The recent very wet weather will certainly have affected your greens, with many of them now in a wet or saturated condition. The ability of the green to dry out will be dependant on many factors:-
- The construction of your green and whether it has a primary drainage system.
- Soil type of your green, sandy, loamy or clay type soils.
- Condition of your green (does it have a thatch layer greater than 6mm?).
- What level of maintenance does it receive?
- Adequate resources available - labour and machinery.
The two factors that generally affect the performance of most natural turf facilities are a poor initial construction or the lack of maintenance. And, in some cases, both.
Ideally the green should have an adequate primary drainage system (grid or herringbone) in place to help with the removal of water. However, there are many club greens that do not have primary drainage systems installed and rely heavily on the ability of the soil profile to deal with the ingress of water.
Whether you have a drainage system or not the efficiency of the green to shed/infiltrate the water will depend on a number of factors such as surface levels, soil type, depth of soil.
Poor designs and wrong choice of rootzone materials are often the primary cause of surface drainage problems on natural turf facilities. Often we see very shallow depths of rootzones/soil profiles on greens. Greens that have less than 300 mm depth of rootzone will often drain inefficiently. Once you get greens constructed with less than 150mm of soil, surface water problems are seen as it is being held in the soil profile and not draining by gravitational forces.
This water holding problem is caused by a combination of factors. There needs to be a significant head of water (hydraulic conductivity) to force water through a soil profile; a shallow rootzone will not create enough hydraulic head of water to move the water, thus it becomes suspended in the soil profile, commonly known as a perched water table.
A perched water table can also be caused by an impermeable layer being present, thus preventing the water from draining away. Another reason, often not understood, is caused by the choice of rootzone materials (finer particle size mediums) which may be introducing capillary forces on the water, effectively preventing its movement and acting like a sponge.
It is also important to use compatible top dressing materials, particle size uniformity is critical. Using different soil mediums that are not compatible will lead to a formation of layers within the soil profile, thus affecting the ability of water to drain efficiently.
Greens that have excessive thatch layers (more than 6mm) will also prevent water infiltration, either by acting as a barrier or by acting as a sponge.
Soil type will also influence infiltration rates; sandy/sandy loam soils will drain more efficiently than heavier loam/clay loam soils. Also, constant foot traffic will, over time, result in the soil profile becoming compacted, resulting in a lack of air spaces to aid water infiltration.
To help keep the surface free draining and prevent water ponding on the playing surface you should also be looking to carry out some aeration operations, particularly making good use of your sarrel roller. A programme of solid tine spiking will also be beneficial at this time of the year, obtaining a depth of between 100-150mm will be effective.
There are many jobs you can undertake during January. Firstly, it's important to ensure you are carrying out your daily brushing to keep the surface clean and at the same time remove any early morning dews. Keeping the playing surface clean and dry helps prevent disease and contamination. There are a number of ways you can achieve this, using brushes and dragmats. Also, brushing of the green will help the sward stand upright allowing good air movement around the grass plant.
You should also be maintaining you winter height of cut at between 10-12mm. To help monitor the correct height of cut, use a prism gauge.
On your return after the holidays you are likely to find some accumulated surface debris (leaves, litter etc.) on the green and in the drainage ditches. It is important to clear it up.
January is a good time, whilst it is quiet, to plan and get yourself organised. What are your targets for this year? What do you want to achieve? Have you organised your spring renovation works? Have you ordered materials and machinery for the forthcoming season?
Aeration: Frequency - 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.
Deeper aeration (100-150mm) can be achieved using a pedestrian solid tine spiker or hand fork.
Brushing and switching: Frequency - 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: Inspect daily
Diseases can still occur at this time of the year, particularly during milder periods. Keep an eye on fungal disease attack and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.
Fertilising: Frequency - as 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: Frequency - as required
Inspect and clear away litter or debris.
Machinery: Frequency - daily, weekly or as required.
Keep machines overhauled and clean. Arrange the servicing of your machines ready for the new season.
Materials: Frequency - as required
Keep an eye on your material stocks, (seed, top dressing, petrol, oil ) remembering to replenish as required.
Mowing: Frequency - as required
With 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: Frequency - as required
Most bowling green facilities are enclosed by fences or hedges; it will be important to inspect them and ensure they are in good order. January is a good time to prune and cut formal hedges.
Pests: Frequency - 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.
Structure Repairs: Frequency - as required
You may even have some favourable weather in January when you may be able to wash/ paint/refurbish structures and features around your ground (seats, green surrounds, footpaths and fences and building structures).
Carry out any repairs to ditches, paths, gates, floodlights and other building features.
Soil tests: Frequency - ideally once or twice a year, or as required.
Soil sampling is an important part of greenkeeping. 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 its 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.