The condition and performance of any natural grass playing surface is always governed by the amount of work put in by the groundsman/greenkeeper which, in turn, to a great extent, is governed by the resources they have available in respect of machinery products and services.
There are still too many bowling clubs working with limited resources, often using very old antiquated equipment and machinery. Many clubs have mowers that are often twenty plus years old. Nothing wrong with that, if they have been regular serviced and are fit for purpose (sharp and able to cut to heights of 4-5 mm).
However, cutting of the green is only one physical operation of maintaining a bowling green; the key is to be able to carry out other maintenance operations effectively.
Timely operations of feeding, aerating, watering and grooming (verticutting and brushing) are essential for the welfare of the grass plant.
June will also be a busy month with members now playing daily, coupled with the build up of league and club competitions. Mowing will be the key activity, keeping the greens mown at between 4-6mm, so as not to put undue stress on the grass.
Power brush or verticut the sward to stand up any persistently straggly grass, this operation also allows for a fresher, cleaner cut.
A light scarifying of the playing surface every 3-4 weeks can also improve the speed of the green.
Always check the greens mower prior to use for sharpness of cut, adjust as necessary. These checks should be done every time you intend to use the mower. Also check for any fluid/oil leaks. The last thing you want is to leave a smear of oil/fluids on your playing surface.
Double cut the green in a diamond formation for tournaments and finals. This type of cut removes more grass from the same area without the need to reduce the cutting height. Most bowling greens tend to suffer dry patches at the edges of the green, generally caused by mowing practices, where you continue to turn. The use of turning boards can help reduce wear on these areas. Some clubs are now raising their height of cut to 7-8mm around the edge of the green to minimise this problem.
The quality of cut is often determined by the choice of mower used. There are plenty of mowers now on the market. You usually get what you pay for! For most clubs it will be the budget available that dictates which mower they can have. There is a wide choice of mower manufacturers who can offer you a suitable mower (new or second hand) to suit your budgets and needs.
Check grass in times of heat stress; roll, instead of cutting, once in a while to ease pressure. If temperatures remain high, it may well be necessary to syringe the sward with water to cool the surface.
It will be important to check your watering systems, ensuring they work effectively and water the green uniformly. Many clubs lack efficient water resources i.e. automated pop up watering systems and, even if they have one, clubs often do not use it properly. Too many greens are either under or over watered, giving rise to further problems, such as dry patch, excessive thatch, shallow root growth, slow pace, inconsistent bowl roll, to name a few.
Watering is all about understanding the grass plants needs and knowing your soil profile; sandy soils are more free draining than loamy/clay soils. Often, problems can be as a result of low water pressure or an incorrect sprinkler. Watering is all about uniformity. Ideally, you should soak your green (flood it up) and allow it to dry out over a few days .
This will ensure you have watered to depth, however this is not always possible, especially during a busy period of fixtures. Also, during the day water pressures may be low due to local consumption; it may be an advantage to water at night, this will also reduce water loss by evaporation. You should also test your water quality and find out its pH level, especially if you are using recycled water. Poor water quality will have a detrimental affect on your sward.
Getting to know your soil profile is important. Ideally, you should be taking core samples, perhaps on a monthly basis to check the condition of your green. You will be able to monitor thatch levels, root depth, identify any layering or anaerobic conditions and, finally, see if you have unwanted pests lurking in your soil.
June continues to be another busy month for bowls, with the longest day (21st June) fast approaching. These long days allow evening matches to be played.
The maintenance regime continues with regular mowing, grooming, feeding, brushing and watering. With the likelihood of drier, warmer weather irrigation systems may be called in to use. Allowing the green to dry out can lead to a condition called dry patch which, in time, will lead to inconsistent surface playability.
Check areas where dew is not present for signs of stress or dry patch. These areas may need hand watering, and the green as a whole may benefit from the application of a wetting agent. If this is the case, treat these prone areas with a sarrel roller prior to using the wetting agent and monitor closely.
Generally, with the long, hot days, irrigation will be important, but better to give the green a good dousing every two or three days than a little bit every day. This encourages roots to strengthen and go in search of water.
Most Greenkeepers will be applying a summer N P K fertiliser, perhaps something like a 12:0:9, reducing the N and P inputs, trying to maintain a stable balanced growth during June. You could also look to use a slow release fertiliser that will see you through July and August. The choice of material and how well it works will be dependant on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and air temperature being the catalyst for growth.
It is essential to ensure there is enough soil moisture present to activate the fertiliser product used. Liquid feeds are more efficient in getting into the plant, especially when used as a foliar feed.
Applying a balanced fertiliser regime will help prevent the plant becoming stressed, especially during drought conditions. The aim is to keep the roots growing. The well-being of the grass plant is influenced by the state and condition of the roots. Most of the plant's nutrient requirements are taken in by the rooting structure.
Seeding sparse or bare areas can be continued. The higher soil and 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.
It is important that you use a compatible rootzone material for any repairs. These may come in different formulations, generally a 70/30 sand soil mix is the one used by most greenstaff, who usually mix their grass seed into this rootzone medium prior to spreading and integrating into the worn areas. Ensure you use new seed as old material may not give you the required germination rates.
Topdressing is usually carried out in spring and autumn in conjunction with the renovation programmes. However, some bowling clubs have a policy of applying topdressing materials during the season. It is important that an appropriate material is sourced to ensure compatibility with the existing rootzone materials of your green. The last thing you want to encourage are rootbreaks in the green.
Spreading of the materials can be achieved by several methods, utilising pedestrian or ride-on disc or drop action topspreaders, or by hand using a shovel and a barrow. It is important to get an even spread of material, the aim is to put on a very light dressing, followed by brushing in with a lute or drag brush/mat to restore levels.
Monitor for disease or pests, prevention is better than cure.
Many bowling clubs have hedges surrounding their greens, June is a good time to trim and reshape these, thus reducing any potential shading or access problems.
Check and inspect ditches, floodlights, structures and any site furniture for damage; keep the site clean and maintain a tidy appearance throughout the facility.