July will be a very busy month for bowling clubs; there is usually a high demand for play, with many clubs involved in domestic competitions. Greens could well be in play on a daily basis. Coupled with the long daylight hours and warm temperatures, grass growth will be quite prolific, if there is plenty of moisture about.
The recent unpredictable weather, seen in many parts of the country (wind, rain, cold temperatures) will have no doubt affected your maintenance regimes or prevented matches. However, we would hope that July will bring us some much needed warm, dry weather to help promote some consistent grass growth.
With regard to mowing, ensure your mower is kept sharp and set at the correct height. No two greens are the same; Height of cut (HOC) will vary from green to green, with HOC influenced by several factors, type of mower used, condition of the green, sward composition and surface levels. In general, HOC will range between 4mm-8mm during the growing season, with most clubs cutting at around 5mm.
Continue to carry out routine maintenance tasks, mowing, verticutting, fertilising, watering to keep the green in a playable condition.
Grass growth will dictate mowing frequencies, in most cases clubs are cutting daily or on a three to four times a week regime.
Only apply fertilisers if you have significant moisture in the green; clubs that are struggling to water should refrain from applying feeds whilst the greens are dry.
Keep an eye out for any pest and diseases, and look to undertake preventative measures to reduce the incidence of these problems. Weeds can be controlled by an application of selective weedkillers or by some simple spot weeding. Early morning dispersal of dew will reduce the incidence of disease; some greens can be more prone to disease outbreaks due to their location, with lack of air movement around the green.
Now that the birds have generally finished their breeding season, take the opportunity to cut and keep your boundary hedges tidy.
Try and keep a diary of what work you have undertaken on your green, and keep records of how it has performed; take some pictures of the green and make note of any issues/problems you have.
Most fine turf mowers have cassette fitting attachments that offer additional maintenance operations, such as grooming and verticutting. These are both operations that need good growing conditions, and effectively remove thatch and side shoot growth, enabling the promotion of an upright plant and denser turf. Some Greenkeepers often time this operation to help promote faster green speeds for matches and tournaments.
To help prevent constant wear in the same areas, it is important to move markers and rinks on flat greens.
Mowing frequency will depend 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. As an alternative, instead of reducing the height, do a double cut (in different directions), this will speed up the greens without reducing the grass height. 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 topdressings to maintain levels.
A lot of clubs are also resorting to using specialist ride on Turf Irons (rollers) to help produce faster playing surfaces, however, there needs to be a robust maintenance programme to ensure the green does not get too compacted, over rolled.
If we get some decent sunny weather in July, we would expect temperatures to rise well into double figures, somewhere around the 18-22 degrees C, which would then see the need to irrigate to replace water losses from the green by evaportranspiration. Evaportranspiration rates (water loss) from the soil and grass plant can be between 4-6mm a day during periods of hot weather, this needs to be replaced by watering. It is important to water to depth, ideally down to 150mm. Many clubs will water at night or early morning.
However, the long term affect of drying greens could be detrimental to surface playability. The surface could begin to break up, particularly on sand predominant greens. Sand becomes unstable when in a dry state. Also, the surface will become bumpy. Different grass species will respond differently under drought conditions, growth rates will change depending on habit and root structure, thus promoting an uneven surface.
Once the soil goes beyond a certain drying stage, you are likely to encounter dry patch symptoms, whereby the soil becomes hydrophobic, being unable to absorb water. The water simply runs off instead of soaking into the soil profile.
Water will also always wash off from the high spots into the low areas, so the low spots tend to remain green and lush. This variation of dry and wet areas will affect surface playability; the bowls will fly across the dry areas and slow down on the lush green areas.
To reduce plant stress, it will be necessary to raise the height of cut, most clubs will be mowing at a height of between 4-8mm. Raising the height by just 1mm will significantly help the plant recover during dry periods. It may also pay to vary the way you turn the mower on the edges of the green. Turning on the same spot will increase wear and tear. One way to spread the weight of the mower is to use a board for turning on, it will reduce compaction and the constant wear that you see on the edge of many greens.
It would also be wise to refrain from any grooming, scarification and verticutting practices during dry periods; it adds to the plant's stress which, in turn, will cause it to weaken, be susceptible to disease and even die.
The use of wetting agents is a good preventative cure for dry patch. Many Greenkeepers and Groundsmen are now using these products regularly on fine turf situations. Wetting agents are usually applied on a monthly basis.
It is also important to state that overwatering can equally be damaging to your surface. Keeping the surface waterlogged will reduce air porosity and decline plant growth; constant shallow watering will also increase Poa annua populations. Ideally, you should apply a sufficient amount of water to flood up the green and then allow to drain for two - three days. This allows the water to get deeper into the soil profile.
Useful Information for Irrigation
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Aeration is a key activity to ensure that there is a good air/gas exchange going on in the soil profile. Providing the green is adequately irrigated, the use of a sarrel roller (depth 5mm) helps keep the surface open without disturbing the playing surface.
Deeper aeration should only be done with micro tines when conditions allow, as we do not want to risk disturbing the surface, especially during the playing season.
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.
Useful Information for Aeration and Brushing
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Again, only if you have access to water for the greens, 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.
In recent years, we have seen a change in feeding habits in professional sport with more groundsmen resorting to a more detailed feeding programme using a concoction of fertiliser products and soil conditioners to maintain plant health.
This has generally been achieved applying a range of different products in the form of granular and liquid forms.
We are now seeing granular products being used as base/slow release feeds and being topped up with a range of liquid feeds that include bio stimulants along with micro nutrients. To help improve the performance of these feeds, a number of soil additive products and wetting agents are in regular use.
Most groundstaff will be applying a summer N P K fertiliser, perhaps something like a 8:0:6 reducing the N and P inputs, and trying to maintain a stable balanced growth during July. 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.
Useful Information for Fertilising
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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 an appropriate topdressing 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 top spreaders, 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.
Surface repairs:- It is important that you use a compatible rootzone material for any repairs. These come in different blends, a 70/30 sand soil mix is the one commonly used by most groundstaff, who usually mix in their grass seed prior to spreading and integrate it into the worn areas.
Seeding sparse or bare areas can be continued. Any rise in soil or air temperatures will help germination. Use germination sheets to aid this process, but remove the sheets regularly to check for disease. Remember that without good seed to soil contact the operation is useless. Ensure you use new seed as old material may not give you the required germination rates.
Inspect and clean out drain outfalls and gullies. Replace and level up drainage ditch materials.
Start to plan your end of season renovations, compile a list of work and seek prices of materials and works required.