Depending in which part of the country you are situated, the weather will be influencing what work you can achieve this month. Many areas are currently experiencing a cold weather front where temperatures have remained close to freezing. This has resulted in a number of ground frosts occurring. No work should be undertaken on the greens when they are in a frosty condition.
If the frosty weather persists over a number of days it could lead to some problems with your irrigation systems, hose pipes and outside taps. Ideally, any water carrying pipe work should be lagged or protected from frost damage. Frost damage will lead to burst pipes and joints. Keep an eye out for these leaks.
February is a good time to carry out some aeration works (when conditions allow, but not during frost), thus opening up the soil profile, alleviating any compaction problems and, at the same time, keeping the surface free draining. We have seen in recent years a dramatic increase in aeration technologies being brought into our industry.
We now have a wide choice of specialised equipment for improving the porosity of your soil profile, with some deep 300-450mm aerators, such as the Vertidrain, and the Ecosol machine that can drill and fill. The DryJet offers another drill and fill option, relying on water pressure to create fissures in which kiln dried sand materials and other soil amendments can be injected down to a depth of 125 mm. Other systems include the much acclaimed Toro and John Deere multicore aerators.
Sarrell rollers should be used to aerate the playing surface (top 30mm) and a deeper tined aerator 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 the plant's tissue.
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 to begin any spring cleaning programmes around the ground, painting/cleaning structures, fences and gates.
Aeration - 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- 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.
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.
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.
Floodlights -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 - Weekly or as required :- Inspect and clear away litter or debris from playing surfaces and surrounding areas.
Machinery - Daily/Weekly:- Keep machines overhauled and clean. Arrange the servicing of your machines ready for the new season. It is important to ensure your mowers cutting cylinders and bottom plates are clean, sharp and accurate.
Materials: - Do not forget to order your spring renovation materials (topdressings/seed). Keep an eye on your material stocks (seed, topdressing, petrol, oil ), remembering to replenish as required.
Mowing -As required :- We have had a extremely mild winter with temperatures often reaching 10 degrees Centigrade thus stimulating some grass growth. Continue to cut the green at its winter height 10-12mm to keep the sward tidy. However, do not cut if frosty or frozen.
Perimeter fences and hedges - 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 - 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 - 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: