As a new year begins, it is perhaps a good time to reflect on what you have achieved in 2014, and then plan what you want to achieve in the coming year. Keeping records and monitoring the performance of your turf facility should be encouraged. How can we be expected to know how to improve the condition of the sward, if we do not recognise or understand its current state?
Always keep records of the work you have carried out and the materials/products you have applied. Also, take the opportunity to take soil samples to monitor soil nutrient status and level of soil pH. When taking core samples, you can also keep an eye on thatch content and soil moisture content.
Investing in your green will have long term benefits. Keeping the green healthy and producing a high quality playing surface will help promote the club, and even encourage the joining of new members.
Key Tasks for January
Many clubs are now using pedestrian rotary mowers with rear rollers to cut their greens during the winter period. These mowers have the added bonus of being able to suck up surface debris and leave the greens clean and tidy.
It is important to ensure you are carrying out your daily brushing to keep the surface clean and, at the same time, removing any early morning dews. Keeping the playing surface clean and dry helps prevent disease and contamination.
This can be achieved by using brushes and dragmats. Also, brushing the green will help the sward stand upright, allowing good air movement around the grass plant.
Subject to ground conditions, you should be maintaining your winter height of cut between 5-12mm. To help monitor the correct height of cut, use a prism gauge.
Brush daily, if possible, to remove morning dews and help prevent disease and contamination.
Aeration work should be continued throughout the winter when conditions allow; the use of a sarrel roller will be beneficial in keeping the surface open.
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.
January and February is a good time to take soil samples and get them sent off for analysis, 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.
Also, you can establish the amount of organic matter (OM) content, as well as soil nutrient status and soil pH. With this information, you will be able to identify the needs of your soil.
Carrying out these test 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 such 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.
Little or no applications of nitrogen are applied during January, however, there may be some very low N and high P applications made to maintain some colour, but more importantly to increase root development. Many clubs may resort to applying Iron sulphate products to help maintain some colour, harden up the plant and kill off any moss spores.
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.
Moss can also become a problem during the winter months, finding its way into bare areas; a dose of sulphate of iron will help control it whilst, at the same time, helping to colour up the green.
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 one.
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.
Keep machines overhauled and clean. 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.
One of our recent courses was held with the Cumbria Bowls Association. More details can be found in the Bowls Section of our Website magazine.
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.
More details of our bowls courses 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 January 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.