February Bowls Diary

By Laurence Gale MSc

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Depending in which part of the country you are situated, the weather will be influencing what work you can achieve in February. Many areas are currently experiencing a cold weather front where temperatures have remained close to freezing or not raising much above 5 degrees C. In these conditions the grass plant goes into a dormant state, and ceases to grow. It is not until we consistently begin to reach 5 degrees C and above will we then see some grass growth.

February is a good time to carry out some aeration works (when conditions allow, not during frost) thus opening up the soil profile and alleviating any compaction problems and, at the same time, keeping the surface free draining. There is a vast range of aeration equipment available now. See Aeration article for information.

Sarrell rollers should be used to aerate the playing surface (top 30mm) and some deeper tined aerators 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.

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 plants tissues. 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.

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 begin any spring cleaning programmes around the ground, painting/cleaning structures, fences and gates.

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

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When conditions allow

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

February is a good month to carry out some deeper aeration to open up the green and allow some gaseous exchange deeper down the soil profile. There are a number of pedestrian/ride on aerators designed for fine turf situations.

Ideally we should be looking to get good aeration depths between 100-200 mm using a variety of aerating tines and slitters now available.


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

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. See link on Fusarium

Fertilising

When required

With the soil, hopefully, beginning to warm up and some active sporadic grass growth being seen on the greens an application of appropriate fertilisers will help stimulate and improve the colour of your turf.

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.

Flood lights

As required

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.

Litter pick

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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.

Do not forget to order your spring renovation materials (topdressings/seed).

Mowing










As required

Continue to cut the green at its winter height 10-12mm to keep the sward tidy. However, grass will be beginning to grow soon, requiring more frequent cutting.

Perimeter fences and hedges

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As required

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).

Pests

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As required

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.

Repairs

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As required

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

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.