November weather is often unpredictable, seeing a wide range of weather fronts coming in, especially if the wind changes to an easterly, which then tends to bring much colder weather, including frosts and snow.
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.
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.
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.
Key Tasks for November
With the season finished and the green closed down for the winter, mowing will only be required to maintain a winter height of cut at 10-12mm. However, there are now an increasing number of bowls clubs who are keeping their greens open for matches during the winter months, those who do will need to ensure they are carrying out the appropriate maintenance regimes to accommodate these fixtures. This will mean keeping the green cut at a reasonable height to maintain some speed, usually between 5-7mm.
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. 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.
Soil sampling is an important part of groundmanship. The results will enable the manager to have a better understanding of the current status of his soil and turf.
There are many tests that can be undertaken, but usually the main three tests to consider are:
Particle Size Distribution (PSD): this will give you accurate information on the soil type and its particle make up, enabling you to match up with appropriate top dressing materials and ensuring you are able to maintain a consistent hydraulic conductivity (drainage rate) of your soil profile.
Soil pH: It is important to keep the soil at a pH of 5.5 to 6.5, a suitable level for most grass plants, and a balanced level of organic matter content in the soil profile.
N:P:K: Keeping a balance of N P K nutrients within the soil profile is essential for healthy plant growth.
Earthworms may be a problem, so regular drag brushing / caning of the green will be necessary to keep the surface free of debris and worm casts. 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.
Recently, we have seen evening air temperatures dropping dramatically, especially when we have clear cloudless nights, resulting in heavy morning dews on our playing surfaces.
Dew forms when a surface cools to a temperature which is colder than the air next to the surface. Dew is water that has condensed from some of the water vapour contained in the air. If the layer of air next to the ground were actually cooling, then fog would form. Instead, it is just the surface (for instance, grass) that is cooling, and a very thin layer of air next to the grass deposits some of its water vapour on the grass.
The combination of early morning dews, warm and wet weather and diminishing daylight hours increases the risk of fungal disease outbreaks. The right conditions to trigger these disease attacks are weakened or susceptible plants, a disease-producing organism (pathogen usually fungi) and weather conditions which favour the formation of fruiting bodies and spores (moist, mild wet conditions).
Most cool season turfgrass diseases spread via water droplets. Plants also release excess nutrients via their stomatas (gutation) during night hours when there is no sun and rarely any wind to evaporate it. These exudates become mixed with the dew water and become the perfect food source for disease pathogens in their early stages of development.
The majority of diseases that are occurring now have responded to the unusually warm, autumn weather conditions. Boundary layers around the leaves have stayed very moist and humid. Relative humidity is important for spore germination and penetration of leaf tissues, and constant wet conditions will allow the development and transportation of active fungi spores.
Most fungi grow well between 10°C - 40°C and function best at a pH range of 4-7pH. The current lack of cooler weather and sharp frosts has not helped in reducing these active pathogens.
The first step in turfgrass disease management is identifying the true nature of the problem. Diseases are only one cause of turf loss, and disease control measures will do nothing to alleviate damage from other causes such as management, wear or plant stress. It is therefore essential to determine whether the problem is disease, and if so, which disease.
The three disease factors: susceptible grass / host, pathogen, and environment, provide the evidence for disease diagnosis. Symptoms are the expression of the susceptible grass to the disease and can take on a variety of forms.
Symptoms may appear on the leaves as small, circular, tan-coloured lesions surrounded by brown or purple borders (leaf spotting); as yellow, red, or tan blotches over most or all of the leaf blade (blighting); stunting; wilting; or as a brown or black rot on the crowns and roots. The appearance of these symptoms will also vary depending on the type of disease, the severity of the attack and the developing stage of the disease.
Early identification of the symptoms is essential for good disease management, however the best form of management is using preventive, cultural turf maintenance methods that reduce the ideal environmental factors that these diseases require for development, e.g. regular brushing/switching of the grass to remove excess moisture, regular aeration to allow gaseous exchange and water percolation.
Over the years, we’ve developed many methods of removing dew from playing surfaces, from dragging hose pipes over pitches to switch canes on bowling and golf greens. However, these laborious tasks have been superseded with the development of brushing attachments that can be fitted to both mowers and gators to speed up operations, though hand switching also gives you an opportunity to get close and personal and keep an eye on what’s happening.
Other cultural methods to help reduce disease pressure would be removal of thatch, which harbours pathogens, by verti-cutting and end of season renovations, as well as checking mower blades are sharp to provide a precise cut of the leaf blade and reduce the potential for disease.
Identification of these diseases can sometimes be difficult in the early stages of attack. It’s often only possible to recognise the type of disease when the fruiting bodies of the disease produce structures such as spores, mushrooms, or mycelium (small, thread-like filaments produced by fungi) that can be seen without the aid of a microscope. A good example of this is Red Thread (Laetisaria fuciformis) where the distinctive red filaments can be seen amongst the grass.
Site characteristics and turf management practices have a large influence on disease management. Factors such as air movement, drainage, soil conditions, and the amount of sun or shade, slope, fertilisation and aeration programmes are important in influencing the development of turf diseases.
It is important to remember that pathogenic fungi can survive and remain in a dormant state in plant debris and soil until favourable conditions arrive again to stimulate another disease outbreak.
The pathogens that cause these diseases are always lying dormant, waiting for the ideal conditions to become active. Once these spores are activated, and have found an appropriate host, they are able to grow and reproduce themselves, spreading new spores and infections to other areas of turf. This cycle continues whilst favourable conditions prevail.
Understanding and implementing works that can break up the disease cycle will help reduce the opportunities for disease development and outbreak.
When it comes to disease identification, there is as much emphasis on you, as the turf manager, to provide appropriate turf samples for analysis as there is for the lab to accurately identify the problem. In most cases, the best place to remove a turf sample for analysis is from the leading edge of the symptoms, where the affected or discoloured plants give way to healthy turf.
It is also important for the lab to be able to see what the general composition and condition of the sward is like and what the rootzone profile is like and, for those reasons, a 90mm diameter core sample, taken to a depth of approximately 60mm using a golf hole changer (or similar) makes for an ideal sample.
If possible, email photographs of the symptoms so that the lab can get an idea of how the problem is developing - a good picture can often tell so much more than a detailed written description.
There are a number of excellent laboratories that offer disease recognition, along with some good weather services that offer disease watch forecasts. One we recommend is Syngenta’s Greencast service.
Common diseases that can be active and cause concerns at this time of the year are: Red Thread, Fusarium and Dollar Spot. Click on the following link :- Disease Watch to see information about these diseases.
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.
Winter servicing, it is important to get your machinery/ equipemnt serviced, changing oil / air filters and greasing up moving parts and sharpening mower blades.
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.
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.