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.
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.
Grass growth will be influenced by soil and air temperatures. Once we begin to see temperatures rising above 8 degrees Centigrade grass growth will be stimulated. Mowing will be required to maintain sward at between 10-12mm.
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 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: should be continued throughout the winter when conditions allow, the use of a sarrel roller will be beneficial in keeping the surface open.
Diseases: 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. Fairy rings are also quite prominent on greens at the moment. A dose of feed or liquid iron will stimulate some grass growth and this will help mask the fairy ring/ patches.
Fertilising: 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.
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.
Machinery and sundries: Keep machines overhauled and clean. Arrange the servicing of your machines ready for the new season. Keep an eye on your material stocks (seed, top dressing, petrol, oil ), remembering to replenish as required.
Perimeter fences and hedges: Most bowling green facilities are enclosed by fences or hedges. January is a good time to complete any tidying up of these features. Hedges can be pruned and cut to maintain their shape and form.
Repairs: Carry out any repairs to ditches, paths, gates, floodlights and other building features. Ideally, you should have your floodlights serviced on an annual basis to check that they are safe and operating to the correct lux values. Also check that the lights are correctly positioned, thus preventing unwanted light pollution.
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