July will be a 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 spell of warm, dry weather will have provoked the use of automatic or static sprinkler watering systems, however not every club has the luxury of having their own system, and remain reliant on the weather or using some hand held watering equipment if pressure allows. That is why you see many greens beginning to turn a golden brown colour.
Key Tasks for July
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.
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.
Grass growth will dictate mowing frequencies, in most cases clubs are cutting daily or on a three to four times a week regime.
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.
Only apply fertilisers if you have significant moisture in the green; clubs that are struggling to water should refrain from applying feeds while the greens are dry.
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.
Get into the habit of taking a number of soil core samples to monitor what's happening underground; a visual look at a soil profile will enable you to monitor thatch content, moisture levels and root depth. This information will help you ascertain what work needs to be done.
Continue to carry out routine maintenance tasks, mowing, verticutting, fertilising, watering to keep the green in a playable condition.
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.
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.
It will be important to check your watering systems, ensuring they work effectively and are watering the green uniformly. Many clubs lack efficient water resources i.e. automated pop up watering system and, even if they have one, clubs often do not use it properly. Too many greens are either under or over watered, giving rise to further problems, such as dry patch, excessive thatch, shallow root growth, slow pace, inconsistent bowl roll, to name a few.
Watering is all about understanding the grass plant's needs and knowing your soil profile; sandy soils are more free draining than loamy/clay soils. Often, problems can be as a result of low water pressure or an incorrect sprinkler. Watering is all about uniformity. Ideally, you should soak your green (flood it up) and allow it to dry out over a few days. This will ensure you have watered to depth, however, this may not always possible, especially during a busy period of fixtures.
Also, during the day, water pressures may be low due to local consumption; it may be an advantage to water at night, this will also reduce water loss by evaporation. You should also test your water quality and find out its pH level, especially if you are using recycled water. Poor water quality will have a detrimental affect on your sward.
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.
The use of wetting agents are 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.
Monitoring the performance of your playing surfaces is a key skill that should be adopted by all Groundsmen and Greenkeepers. With the aid of modern technologies, tools and a camera, you can now monitor the performance and the condition of your sward in many ways.
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 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, levelsl, 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.
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.
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