There are, in my opinion, still too many bowls clubs who choose to cut their greens far too low during the summer months, mainly influenced by club members who want faster greens. Do not be tempted to cut below 4mm unless you have the expertise, resources and knowledge to support this type of maintenance regime.
Continued low cutting will inevitably stress out the grass plant. Having said that, we do see some greenkeepers maintaining greens at 3mm during the playing season, but these clubs are an exception to the rule. These low heights are usually only temporary and often the greenkkeeper has developed a strategy to do this, usually by having a top quality mower and a decent watering/feeding regime in place.
Many clubs have nether, so often relying on the weather to keep their greens watered. If you struggle with watering your green, it would pay to raise the HOC during dry periods. In the main clubs, should be keeping their greens maintained between 4mm and 8mm and, during really hot temperatures, raising the HOC by 1-2mm.
Mowing the green below 4mm will, in the short term, give the members what they want - fast greens - however, there is often a cost to bear for doing this. It generally comes in the form of the green suffering in many ways, grass cover begins to thin out, bare areas develop which allow weeds and mosses to establish. Beneath the surface, the constant rolling will have compacted the soil profile, reducing the air spaces. This leads to poorer root growth, less movement of water and resulting in flooded surfaces.
In fact, the most common cause of slow bowling greens is the presence of a layer of accumulated organic fibre, commonly known as thatch. This is found just below the surface and is caused by the accumulation of matted grass stems. This is easily detectable when you walk across the green and the surface feels soft.
Do not be afraid to cut a sample plug from the green and check to see the extent of the thatch layer. Problems start occurring when you have more than 15mm depth of thatch. This thatch layer is the main cause of many problems associated with the performance of the green. It is essential you control the amount of thatch by means of verticutting, grooming and scarification. Greens that have high levels of thatch will take longer to dry out due to the thatch acting like a sponge.
Continue to carry out the regular maintenance tasks, cutting, feeding and irrigating if required. Use wetting agents if you feel the water is having difficulty going through the surface. It is important to get the water deep into the soil profile.
A summer feed can be applied, but go for liquid rather than a granule to minimise the risk of scorching.
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.
Key Tasks for August
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 topdressings 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.
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.
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 sarel roller (depth 5mm) helps to keep the surface open 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.
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. A regular feeding programme is essential to maintain colour, vigour and well being of the sward. A combination of a slow release granular based fertiliser, topped up with some organics/liquid feeds, are becoming a popular method of feeding bowling greens. The slow release will generally last around three months, whilst the liquids can be applied every 4-6 weeks depending on the plant's needs.
Remember, it is important to balance the health and condition of the green when considering surface playability
August is the time to plan and organise your autumn renovation programme. The level of work required will initially be governed by the condition of your green, how much thatch you have and the extent of the wear on the surface.
Generally, you should be looking at a programme of scarifying in several directions to remove unwanted thatch layers and dead matter, aerating with some deep solid tines to break up compaction, topdressing with some 70-30 topdressing to restore levels, and overseeding with some new grass seed.
Unfortunately, one of the deciding factors that often reduces the effectiveness of these planned works is the amount of money (budget ) the club has available. It can cost anything between £1200-£1500 for a contractor to come in and do all the work.
Savings can be made if the club undertake the work themselves, however, the effectiveness of the work carried out will be determined by the equipment they have at their disposal.
Savings can also be made if clubs buy materials in bulk (several clubs group buying).
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
Monitoring the performance of your playing surfaces is a key skill that should be adopted by all Groundsmen and Greenkeepers. For many years, the turf industry has promoted the use of Performance Quality Standards PQS to ascertain the standard of sports pitch maintenance.
It is important to survey and measure the performance of your facilities. With modern technologies, tools and a camera, we can now measure all manner of aspects of a pitch, green or artificial surface to ensure it meets any stated guidelines by the sports governing bodies.
These can include measuring sward height, composition of grass species, soil temperature, weed content, levels, hardness and infiltration rates (porosity) of the soil rootzone.
Soil tests will also help determine soil type, nutrient status of the soil, organic matter content, CEC capacity and soil pH.
Keeping a record of these parameters will help you have a better understanding of what is going on within your playing surface and enable you to make better decisions on what maintenance inputs you will need to undertake to maintain surface playability.
Regular brushing and sweeping are important tasks to keep the surface clean, open and dry. A dry surface will aid resistance to disease. Keep an eye on fungal disease attack and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.
A selective weedkiller will help control any broadleaf weeds; the timing of application is key, apply when weed growth is vigorous. With the renovations due to start in September, it would be a good practice to eradicate any weeds using a selective weed killer, invest in a professional product and choose the right active chemical ingredient to deal with the weed problem you have.
Keep machines overhauled and clean. Keep an eye on your material stocks (seed, topdressing, petrol, oil), remembering to replenish as required.
Ensure you look after your equipment and store safe and secure, it is a good idea to get into a habit of washing down and and cleaning after use.
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.
Our next course is taking place on Thursday 17th September at March, Cambridgeshire. More details of this course.
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.
In addition, we are able to arrange courses to be delivered on site to groups of 6 – 10 people. Email Chris Johnson for information.
- Check floodlights and irrigation systems, ensuring they are working.
- Keep ditches clean and relace any ditch materials.
- Maintain hedge lines and shrub beds.