The recent spell of mild weather will have provided the opportunity to get on and begin preparing your greens for the new season. With temperatures rising into double figures, an application of fertiliser will soon encourage some much needed growth.
However, these increased soil and air temperatures may increase the incidence of disease. Fusarium can be quite rife at this time of the year, especially when surfaces remain wet. A preventative fungicide will help matters, however, the damage, if not too severe, will soon clear up once the grass starts growing.
With much Improved weather fronts in March, this often allows the groundsmen to undertake some spring renovation work, usually in the form of some light scarification, aeration, top dressing and overseeding. This work will help invigorate some growth and set up the surface for the oncoming season.
Key Tasks for March
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, helping reduce the amount of water on the leaf blade. A dry leaf cuts better than a wet one and can be done by using a hose pipe, a dragmat or dragbrush or a switching cane .
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 and 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.
Mowing should be done weekly or as required due to soil and air temperatures beginning to rise in March; this will stimulate grass growth. Begin cutting when weather conditions allow, with regular mowing 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.
Pre-season scarifying should be carried out to remove moss, thatch and decaying matter that may have formed during the winter.
Aeration is important to improve surface and subsurface drainage of the green, stimulating gaseous exchanges throughout the soil. However, make sure you do not carry out aeration when there is the likelihood of smearing or damage to the surface.
Due to the warmer temperatures, grass will be sending out new roots already and 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, therefore carrying out deep aeration practices at the start of the playing season may lead to surface disruptions and affect surface playability.
Spring renovations, however, 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 springtime
The recent bout of wet weather will have drenched your greens and, in most cases, leached out many nutrients from your rootzones. Grass will be showing signs of discolour and in need of a feed.
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.
Many greenkeepers are now using a combination of granular and liquid feeds, applying a balanced NPK fertiliser product to the greens. A typical spring and summer fertiliser would be something like a (12:6:6) NPK ratio.
We are starting to notice a return to more organic and natural products, along with seaweed products becoming very popular again, as well as the application of compost teas. It is all about balance and giving the plant what it needs to cope with the stresses it faces in its own unique environment.
To help control dry patch and deal with any hydrophobic conditions found in your greens, many clubs are resorting to a programme of wetting agents, these are usually applied on a monthly basis.
Many clubs are now using growth regulators to help improve sward density, which improves root mass and reduces clipping rates. Primo Maxx is one such growth regulator, usually applied on a monthly basis.
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 algae usually occurs 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.
For best results (liquids):-
• Apply when the turf is actively growing and the soil is moist
• Mow 3 days before treatment and do not mow for three days after treatment
• Water after 2 days if no rain forecast
• Rake out dead moss thoroughly 7-14 days after treatment
• Re-treatment may be necessary for heavy infestations
You can safely apply this to a bowling green all through the year - though perhaps at lower doses during the season.
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 as you do not want to create a layering problem.
Disease has been fairly prominent this year, especially after the recent mild weather, and it is wise to keep an eye on fungal disease attack and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. Good cultural practices generally reduce the likelihood of disease outbreaks with some greenkeepers preferring to spray early, applying a preventative fungicide to reduce the incidence of any disease taking hold.
Fusarium has been quite prolific with many greens suffering from an attack, with most cases evidence of the scarring disappearing once the grass begins to grow, however, deep scarring may require some attention, in terms of some reseeding.
Keep machines overhauled and clean making sure you arrange the servicing of your machines ready for the new season. Keep an eye on your material stocks (seed, topdressing, petrol, oil ), remembering to replenish as required.
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.
Perimeter fences and hedges: Most bowling green facilities are enclosed by fences or hedges, and 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.
Repairs: 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, making sure to also check that the lights are correctly positioned, thus preventing unwanted light pollution.