February sees the beginning of a number of activities; brushing, verti-cutting, mowing, light rolling and fertilising to prepare the sward/grass surfaces for the forthcoming playing season. The key to these activities is timing as each operation is weather dependent and, after a stormy January, it's crucial to be prepared in advance. Disease may also be prevalent during mild spells, so spraying of fungicides will also be required.
Plant growth will enter February in a dormant state and likely to remain that way for much of the month. There may be circumstances, however, when there have been sufficient milder days for slight signs of growth as day time temperatures rise.
In these circumstances, and after probable leaching of nutrients in previous winter months, a light 'turf tonic' can do wonders for surface condition and presentation. This involves applying a small amount of Nitrogen, Potassium and Iron, possibly mixed with amendments such as seaweed and humic acids. This should be more of a 'trickle' feed to meet the plant's needs, since a number of colder days and overnight frosts will inevitably continue for several weeks to come.
Depending in which part of the country you are situated, the weather will be influencing what work you can achieve this month with many areas currently experiencing a cold weather front, where temperatures have remained close to freezing. The oncoming cold front has resulted in a number of ground frosts occurring with no work being undertaken on the greens when they are in a frosty condition.
If the frosty weather persists over a number of days, it could lead to a number of problems within your irrigation systems, hose pipes and outside taps. Ideally, any water carrying pipe work should be lagged or protected from frost damage as frost damage will lead to burst pipes and joints; make sure you keep an eye open for these leaks.
Spring renovations are four to six weeks away, so ensure you have ordered your topdressing and seed requirements, along with any specialist machinery you may need to hire in for the tasks ahead. Get your orders in early to avoid disappointment.
Key Tasks for February
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.
Some clubs are now using a rotary mower with rear roller for the first few cuts, to help clear off surface debris and help stand up the sward.
Grass growth will be influenced by soil and air temperatures. Once we begin to see temperatures rising above 8 degrees Centigrade, grass growth will be stimulated and mowing will be required to maintain sward at between 8-12mm.
February is a good time to carry out some aeration works (when conditions allow, but not during frost), thus opening up the soil profile, alleviating any compaction problems and, at the same time, keeping the surface free draining.
We have seen, in recent years, a dramatic increase in aeration technologies being brought into our industry. This has enabled bowling clubs with any deep seated compaction pan problems to rectify them using a wide range of tines, with some even offering hydra jet and air jet methods of breaking up the deep pans.
Sarrel rollers should be used to aerate the playing surface (top 30mm), and a deeper tined aerator to relieve compaction to the base of the rootzone layer, with care taken not to go too deep. Some bowling greens have been constructed with shallow rootzones, often less than 200mm in depth. You could do untold damage or begin to bring up base debris or, even worse, damage sub surface drainage systems if aerating too deep.
Generally, no fertiliser applications are made during the winter months, as plant growth has slowed down. However, some groundstaff may apply a dose of liquid iron to colour up and provide some strength to the grass plant.
Soil temperatures should and will begin to rise towards the end of February/early March, enabling the grass plant to make use of any fertilisers being applied.
The grass plant's transpiration/respiration rates need to be active to initiate movement of soluble solutions from the soil into and through the plant's tissue.
To ensure you are applying the correct amount and balance of fertilisers for your turf, it would be useful to have a soil analysis undertaken, which will give you a full nutrient analysis of your soil's requirements. Based on these results, an appropriate fertiliser programme can be initiated for your facility.
February is still a good time to take soil samples and get them sent off for analysis, thus 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. You can establish the amount of organic matter (OM) content from a soil sample, as well as soil nutrient status and soil Ph; using this information, you will be able to identify the needs of your soil. Carrying out these tests 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 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.
Brushing or 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.
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.
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 the system in late February.
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.
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.
Our next public course is taking place in Dorset on Wednesday 26th March - more details can be found here.
In addition, 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. February 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.