December Bowls Diary

By Laurence Gale MSc

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With temperatures falling and early morning frosts now becoming more regular, grass growth will have slowed down dramatically. Turf is especially prone to damage when it is frozen or when the ground is thawing.

What happens to turf in frost conditions?

Frost on the grass leaf blades tells us that the water inside the leaves is frozen. Remember that 80+% of plant tissue is made up of water, the primary component of plant tissue. When this water is frozen, foot traffic on the turf causes the ice crystals in the cells to puncture through the plant's cell walls, thus killing plant tissue.

When they are frozen the leaves of the turf get easily bruised by player's feet. After thawing, the affected turf turns black or brown and becomes sparse. The turf can often remain thin for long periods if damage occurs early in the winter. The fine turf on greens becomes more susceptible to disease and the putting surface becomes very uneven.

More long-term damage can be caused when play takes place as the turf is thawing after a prolonged freeze. Under these conditions the top surface of the turf may be soft, but the underlying soil can still be frozen. Root damage occurs easily from a shearing action as player's feet move the soft top surface against the frozen sub soil.

The process of damage to the turf normally occurs in the following pattern:

* Bruising and damage to the leaf.
* Loss of turf colour.
* Severing of grass roots.
* Compaction of the soil.
* Thinning of the swards.

Remember to keep off your bowling greens during frosty conditions.

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You should use this spare time to carry out some other works in and around the greens, clearing out ditches, pruning and cutting hedges to keep them tidy and manageable. It is essential to keep the surface free of debris and aerated. The use of a sarrel roller will be sufficient to keep the surface open and free draining.

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. Moisture on the leaf will allow diseases to move and spread easily. Regular brushing in the mornings to remove the moisture from the leaf is an important maintenance regime to deter an attack of disease.

Most of the tasks detailed can be undertaken within a limited budget. Local conditions and circumstances will need to be taken into account. If any members are undertaking any specific work not detailed, please let us know by adding a comment in the section below the diary.

Task

Frequency

Reason

Aeration

When conditions allow

Aeration should be continued throughout the autumn when conditions allow, the use of a sarrel roller will be beneficial in keeping the surface open.

Brushing/switching

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Daily or as 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.

Disease

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Daily

Diseases are fairly prominent at this time of the year. Keep an eye on fungal disease attack and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. Fusarium can be very prominent at this time of the season. Good cultural practices generally reduces the likelihood of disease outbreaks.

Fertilising

When required

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 during the winter months.

Litter pick

Weekly or as required

Inspect and clear away litter or debris.

Machinery

Daily/Weekly

Keep machines overhauled and clean. Arrange the servicing of your machines ready for the new season.

Materials

Monthly

Keep an eye on your material stocks, (seed, top dressing, petrol, oil ) remembering to replenish as required.

Mowing

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As required

With the season finished and the green closed down for the winter, mowing will only be required to maintain a winter height of cut at 10-12mm.

Perimeter fences and hedges

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As required

Most bowling green facilities are enclosed by fences or hedges. December is a good time to complete any tidying up of these features. Hedges can be pruned and cut to maintain their shape and form.

Pests

As required

Increased soil moisture can often lead to an increase in worm activity. Regular brushing 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.

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As required

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

Ideally you should have your floodlights serviced on a annual basis to check that they are safe and operating to the correct LUX values. Also check that the lights are correctly positioned, thus preventing unwanted light pollution.

Soil tests

Ideally once or twice a year, or as required.

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 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.

Once you have this information you will be in a better position to plan your season's feeding and maintenance programmes.