It has been a few years sice we have had a prolonged spell of decent weather, however the recent dry, hot spell has no doubt had a dramatic effect on the performance and aesthetics of bowling greens in the UK. Many bowls clubs, particularly ones that have little or no effective means of watering, have suffered in terms of their greens drying up, turning brown and producing areas of dry patch. Even clubs who do have a watering system have struggled to keep the greens watered sufficiently.
Some clubs have poor water pressure and inadequate watering systems, which inadvertently leads to inconsistent watering, often leaving some areas unwatered, which in turns leads to problems of surface performance (speeding up and slowing down ) when bowling.
When watering, it is vital you water to depth and encourage the roots to go down in search of the water.
When the green is exceptionally dry, grass growth slows down and you are prevented from undertaking some basic maintenance regimes such as applying fertilisers and weed killers, as the grass plant/weed is not able to take up the active ingredients.
Also, the grass plant is prone to scorch when applying fertilisers in dry periods.
It is also often difficult to carry out any aeration work when greens are dry, as it is often difficult to get any significant penetration without causing some surface disruption.
Clubs that have high thatch content will be suffering with surface water problems; the layer of thatch will prevent the water getting into the soil profile efficiently and will hold on to it, acting like a sponge. At the same time, this spongy wet layer will slow down the speed of the bowl during play.
Irrigate, using wetting agents if you feel the water is having difficulty going through the surface. It is imporant to get the water into the roots.
A summer feed can be applied, but go for liquid rather than a granule to minimise the risk of scorching.
The summer bowling green maintenance regime continues with regular mowing, grooming, feeding, brushing and watering, as conditions dictate.
Aeration is a key activity to ensure that there is a good air/gas exchange going on in the soil profile. The use of a sarrel roller (depth 5mm) helps to keep the profileopen without disturbing the playing surface. Deeper aeration should only be done with micro tines when moist conditions allow penetration.
Brushing/switching of the playing surface keeps the green clean and removes any dew or surface water. Keeping the surface dry will improve resistance to disease.
To help prevent constant wear in the same locations, it is important to move markers and rinks on flat greens.
Mowing frequency will often be dependent on the resources available to the clubs. Ideally, most clubs will be mowing daily, or at least three times a week. Regular mowing will be required to maintain sward height at around 4-8mm. Some clubs will reduce their mowing heights further, perhaps down to 3mm to help speed up the greens for club competitions. Prolonged mowing at these heights will lead to plant stress.
The speed of greens can be affected by other factors - too much thatch is the main cause of slow greens, or the fact that the greens have not had enough topdressing to maintain levels. Many bowlers complain about slow, inconsistent greens, often resulting in many clubs trying to speed them up by shaving off more grass. In the short term this may increase speed but, in the long term, it will be very damaging to the green.
Useful Information for Mowing
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The best way to balance the health of the grass plant and to achieve good green speed is to promote and carry out effective cultural practices to maintain surface playability:
Remove and control the rate of unwanted vegetative growth (thatch and side growth) by regular grooming and verticutting operations.
Light applications of topdressing will restore and maintain surface levels, thus increasing green speed.
Mowing in several directions to reduce nap layering will help increase green speed.
Double cutting for matches will increase green speed.
Controlling soil moisture will help influence green speed.
Timing of fertiliser products can affect green speed.
Rolling the greens will increase greens speed. However, over-rolling will lead to problems. There are a number of specially designed turf irons that have been developed for increasing green speed.
Remember, it is important to balance the health and condition of the green when considering surface playability
Fertiliser treatment and turf tonics can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested; try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results.
There are a wide range of suitable fertiliser products now available the key, is to choose the ones that suit your requirements and budgets. Many greenkeepers are now reverting to a blend of both granular and liquid feed applications, thus giving them flexibility and a targeted approach to feeding their greens. Usually, this involves putting on a slow release granular and then topping up with liquid feeds as and when required. Also, we have seen a return to using bio stimulents and compost teas all aimed at improving the soil biology of your green.
Useful Information for Fertiliser
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Begin to plan your end of season renovations, calculate your material requirements, seed, topdressing and pre order to prevent any delays in delivery. You may need to hire in professional equipment, scarifiers and aerators to complete your end of seasons works.