Autumn is a season of great importance for the bowling club greenkeeper. The regular playing fixtures come to an end, so thoughts can now turn to renovations and winter maintenance.
The green should be thoroughly scarified in two diagonal directions in order to remove surplus growth and dead fibre (thatch). The resulting debris should be removed after each pass.
Scarifying can be done more quickly and effectively by using a machine such as a Sisis Rotorake or Graden fitted with thatch removal blades. These should be set to significant thatch depths ranging from 1 to 2cm.
This should be followed by aeration to a depth of 10 to 15cm using solid tines.
If compaction or thatch build up is particularly severe, hollow tines should be used. If the thatch is as thick as your index finger, then light scarification and solid tine aeration should be implemented. If the thatch is thicker than two fingers, then more drastic measures, such as hollow tining and greater scarification depth, must be considered.
Now is the time to dress the green with a sand and organic dressing. This mixture is specifically designed for fine turf areas.
Ideally, the composition for such mixtures is around 70% sand to 30% soil (of the right particle size of around 0.25 and 0.50mm). No more than a 10% variance either way of this percentage is advisable.
This work should be carried out when the surface is dry in order to maintain a true surface. At least 4 tonnes of material should be applied, possibly more if major scarification and aeration are implemented, i.e. bigger tines and slitting are made.
It is imperative that the topdressing is thoroughly worked into the sward to avoid smothering the turf. The use of a dragmat or dragbrush will assist here.
If any areas need reseeding, this should be performed as soon as possible, ensuring that the seed is lightly covered by the topdressing at all times. The green will still require cutting; however, to avoid picking up the topdressing, the height of cut should be reset to 10mm. This setting may be used throughout the late autumn and early spring.
Autumn conditions often increase the activity of casting worms so the need for regular switching and brushing to dissipate the casts is advisable.
Fertilisers are available in varying formats. The regular use of salt based fertilisers is still the most common. They are applied to maintain health of the grass and appearance of the bowling green. It is also used to help assist in providing nutrition by which the plant may recover from stress.
As with all turf surfaces, different nutrition levels are applied at different times of the year, e.g. in spring and summer, more nitrogen is needed as the grass plant is actively growing; autumn and winter, more phosphorus and potash is applied to encourage root development.
The best condition for the application of fertilisers is when the immediate surface is dry, but with moisture present within the soil profile. Dry, windy conditions are to be avoided which may result in an uneven distribution followed by scorching of the sward.
Fertiliser application must always be followed by watering in one form or another.
Always check the calibration of any machine prior to an application in order to determine the correct rate at which the fertiliser should be introduced according to the maker's instructions.
Fertiliser distributors are used widely in turf culture for spreading fertilisers evenly and efficiently. Any distributor should be able to carry out the following functions:
• Able to spread both granular and powder fertiliser at a wide range of application rates
• The application rate should be easily adjustable
• They should be adaptable to sow grass seed and apply topdressings
• They should be designed and built in a way that will reduce corrosion as far as possible
The whole surface should be checked for any irregularities. Worn areas will require repair and levels may be renovated. The use of turf is acceptable, but the opportunities to purchase suitably turf are minimal. It is possible that a club could have its own turf nursery for obtaining quality turf at the right specification to be compatible to the green. However, I have yet to see any club provide such a maintenance regime.
The choice of seed is regularly available, basically a standard greens mixture comprising 80% Fescue and 20% Bent.
After the completion of the autumn work on the bowling green, many clubs are of the opinion that the ground may be left unattended until the following April. This is far from the correct approach. The greenkeeper should aim to keep an eye on the green at regular periods over the winter.
The occasional surveillance of the green will provide the opportunity of investigating any outbreaks of fungal disease and also enable the detection of any excessive grass growth.
In any mild spells, it may be necessary to top the grass to ensure that the sward does not receive a check in the spring by removing too much growth in a short period of time. Any growth over 18mm should be lowered to 12mm. Never cut any more than 1/3 off the length of leaf blade at any one cutting, otherwise this will destruct the root development of the plant.
Walk the green to remove any debris or rubbish which may have accumulated to ensure that no damage will be caused to the machinery and equipment.
This article is from the Pitchcare archive and was originally part of a longer feature written by David H Bates Agronomy Services Ltd. www.davidhbatesagronomy.com