May Bowls Diary

By Laurence Gale MSc

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As with most natural grass playing surfaces this year, the weather has affected pre season renovations. The prolonged spell of cold weather has restricted any significant grass growth on the greens, combined with the fact that most fertiliser products have been suppressed by the cold temperatures. You need warm moist soil conditions to activate fertiliser. However, once the soils begin to warm up the grass plant will be able to make good use of the applied nutrients.

The knock on affect of the cold weather has been a reduction in the number of mowing frequencies carried out, which in turn reduces sward density. It may take longer for the greens to recover from your spring renovations, particularly when scarification has been carried out.may-2006-poor-sward.jpg

Most greenstaff will have already applied a spring/summer fertiliser, perhaps something like a 9/7/7 and will be looking to apply a summer fertiliser, reducing the N and P inputs to maintain a balanced growth during May. At the end of the month an application of a slow release fertiliser will see you through June and July.

Regular brushing and sweeping are important tasks to keep the surface clean, open and dry. A dry surface will aid resistance to disease. Keep an eye on fungal disease attack and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.

The sward will be actively growing due to the amount of moisture in the ground, coupled with the stimulation of fertiliser applications. Regular mowing will be required to maintain sward height at around 4-5mm. Verticutting/grooming fortnightly can be carried out to help speed up the green and help improve the health of your turf.

With the development of mowing technology, 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.

Aerating with micro tines or sarrell rollers helps keep the surface open, allowing gaseous exchange and good surface drainage.

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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 diseases. Remember that without good seed to soil contact the operation is useless. Ensure you use new seed as old material may not give you the required germination rates.

Irrigation systems need to be checked out, inspect installations for leaks and check that the sprinklers work. There may be a need to irrigate during May as air temperatures rise and daylight hours are getting longer, increasing the likelihood of the ground and surfaces drying out.

It is always important to keep a diary of what work you have carried out, stating times of operations and amounts of materials used. Also, keep weather records. This information is very useful, especially if problems arise.

There are a number of performance quality standards (BS7370:P3, A6 standards) that can be used to measure the condition of your green. These include the measurement of:-

  • Length of herbage (mm)

  • Ground Cover %

  • Pest & Diseases %

  • Root depth (mm)

  • Thatch (mm)

  • Infiltration (mm per hour)

  • Rebound resilience %

  • Relative % bounce

The results are measured against predetermined standards (high, standard and basic levels). These can be seen in the IOG Guidelines for Performance Quality standards (part one, sports surfaces natural/non turf). These standards can be used as a bench mark for you to aspire to and maintain.