After such a unsettled May, we should now hopefully be finally getting some consistent warm weather to stimulate some much needed grass growth, especially after such a poor start to the year. Many greens are still showing the stresses of such an erratic, dry spring, with the sward being thin and sparse with some disease scarring.
We are probably still a month behind in terms of growth, however it is surprising how quick recovery can be, especially after a input of some spring renovation work, light scarification, aeration and a timely dose of fertiliser that is activated by the very moist soil profile.
It is also important to monitor soil pH and be aware of the type of water you have, hard or soft. There are now a range of additives that can be used to improve water quality, also clubs are also looking at better ways to recycle water and store water for re-use.
It is important that you take the opportunity to undertake some soil tests to help establish the greens needs in terms of NPK and micro nutrients inputs. We now have a wide range of feeding regimes at our disposal that include, organics, bio stimulants, compost teas and compounds applied in both granular and liquid formulations.
Key Tasks for June
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 antiquated equipment and machinery. Many clubs have mowers that are often twenty plus years old. Nothing wrong with that, if they have been regularly 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. In recent years, we have also seen a combination of mowing and rolling regimes coming to the fore to help increase surface speed. By the term rolling, this is achieved by using one of the modern turf irons/ rollers that are becoming more popular with top end fine turf facilities.
However, you must be mindful that at some point a programme of aeration will be required to de compact the surface to allow gaseous exchanges and increase soil porosity.
The general 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.
Do not underestimate the importance of watering correctly, ensuring you are watering to a consistent depth and not allow the sward to become too dry and hydrophobic. Once your soil becomes to dry, it often very difficult to rewet, unless you start using some wetting agents.
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.
Mowing & Feeding
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 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.
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.
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 may not always be 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.
Seeding & Topdressing
Seeding:-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 :-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.
Monitoring the performance of your playing surfaces is a key skill that should be adopted by all Groundsman/Greenkeepers. With the aid of modern technologies, tools and a camera you can now monitor the performance and the condition of your sward in many ways.
For many years the turf industry has promoted the use of Performance Quality Standards (PQS) to ascertain the standard of sport pitch maintenance.
It is important to survey and measure the performance of your facilities, with modern technologies we can now measure all manner of aspects of the pitch/golf green or artificial pitch to ensure it meets any stated guidelines by the sports governing bodies.
These can include measuring sward height, composition of grass species, soil temperature, weed content, levels, hardness and infiltration rates (porosity) of the soil rootzone.
In recent years, we have seen the development of GPS mapping devices that can measure chlorophyll , moisture content and deviation in levels. Soil tests will also help determine soil type, nutrient status of the soil, organic matter content, CEC capacity and soil pH.
Keeping a record of these parameters will help you have a better understanding of what is going on within your playing surface and enable you to make better decisions on what maintenance inputs you will need to undertake to maintain surface playability.
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. 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.
Worm activity will increase as the soil temperatures begin to rise and the soils remain moist. It may be necessary to apply an approved product to control worm activity.
A selective weed killer will help control any broadleaf weeds, the timing of application is key, apply when weed growth is vigourous
Keep machines overhauled, serviced and clean
You, should have had your mower serviced and sharpened ready for the new season; it is well worth the money investing in a winter service.
Keep machines overhauled, serviced and clean
Please take time to inspect and repair any watering or irrigation systems; many bowling clubs now have pop-up irrigation systems, so ensure they have been drained down for winter. Organise an inspection, re-commissioning and calibration of your irrigation system.
You should also be checking and servicing your floodlighting systems, ensuring they are ready for the new playing season.
It also important to replace any worn tines on your aeration equipment.
Materials: Ensure you have organised and ordered the appropriate materials from suppliers, don't leave it too late! There should be a supply of topdressing and seed as well as your chosen fertiliser. Possibly some wetting agent and any chemical controls that could be needed at short notice.
Pitchcare is the only provider of LANTRA accredited training courses in the maintenance of Bowls Greens. It is a one day course designed to provide a basic knowledge of bowling green maintenance. The course enables the Groundsman to grasp the basic needs of a bowling green surface, either Flat or Crown, throughout a 12 month period.
Delegates attending the Bowling Green course and using the accompanying manual will be able to develop their own skills, working knowledge and expertise, by understanding the method of instruction and the maintenance principle it sets out.
Included in the Course Manual, there are working diaries showing the range of tasks needed to be accomplished each month. The Course Manual is available for purchase separately.
In addition, we are able to arrange courses to be delivered on site to groups of 6 – 10 people. Email Chris Johnson for information.
Pitchcare provide a range of courses suitable for bowls clubs. In most cases, the courses can be held on site using the club's own equipment and machinery.
Some of the courses available are:
Chainsaws - CS30 and CS31
H&S Refresher Training on Combined Turf Care Equipment; Tractors and Trailers; All Mowers (Ride-on and Pedestrian)
Machinery Courses on ATVs; Tractors: Brushcutters/Strimmers; Mowers (ride-on and Pedestrian)
Pesticide Application (PA courses)
Stem Injection of Invasive Species (Japanese Knotweed etc.)
Basic Trees Survey and Inspection
More details about all the courses can be found here, or you can email Chris Johnson for information.
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.
Ensure you mowers are kept clean and set, nothing worse than a badly adjusted mower