July Bowls Diary
By Laurence Gale MSc
The maintenance regime continues with regular mowing, grooming, feeding, brushing and watering ongoing. With the likelihood of drier warmer weather irrigation systems may be called in to use to maintain the water requirements for the green. Allowing the green to dry out can lead to a condition called dry patch which, in time, will lead to inconsistent surface playability.
High day time temperatures will increases the loss of water from playing surfaces by evapotranspiration. It is important to ensure the turf is well watered during dry periods.
Some bowling clubs do not have adequate watering facilities, which often leads to the greens drying out, putting the grass under stress. It would be wise to refrain from any grooming, scarification and verticutting practices during dry periods as this adds to the plant's stress which, in turn, will cause the plant to weaken, be susceptible to disease and even die.
The use of wetting agents are a good preventative cure for dry patch. Many Greenkeepers and Groundsmen are now using these products regularly on fine turf situations. Wetting agents are usually applied on a monthly basis.
Aeration is a key activity to ensure that there is a good air/gas exchange going on in the soil profile. The use of a sarrel roller (depth 5mm) helps keep the surface open without disturbing the playing surface. Deeper aeration should only be done with micro tines when conditions allow as we do not want to risk disturbing the playing surface especially during the playing season.
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.
Fertiliser treatment and turf tonics can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested; try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results.
Most grounds staff will be applying a summer N P K fertiliser, perhaps something like a 8/0/6 reducing the N and P inputs trying to maintain a stable balanced growth during July. The choice of material and how well it works will be dependant on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and air temperature being the catalyst for growth.
Most fine turf mowers have cassette fitting attachments that offer additional maintenance operations such as grooming and verticutting. These are both operations that effectively remove thatch and side shoot growth enabling the promotion of an upright plant and denser turf growth.
To help prevent constant wear in the same locations it is important to move markers and rinks on flat greens. Mowing frequency will often be dependant on the resources available to the clubs. Ideally most clubs will be mowing daily or at least three times a week. Regular mowing will be required to maintain sward height at around 4-8mm.
Some clubs will reduce their mowing heights further, perhaps down to 3mm to help speed up the greens for club competitions. Prolonged mowing at these heights will lead to plant stress. The speed of greens can be affected by other factors - too much thatch is the main cause of slow greens, or the fact that the greens have not had enough top dressings to maintain levels.
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. Ensure the greens are kept well fertilised, preventing the onset of disease.
It is important that you use a compatible rootzone material for any repairs. These may come in different formations, usually a 70/30 sand soil mix is the one commonly used by most groundstaff, who usually mix their grass seed into this rootzone medium prior to spreading and integrating it into the worn areas.
Seeding sparse or bare areas can be continued. Any rise in soil or air temperatures will help germination. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for disease. Remember that without good seed to soil contact the operation is useless.
Top dressing is usually carried out in spring and autumn in conjunction with the renovation programmes. However, some bowling clubs have a policy of applying top dressing materials during the season. It is important an appropriate top dressing material is sourced to ensure compatibility with the existing rootzone materials of your green. The last thing you want to encourage are rootbreaks in the green.
Spreading of the materials 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.
It is important to get an even spread of material, the aim is to put on a very light dressing, followed by brushing in with a lute or drag brush/mat to restore levels.
Inspect and clean out drain outfalls and gullies. Replace and level up drainage ditch materials.