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February Bowls Diary 2013

Many greens will have suffered as a consequence of the recent poor weather and changing soil and air temperatures. Grass growth will slow if temperatures remain below 5 degrees Celsius. Also, the recent snow cover may have incubated and promoted an outbreak of fusarium or snow mold disease. Depending on its severity, it will probably need a dose of fungicide to keep it under control.

Depending in which part of the country you are situated, the weather will be influencing what work you can achieve this month. Many areas are currently experiencing a cold weather front where temperatures have remained close to freezing. This has resulted in a number of ground frosts occurring. No work should be undertaken on the greens when they are in a frosty condition.

If the frosty weather persists over a number of days, it could lead to some problems with your irrigation systems, hosepipes and outside taps. Ideally, any water carrying pipework should be lagged or protected from frost damage. Frost damage will lead to burst pipes and joints. Keep an eye out for these leaks.

Spring renovations are four to six weeks away. Ensure you have ordered your topdressing and seed requirements, along with any specialist machinery you may need to hire in for the tasks ahead. Get your orders in early to avoid disappointment.

Soil temperatures should and will begin to rise towards the end of February/early March, enabling the grass plant to make use of any fertilisers being applied. The grass plant's transpiration/respiration rates need to be active to initiate movement of soluble solutions from the soil into and through the plant's tissue.

To ensure you are applying the correct amount and balance of fertilisers for your turf, it would be useful to have a soil analysis undertaken, which will give you a full nutrient analysis of your soil's requirements. Based on these results, an appropriate fertiliser programme can be initiated for your facility.

Key Tasks for February
Aeration
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February is a good time to carry out some aeration works (when conditions allow, but not during frost), thus opening up the soil profile, alleviating any compaction problems and, at the same time, keeping the surface free draining.

We have seen in recent years a dramatic increase in aeration technologies being brought into our industry. Sarrel rollers should be used to aerate the playing surface (top 30mm), and a deeper tined aerator to relieve compaction to the base of the rootzone layer.

Care should be taken not to go too deep. Some bowling greens have been constructed with shallow rootzones, often less than 200mm in depth. You could do untold damage or begin to bring up base debris or, even worse, damage sub surface drainage systems if aerating too deep.

Useful Information for Aeration

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Mowing and Brushing
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Grass growth will be influenced by soil and air temperatures. Once we begin to see temperatures rising above 8 degrees Centigrade, grass growth will be stimulated. Mowing will be required to maintain sward at between 6mm -10mm.

Some clubs are resorting to using pedestrian rotary (rear roller) mowers to mow their greens during February, to help keep the grass mown and at the same time clean up any surface debris (twigs & leaves).

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.

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Pest & Disease
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Keep an eye on fungal disease attack and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. Fusarium has been quite prolific, with some surfaces getting severely scarred.

Use appropriate fungicides to control any further outbreaks, however, with the grass soon beginning to grow, it won't take long for these scars to grow out. Fairy rings are also quite prominent on greens at the moment. A dose of feed or liquid iron will stimulate some grass growth and this will help mask the fairy ring/ patches.

Increased soil moisture can often lead to an increase in worm activity. Regular switching of the greens will help disperse their casts. However, if the infestation is large, you may need to apply some Carbendazim to control the worm populations. Some Groundsmen and Greenkeepers use brushes to remove casts but, in wet conditions, this can lead to smearing.

Useful Information for Pest & Disease

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Soil Tests & Fertiliser
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Soil testing: February is a good time to take soil samples and get them sent off for analysis, thus enabling you to get them back in time to start your new year's maintenance

Ideally, if you have not had one done before, you should have a full (PSD) Particle Size Distribution soil analysis done to tell you the actual make up of your soil profile.

Soil is made up of percentages of clay, silt and sand. The PSD Analysis will identify the ratio of these and confirm soil type, thus giving you a better understanding of what soil you are dealing with. Also, you can establish the amount of organic matter (OM) content as well as soil nutrient status and soil pH. With this information you will be able to identify the needs of your soil.

Pitchcare have recently launched a new independent Soil Anaylsis service that enables you to get specific results for the soils you manage. Soil analysis is a means to discover what levels of nutrients are available to plants. There is an optimum for each plant nutrient and, when coupled with other properties such as soil structure and particle sizes, determine how vigorous your plants are. Different nutrients undertake different tasks within the plant.

Fertilising: Generally, no fertiliser applications are made during the winter months, as plant growth has slowed down. However, some groundstaff may apply a dose of liquid iron to colour up and provide some strength to the grass plant.

Soil temperatures should and will begin to rise towards the end of February/early March, enabling the grass plant to make use of any fertilisers being applied. The grass plant's transpiration/respiration rates need to be active to initiate movement of soluble solutions from the soil into and through the plant's tissue

Useful Information for Soil Tests & Fertiliser

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Investing in your facility
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It is vitally important clubs put aside an allocation of funds for the maintenance of their greens. I see far too many clubs whose greens are in a poor condition due to the fact that not enough work is done on them. At the end of the day, there is a basic cost for materials and specialist operations. A typical end of season renovation, using a competent contractor will cost between £1600-£2000; this would usually include the cost of the materials and labour (scarification, aeration, topdress with three-five tonnes of rootzone material and overseeding).

Some contractors also offer a yearly maintenance programme which will allow for end of season and spring renovation work, plus a number of other relevant cultural practices, such as aeration, fertiliser applications, wetting agents and fungicide applications to keep the green in good condition; this might also include some winter mowing regimes. However, the contractor, unless asked, will not normally carry out the regularly mowing duties during the growing season. The cost for this would be in the region of between £6000-£9000 depending on circumstances, location and condition of the green. All of the above costs are only a guide.

Obviously, many bowls clubs do the work themselves using dedicated, committed volunteers. In those cases, the club's annual maintenance costs will be greatly reduced, having only to pay for the cost of the products/materials used.

At the end of the day, it is important clubs fund these operations with effective membership charges, or find the money by promoting activities that can earn an income which can be used towards the green's upkeep. Once a club is aware of the annual costs for maintaining a green, they should effectively be able to generate the money to pay for it via subs and other activities. Most bowls clubs may well have 50 plus members. If you were to charge them each £100 a year membership (£2 per week), that would raise £5000 a year - a substantial sum that would make a great difference to the condition of your green.

Useful Information for Investing in your facility

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Other Tasks for the Month
  • Spring renovations are four to six weeks away. Ensure you have ordered your topdressing and seed requirements, along with any specialist machinery you may need to hire in for the tasks ahead. Get your orders in early to avoid disappointment.

  • February is also a good time to begin any spring cleaning programmes around the ground, painting/cleaning structures, fences and gates.

  • 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.

  • Keep an eye on fungal disease attack and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. Fusarium has been quite prolific, with some surfaces getting severely scarred. Use appropriate fungicides to control any further outbreaks, however, with the grass soon beginning to grow, it won't take long for these scars to grow out.

  • February is an ideal time to take soil samples for soil analysis. Test for nutrient, organic matter and soil pH levels. This will enable you to input the correct management programme for any deficiencies found in your soil profile.

  • A liquid preparation of sulphate of ammonia (NH4SO4) can be applied in February at a rate of 0.08g/m2N to help colour up and increase plant strength.

  • Floodlights: It is important to have your floodlights serviced annually by a competent approved electrician or floodlight company. You will need to check for any broken or damaged lamps; remember to keep the lamps clean and adjusted. Light levels can be affected by dirt and wrong alignment.

  • Keep machines overhauled and clean. Arrange the servicing of your machines ready for the new season. It is important to ensure your mowers cutting cylinders and bottom plates are clean, sharp and accurate.

  • Most bowling green facilities are enclosed by fences or hedges. You may even have some favourable weather in February when you may be able to wash/paint/refurbish structures and features around your ground (seats, green surrounds, footpaths and fences and building structures).

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