There is no such thing as putting the green to bed and forgetting about it until the spring. It is important to keep the sward cut (topped) at between 10-12mm, and carry out regular aeration and brushing to keep the surface clean and open to the elements. A dose of liquid iron would not go amiss, this helps harden the grass plant and maintain some colour.
Spells of poor weather, particularly the high winds, will have intensified autumn leaf fall. This leaf debris can be problematic, especially when it is left to accumulate on the playing surface for a period of time. Lack of air and light to the grass plant will invariably cause the grass to discolour (turn yellow) and even decay. This leaf matter could also initiate diseases onto the green.
Regular, ideally daily, brushing with a cane or brush will keep the surface clean and tidy and free from debris.
With temperatures falling and early morning frosts perhaps becoming more regular, grass growth will have slowed down dramatically. It is essential to keep the surface free of debris and aerated. The use of a sarrel roller will be sufficient to keep the surface open and free draining. The need to cut the grass on a regular basis is not so necessary.
You should use this spare time to carry out some other works in and around the greens, clearing out ditches, pruning and cutting hedges to keep them tidy and manageable.
Other jobs for consideration are the inspection and maintenance of machinery and irrigation equipment. Now is a good time to arrange servicing of the equipment and replace any worn or damaged parts.
Aeration should be continued throughout the autumn when conditions allow, regular use of a sarrel roller will be beneficial in keeping the surface open.
Earthworms may be a problem, particularly with the recent heavy rains, so regular dragbrushing will be necessary. Brushing can be daily when conditions are right. Regular aeration to keep the surface open will aid drying. A drier surface may help towards reducing the effects of the earthworm activity near the surface.
We're heading into a period of the year when disease pressure is generally high, particularly Microdochium nivale, otherwise known as Fusarium. Fusarium affects cold season grasses in the Northern hemisphere. Three common turf grass species grown in Britain are susceptible to Fusarium: Annual Meadow-grass (Poa annua), Perennial Rye-grass (Lolium perenne) and Creeping Bent (Agrostis stolonifera).
Many bowling greens are composed of a high proportion of Annual Meadow-grass enabling the Fusarium to spread uninterrupted, which can lead to the surface going into the winter in poor condition and improvement is likely to be slow. This has historically been one of the main concerns for greenkeepers.
Fusarium starts in the autumn as small orange to red-brown circular spots 1-2 cm in diameter. When the fungus is particularly active, the patches have a brown ring at the outer edge. The centre of the patches may become pale brown/yellow. White/pink mycelium may be observed on the outer edge of the patch, matting the infected leaves together; this is often used as an indication of high activity.
In the spring, fungal activity first starts at the edge of the Fusarium scars. If cool, wet weather conditions persist in the spring, new patches may occur. Because spores and fungal mycelia are spread by water, machinery and foot traffic, Fusarium can appear in streaks or even linear patterns as the fungus is carried by surface drainage, footprints or wheels.
Fusarium is naturally present in soil and thatch as spores and mycelium even during the summer, although it is not active at temperatures exceeding 20°C or when there is insufficient moisture. Like most fungi, it requires suitable conditions before it starts to germinate or spread and damage other grass plants. Mycelium spread into adjacent plants or spores are carried on the wind or in moisture.
These conditions are generally met in the autumn although, if summer temperatures become cool and sufficient moisture is available, this can trigger Fusarium at any time.
Preventing an attack or the spread of the disease will be determined by several factors, accurate diagnosis, carrying out good cultural practices and choosing the correct fungicide product.
Click on the following link to read Johns Handley's article:- Focus of Fusarium.
Frost on the grass leaf blades tells us that the water inside the leaves is frozen. Remember that 80+% of plant tissue is made up of water. When this water is frozen, foot traffic on the turf causes the ice crystals in the cells to puncture through the plant's cell walls, thus killing plant tissue.
When they are frozen, the leaves of the turf get easily bruised by players' feet. After thawing, the affected turf turns black or brown and becomes sparse. The turf can often remain thin for long periods if damage occurs early in the winter. The fine turf on greens becomes more susceptible to disease and the surface becomes very uneven.
More long-term damage can be caused when play takes place, as the turf is thawing after a prolonged freeze. Under these conditions the top surface of the turf may be soft, but the underlying soil can still be frozen. Root damage occurs easily from a shearing action as players' feet move the soft top surface against the frozen sub soil.
The process of damage to the turf normally occurs in the following pattern:
* Bruising and damage to the leaf.
* Loss of turf colour.
* Severing of grass roots.
* Compaction of the soil.
* Thinning of the swards.
Whilst on the subject of frosts, remember you need to drain down your irrigation watering systems to protect it from frost damage.
Useful Information for Frosty Greens
|Frost - to play or not to play?||Snow & Frost Control|
Many greens may well be still recovering from the season's wear and tear. It will be essential to get some life back into the green, improving the gaseous exchange in the soil profile, whilst at the same time increasing the capacity of the green to drain more efficiently during the winter months.
This will be achieved by some frequent surface and deep soil aeration. However, care should be undertaken when choosing the type and size of tines to be used. Remember, you do not want to be aerating at the same depth all the time, as this will eventually cause a pan layer to form which, in turn, will cause you more problems. Ideally, you should be using a range of tines at different depths within the range of your soil profile.
Continue to clean up any leaf debris. Leaves, when wet, can be a slip hazard. Keep walkways and paths clean and tidy. Drainage ditches can be cleaned out. Inspect the condition of your ditch materials (bark /rubber sand), they may need cleaning, replacing or topping up.
Many greens are surrounded by fences or hedges; these will need some maintenance. Natural hedges may need a prune/cut to keep them tidy and manageable.
Irrigation Systems:- Drain down any automated watering systems to prevent any potential frost damage occurring.
Repair Structures:- Bench seats, scoreboards and any other fittings around the green.
Machinery:- Check and overhaul all machinery. Make arrangements to get mowers serviced.