Priority work for the start of the month is to aerate the green to help gaseous exchanges and increase water infiltration through the soil profile; an application of iron sulphate will help improve colour and kill any moss that has established during the winter months, some clubs apply a lawn sand to kill the moss.
You will need to ensure your mowers are ready for the start of the season, serviced, sharpened and ready to go. Check your height of cut, you do not want to be cutting too low; some clubs may even use pedestrian rotaries to help clean up the green and carry out their initial cuts.
Ensure you brush the dew off the green before cutting, this helps reduce the amount of water on the leaf blade, a dry leaf cuts better than a wet one. This can be done by dragging a hose pipe, a drag mat or drag brush or a switching cane .
Mowing is one of the most important practices and should be carried out on a regular basis. Cutting frequencies will depend on the weather and ground conditions. During the playing season, March to October, the greens should be cut at least three times a week, if not daily. Mowing machines should be at least 7 to 9 bladed cylinder mowers that are kept well maintained and sharp. Height of cut will range from 3.5mm to 5mm during the playing season.
Key Tasks for March
It is during March and early April that spring renovations are carried out to prepare the greens for the forthcoming playing season.
The main objective for the Groundsmen/Greenkeepers is to provide a consistent playing surface, A bowling green should be of an even gradient without undulation, potholes or severe hollows or humps, which may deter the wood from the course as imparted by the bowler.
The grass should be cut to a length which allows the wood to travel at a reasonable pace without undue effort or strain on the bowler.
Spring renovation usually commence in late February or early March dependent on favourable weather conditions. The first operation is to firm up the greens, particularly after a period of frosts when the ground has been lifted. This is carried out by rolling the green using your mower in the disengaged mode (no cylinder blades working) walking slowly in several directions over the surface of your green.
Subsequent rolling can be carried out using a 50 kilo weight roller, better still a Sisis Trulevel hand roller, again in many directions. Think of a clock face; the first run starting at 12 o'clock and finishing at 6 o'clock, then starting at 3 o'clock and finishing at 9 o'clock. Work around the clock to firm evenly when conditions allow, not when the soil is saturated or frosted. Ideally, perform this operation when the surface is drying out and the sub surface is moist. This will help firm the playing surface. The use of ride-on Turf Irons is now available. These specially designed turf rolling machines help to improve the speed of playing surfaces and allow the woods to roll smoothly across the green with less effort from the bowler.
Daily brushing and switching of greens should continue to keep the greens clean and remove any early morning dew. Keeping the sward dry, particularly in the spring, helps prevent the likelihood and disease attacks. However, if you do get an outbreak of disease there are a number of professional fungicide products now available to help control or reduce the damaging effects of disease pathogens.
Worm activity will increase as the soil temperatures begin to rise and the soils remain moist. It may be necessary to apply an approved carbendazim based product to control worm activity.
Ideally, you should have carried out a soil analysis to establish the soil nutrient status and soil pH of your green. The results of this test will help you determine an effective fertiliser programme for the coming year.
You should have planned and ordered your spring renovation materials by now. Your renovations will be based around a good aeration of the green, some light verticutting / scarification to remove some side and lateral growth, coupled with a light application of topdressing, usually a 80/20 sand soil rootzone material, to restore levels and to provide a seed bed for some new seed which you will sow into the green.
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.
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.
Mowing: Weekly or as required. Soil and air temperatures will begin to rise in March and this will stimulate grass growth. Begin cutting when weather conditions allow. Regular mowing will now be implemented to develop an even sward and to keep the surface uniform. It is important to lower the height of cut gradually until reaching the optimum height for match play at the start of the bowling season.
Keep at 10-12mm at the start of the month and gradually reducing to 8mm by the end of the month.
Aeration: When conditions allow. Do not carry out aeration when there is the likelihood of smearing or damaging the surface. Aeration is important to improve surface and subsurface drainage of the green.
Aeration also increases gaseous exchanges in the soil. Due to the warmer temperatures, grass will be sending out new roots already; creating air space through spiking will allow the plant to develop a healthy root system quickly.
Most of your deeper spiking and core aeration works should have been completed last autumn. Carrying out deep aeration practices at the start of the playing season may lead to surface disruptions and affect surface playability.
However, spring renovations will require some shallower aeration operations to rejuvenate and introduce some much needed porosity into your green, along with helping integrate any applied topdressings.
The choice of tines will be dependant on the condition and needs of the green. In most cases, the use of needle tines are better suited in spring.
Scarifying: Pre season scarifying should be carried out to remove moss, thatch and decaying matter that may have formed during the winter.
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.
March is a good time to take soil samples and get them sent off for analysis, enabling you to get them back in time to start your new year's maintenance. Ideally, if you have not had one done before, you should have a full (PSD) Particle Size Distribution soil analysis done to tell you the actual make up of your soil profile.
Soil is made up of percentages of clay, silt and sand. The PSD analysis will identify the ratio of these and confirm soil type, thus giving you a better understanding of what soil you are dealing with.
Also, you can establish the amount of organic matter (OM) content, as well as soil nutrient status and soil pH. With this information, you will be able to identify the needs of your soil.
Carrying out these test also allows you to check other physical conditions of the green, such as root depth, levels of compaction and aerobic state of the soil.
Some clubs continue to apply wetting agents to help improve and enhance soil performance. A wetting agent is such a substance that reduces the surface tension of a liquid, causing the liquid to spread across or penetrate the soil profile more easily. These are usually applied on a monthly basis.
To maintain optimum growing conditions for the grass plant a planned fertiliser programme should be implemented. Ideally, a soil analysis should have been carried out to ascertain the nutrient status of your soil. Once known, an effective NPK fertiliser programme can be applied to maximise plant growth.
Fertilisers now come in many forms, both granular and liquid. It is important that you understand how these products work and how to apply them. If in doubt leave it to a professional company to do it for you. Many greens are damaged and affected by poor fertiliser applications, using the wrong product or over or under dosing. This often leads to visual and physical problems on the surface.
Daily brushing and switching should continue to keep the greens clean and remove any early morning dew. Keeping the sward dry, particularly in the spring, helps minimise the likelihood of any disease attacks.
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.
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 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.
Also March is a good time to clean out the shed, sell off any old machinery and dispose of any junk thats clogging up the shed.
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.
Thursday 19 March, Fordingbridge Bowling Club, Stuckton Road, Fordingbridge, SP6 1AR
Friday 27 March, West End Bowls Club, Club House, The Grove, Merthyr Tydfil, CF47 8YR
More details of the courses can be found on the Groundsman Training website
We are able to arrange courses to be delivered on site to groups of 6 – 10 people. Email Chris Johnson for information.
Most bowling green facilities are enclosed by fences or hedges. March is a good time to complete any tidying up of these features. Hedges can be pruned and cut to maintain their shape and form.
Carry out any repairs to ditches, paths, gates, floodlights and other building features. Ideally, you should have your floodlights serviced on an annual basis to check that they are safe and operating to the correct lux values. Also, check that the lights are correctly positioned, thus preventing unwanted light pollution.