As we finish the year, with stats showing it has been the warmest year on record, November's exceptional mild spell came to an abrupt end and saw temperatures drop to below zero. December looks set to start with a period of very unsettled and often windy weather. Overall, temperatures will probably range from a bit below normal in the north to a little above normal in the south. Frost is likely to be infrequent, but northern hills will often see snow in the showery periods.
Key Tasks for December
During December the following activities are usually undertaken:
- Maintain a winter cut height of 10-12mm
- Inspection and maintenance of machinery and irrigation equipment
- Aeration should be continued throughout the winter when conditions allow; regular use of a sarrel roller will be beneficial in keeping the surface open
- Check for disease and pests, seek advice if necessary
- Frequent surface and deep soil aeration
- clean up any leaf debris
There is no such thing as putting the green to bed and forgetting about it until the spring. The following activities are usually carried out, when conditions allow.
Mowing the sward, preparing surfaces for renovation. It is important to keep the sward cut (topped) at between 10-12mm.
Scarification, removal of unwanted debris. With most of the autumn leaves fallen, it is time to clear them from the green and perimeter ditches. Ditch infill materials also need regular cleaning and levelling. Clubs use an array of ditch infill materials, ranging from sand, bark, corks, rubber mats and rubber crumb. Moss, algae and weed material can soon build up in poorly maintained ditches.
Aeration/brushing. Carry out regular aeration. It is also a good month to get some deep aeration done to the green, with the aim to get below 100mm and, if possible, down to 300mm to alleviate any deep compaction.
Topdressing. 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.
Overseeding. It is important to ensure a good groove or hole is made to receive the seed; good seed to soil contact is essential for seed germination. Good moisture and soil temperatures will see the seed germinate between 7-14 days.
Fertilising. A dose of liquid iron would not go amiss, this helps harden the grass plant and maintain some colour.
Brushing. Regularly brush to keep the surface clean and open to the elements.
Watering/Irrigation. Temperatures are likely to plummet in the next few weeks, bringing the likelihood of heavy frosts so, to prevent any damage to irrigation systems, it is important these are drained down.
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 its 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 to 6.5, a suitable level for most grass plants, and a balanced level of organic matter content in the soil profile.
N:P:K: Keeping a balance of N P K nutrients within the soil profile is essential for healthy plant growth.
Earthworms may be a problem, so regular dragbrushing will be necessary. Brushing can be daily when conditions are right. Regular aeration to keep the surface open will aid drying. A drier surface may help towards reducing the effects of the earthworm activity near the surface. Diseases have been widely reported, particularly Fusarium. These outbreaks have been mainly due to the heavy dews and changing climatic air temperatures we have recently experienced.
The three disease factors: susceptible grass/host, pathogen, and environment, provide the evidence for disease diagnosis. Symptoms are the expression of the susceptible grass to the disease and can take on a variety of forms.
Symptoms may appear on the leaves as small, circular, tan-coloured lesions surrounded by brown or purple borders (leaf spotting); as yellow, red, or tan blotches over most or all of the leaf blade (blighting); stunting; wilting; or as a brown or black rot on the crowns and roots. The appearance of these symptoms will also vary depending on the type of disease, the severity of the attack and the developing stage of the disease.
The typical types of diseases you may come across are:
- Red Thread
- Dollar Spot
Please note: More information on these and many others can be found here: https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php
It is important to maintain machines by carrying out regular servicing and repairs.
Remember to check the condition of your machinery, and plan to get it repaired/serviced during the winter months.
- Check all moving parts and ensure they are properly greased and topped up with the right recommended lubricants.
- Take stock of what you have in your shed and what condition it is in.
- Take the opportunity to repair and get any equipment serviced.
- Check over all hand held sprayers.
Pitchcare is the only provider of LANTRA accredited training courses in the maintenance of Bowls Greens. It is a one day course designed to provide a basic knowledge of bowling green maintenance. The course enables the Groundsman to grasp the basic needs of a bowling green surface, either Flat or Crown, throughout a 12 month period.
Delegates attending the Bowling Green course and using the accompanying manual will be able to develop their own skills, working knowledge and expertise, by understanding the method of instruction and the maintenance principle it sets out. Included in the Course Manual, there are working diaries showing the range of tasks needed to be accomplished each month.
The Course Manual is available for purchase separately.
In addition, we are able to arrange courses to be delivered on site to groups of 6 – 10 people. Email Chris Johnson for information.
Other Key Tasks
- Repair Structures: Bench seats, scoreboards and any other fittings around the green.
- Many greens are surrounded by fences or hedges; these will need some maintenance; natural hedges may need a prune/cut to keep them tidy and manageable.