making a mess. This has affected the productivity of our project work and is really difficult to keep on top of falling leaves. The wetness certainly makes you have to adapt to the more challenging environment for sure.

What effect does this have on you psychologically?

It can get stressful at times, but it’s important to remind yourself of how the problem is only temporary and think of the positives. We have to have a keep calm and adopt a carry-on regardless approach. Everyone in this business knows that the weather is a massive factor - you have to just keep moving forward.

What kind of long-term damage does the turf take from extreme weather?

Unfortunately, the turf can suffer quite a lot from too much water; you can lose grass coverage, which will potentially be replaced with Poa come springtime. This can promote disease scarring, which causes slight undulations and is unsightly. Too much water will also increase the thatch levels. It’s a challenge for sure.

How long would it take to put the damage right?

The recovery of grass going into winter is a lot slower with colder soil temperatures - it could be months before you start to see patches recover fully. Trying to decrease the thatch layer involves lots of cultural practices and good management and can take years to bring down to an acceptable level.

How have you overcome the subsequent damages?

Up to now, I have managed to keep a healthy coverage on the greens and only have a small amount of disease scars to overseed. The moss has been trying to creep its way in since early August, but applications of chelated iron are enough to knock it back and allow the grasses to dominate the sward.

In terms of budget, can you tell me about some of the challenges which come with this?

There are lots of challenges trying to manage these problems on a budget. My biggest one is the lack of machinery for jobs and maintenance. Having to use contractors for scarification and hiring aeration equipment frequently is quite expensive, but the plan is to become self-sufficient using our own machinery in future.

What are your tips for dealing with fusuarium and moss at this time of year?

Firstly, to establish your thresholds. Be proactive and not reactive; keep surfaces as dry as possible. If budget allows, use penetrants and dew dispersants to assist with this. Also, a good aeration programme and keeping on top of the moss using an iron-based product to dry it out and discourage it from spreading. I would always try to manage diseases culturally first, before using a fungicide as a last resort.