IMG 7546Well, what can one say with regard to the weather. After a promising start in March and a period of no rain, many where all anticipating the well awaited spring weather to arrive. However, this was not the case.

A surge of easterly winds brought with it some very cold temperatures and plenty of snow, with many parts of the country being cut off by the heavy, deep snow drifts.

This cold snap and snow has effectively put back the opportunity for some much needed growth before the onset of the new bowling season. Some clubs have resorted to clearing the snow off their greens to speed up the process and reduce any incidence of disease.

With temperatures due to remain in single figures for the start of April, and the fact we have not seen a lot of grass growth, the condition of greens for the start of the bowling season is not going to be conducive to decent bowling.

Green speeds are likely to be slow to start with due to the fact that many greens are wet, lush and bumpy. A combination of several factors is contributing to the above problems. The recent spell of poor weather, depending which part of the country you are in - rain, sleet and snow has saturated soil profiles. Soil and air temperatures have been low, restricting any decent grass growth.

Some greens have not received enough attention through the winter months in respect of essential maintenance regimes such as aeration, brushing and cutting, coupled with the fact there is probably a considerable amount of moss in the sward.

Clubs should now be ready for the onslaught of another bowling season, mowers should have been serviced and ready for the off. Having a machine in good condition and fit for purpose is essential when maintaining bowling greens. Nothing worse than having a mower that is difficult to start or, worse still, not set to cut cleanly and at the correct mowing height for your green.

You may have to put your spring renovations on hold until you see some recovery and look to lightly scarify the green, solid tine spike, topdress, overseed and apply a spring fertiliser.

Increase the mowing frequency, adjust the height of cut to suit your green, look to verticut to remove straggly growth.

Apply some wetting agents, if required, to prevent dry patch and monitor your watering requirements. Check your sprinkler heads, ensure they are working properly, conduct a calibration of the amount of water being applied.

Key Tasks for April
Brushing and mowing

Brushing/switching: keeps the green clean and removes any dew or surface water. Keeping the surface dry will help stop the spread of disease. There are a number of drag =mats or brushes that can be used. See the Pitchcare shop for details - brushes/ drag mats.

Mowing should be more frequent now, at least 2-3 times per week. These frequencies can often be dictated by budget and the club's level of play. The height of cut should be decreasing until the optimum cutting height is achieved for the standard of play, usually between 4mm and 5mm.

Do not be tempted to cut any lower, especially if members are complaining the green is too slow. Cutting below 3.5 mm is really asking for trouble. Cutting off too much leaf material will put the sward under stress. The grass plant needs its leaves to manufacture energy for growth.

Mower blades should be adjusted and checked before use; mowing too low and with blunt blades will affect your sward in many ways, leading to uneven surfaces and scalping; this can leave your turf grass susceptible to disease.

The bowling green playing surface will benefit from some light rolling in April. This is usually achieved whilst mowing, using the weight of the mower to achieve the desired results. Motorised turf irons (fine turf rollers) can also help prepare final levels on the playing surfaces.

The condition of the green will dictate what remedial works need to be carried out as part of your spring renovation programme. In most cases the Greenkeeper will be looking to aerate, topdress and feed his green prior to the season commencing.

Verti-cutting: fortnightly. Verti-cutting helps to thin the sward, removes weak grasses, helps the sward to stand up vertically and encourages tillering.

Useful Information for Brushing and mowing

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Soil Tests and Fertilising

Soil tests should be taken, ideally once or a year, or as required. April is an ideal time to obtain a soil analysis of the green, measuring for soil pH, nutrient levels and organic matter content, which are seen as good indicators of the condition of the soil. Once you have this information, you will be in a better position to plan your season's feeding and maintenance programmes.

Fertilising: Ideally, you should have conducted a soil analysis of your soil profile to ascertain the nutrient status of your green. This will help you decide on what fertiliser products to buy and apply.

Ensure you apply at the recommended rates and do not overdose the green or overlap when applying the products. There are plenty of spring fertiliser products available to meet your needs.

Fertiliser application and use of turf tonics can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. If you don't have a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested; try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results.

Most groundstaff will be applying a spring/summer NPK fertiliser, perhaps something like a 9:7:7 which will effectively get the grass moving during April. Then, towards the end of the month, or early May, apply a slow release fertiliser to see you through to June/July. However, the choice of feed and how well it works can be dependant on many factors - soil type, weather, with moisture and air temperature being the catalysts for growth.

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Moss control

The present condition of the green will also have a bearing on what maintenance operations you should be doing. Coming out of this unseasonal wet and mild winter weather, there will be many clubs suffering from a build up of moss and algae problems.

Mosses are primitive, non-flowering plants that have no root structure and rely on there being sufficient moisture in the environment for reproduction and survival. The majority of mosses are tolerant of acidic conditions and are stimulated by wet, humid conditions. Rapid colonisation of moss and algaes usually occur during autumn and winter months when turf surfaces are lying wet and saturated for long periods of time, particularly when little or no aeration has been undertaken.

Remember, moss is the symptom of poor grass growth and not the cause of it. If you make sure you have a tightly knit sward next year, and have maximised drainage with plenty of regular aeration, you should not have to deal with moss at all.

If you are saddled with a turf situation that has a lot of moss present, there will be a requirement to kill off the moss. The only product now available to control moss in turf is sulphate of iron (Ferrous Sulphate), it is relatively cheap and effective. It can be applied in two ways - liquid or granular (lawn sand). Apply at recommended rates.

For best results (liquids):-
• Apply when the turf is actively growing and the soil is moist
• Mow 3 days before treatment and do not mow for three days after treatment
• Water after 2 days if no rain forecast
• Rake out dead moss thoroughly 7-14 days after treatment
• Re-treatment may be necessary for heavy infestations

You can safely apply this to a bowling green throughout the year - though perhaps at lower doses during the season.

Lawn sand might also be worth a try. When using lawn sand it is important you use a compatible sand product that matches your rootzone soil profile. You do not want to create a layering problem.

Any bare or sparse areas can be lightly tilthed, overseeded and topdressed with a sand/soil rootzone mix. Cover with germination sheets to promote quicker growth.

Keeping the surface clean and disease free will be the priority in readiness for the mowing and any spring renovation works required.

Useful Information for moss control

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Aeration is important to improve the surface and subsurface drainage capacity of the green. Aeration also increases gaseous exchanges in the soil. It is important to use the right aeration equipment as you do not want to disturb the surface too much prior to the playing season.

Do not carry out aeration when there is the likelihood of smearing or causing damage to the surface. The condition of the green and what budgets you have may decide what type of aeration programme can be achieved.

Useful Information for Aeration

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Other Tasks for the Month
  • Drainage channels/gullies: Inspect and clean out drain outfalls and gullies. Replace and level up drainage ditch materials.

  • Litter pick: Inspect and clear away any litter or debris (high winds may blow debris onto greens).

  • Floodlights: Inspect and ensure your lights have been checked and approved for use. Light quality can be affected by dirty lenses and the fact that some bulbs may have gone. Replace with new bulbs and keep lenses clean.

  • Machinery: Keep machines overhauled, serviced and clean.

  • Repairs: Carry out any repairs to ditches, paths, gates, floodlights and other building features.

  • Irrigation equipment: Inspect installations for leaks. There may be a need to irrigate during maintenance programmes. As air temperatures increase and daylight hours are getting longer there is the likelihood of the soil and turf surface drying out. Longer growing days mean more evapotranspiration takes place, removing moisture from the soil.

  • 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.