July will be a very 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 unpredictable weather, seen in many parts of the country will have no doubt affected your maintenance regimes or prevented matches. However, we would hope that July will bring us some much needed warm weather to help promote some consistent grass growth.
The combination of a dry spring and the windy warm weather we experienced in June has also meant that many greens may be suffering droughty conditions, with many greens turning brown and, in some cases, becoming hydrophobic and difficult to rewet.
Nowadays, irrigation is an important and integral part of the turf grass management industry, especially as the demand for better quality playing surfaces has increased.
Therefore, careful consideration and investment in a decent watering system is a key requirement to managing fine turf surfaces. Most, if not all, professional sporting facilities have irrigation systems of one sort or another. Without them they would not be able to prepare and maintain their playing surfaces.
Irrigation is essential for a number of reasons:
for plant survival and growth.
for soil formation
for soil strength
for chemical transport
for managing playability
Water is influential in all chemical, physiological and biological processes of plant growth. The soil/plant water relationships is critical to the sustainability of any grass plant. Having an understanding of these relationships is critical.
All grass plants are a continuum of water movement. Over 90% of the plant's water requirements are transported through the plant from the soil profile, via the roots and stem tissues into the leaves and out into the atmosphere. Knowledge of these relationships is important when designing and operating irrigation systems. The main aim is to achieve a water balance within the soil profile ensuring that the grass plant is able to access available water from the soil.
Irrigation scheduling by the water balance approach is based on estimating the soil water content. In the field, daily evapotranspiration (ET) amounts are withdrawn from storage in the soil profile. Any rainfall or irrigation are added to storage. Should the water balance calculations project soil water to drop below some minimum level, irrigation is indicated. Weather forecasts enable prediction of ET rates and projection of soil water balance to indicate whether irrigation is needed in the near future.
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 3mm-8mm during the growing season, with most clubs cutting at around 5mm.
Continue to carry out routine maintenance tasks, mowing, verticutting, fertilising, watering to keep the green in a playable condition.
Grass growth will dictate mowing frequencies, in most cases clubs are cutting daily or on a three- four times a week regime.
Only apply fertilisers if you have significant moisture in the green; clubs that are struggling to water should refrain from applying feeds whilst 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.
On the machinery front, keep your machinery clean and well serviced, check bottom blades and cylinders for sharpness.
If we get some decent sunny weather in July , we would expect temperatures to rise well into double figures somewhere around the 18-22 degrees C, which would then see the need to irrigate to replace water losses from the green by evaportranspiration. 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.
However, 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.
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. 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.
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.
Aeration is a key activity to ensure that there is a good air/gas exchange going on in the soil profile. Providing the green is adequately irrigated, the use of a sarrel roller (depth 5mm) helps keep the surface open without disturbing the playing surface. Deeper aeration should only be done with micro tines when conditions allow, as we do not want to risk disturbing the surface, especially during the playing season.
Brushing/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.
Again, only if you have access to water for the greens, fertiliser treatment and turf tonics can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested; try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results.
Most groundstaff will be applying a summer N P K fertiliser, perhaps something like a 8:0:6 reducing the N and P inputs, and trying to maintain a stable balanced growth during July. The choice of material and how well it works will be dependant on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and air temperature being the catalyst for growth.
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.
Topdressing is usually carried out in spring and autumn in conjunction with the renovation programmes. However, some bowling clubs have a policy of applying topdressing materials during the season.
It is important an appropriate topdressing material is sourced to ensure compatibility with the existing rootzone materials of your green. The last thing you want to encourage are rootbreaks in the green.
Spreading of the materials can be achieved by several methods, utilising pedestrian or ride on disc or drop action top spreaders, or by hand using a shovel and a barrow. It is important to get an even spread of material, the aim is to put on a very light dressing, followed by brushing in with a lute or drag brush/mat to restore levels.
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.
Fairy rings are today one of the most common diseases encountered by groundsmen and greenkeepers alike, and most will have experienced them under their supervision.
It is an unsightly and annoying blight on any sports turf playing surface, but the damage that these rings can cause depends on their type, location, biological environment and abundance.
Fairy rings are generally caused by fungi that are a part of the basidiomycetes genus. There are more than 50 fungi known to cause similar reactions though. When the disease first appears, it is important to correctly identify the symptoms, as there are three types of fairy rings to be found in amenity sports turf in this country:
TYPE I Marasmius oreades
TYPE II Scleroderma & Lycoperdon spp
TYPE III Hygrophorus & Psilocybe spp
If the fairy rings have already taken hold, there are still control methods available. The most important factor at this point is to identify what type of fairy ring your course/pitch is afflicted with. As type 3 fairy rings are mainly aesthetic, their ability to reduce the aesthetic quality of turf can be decreased by physical removal of mushrooms/toadstools. However, for type 1 and 2 fairy rings, there are many options available for effective control.
The best method of control for many is to ensure the soil remains moist, to effectively try and 'blend in' the growth of the sward and affected areas. The best way of doing this is through wetting agents during the summer, and efficient irrigation. Quite often, if left to dry out, a type 2 fairy ring will become 'silvery' in colour.
Ensuring a good watering regime should reduce the effect of this discolouration, removing the obvious difference in colour. It is important to remember, at all times, to only water to the grass plant's requirements to reduce the likelihood of other problems within the sward. Hand-watering is preferential to automatic irrigation systems in these instances. Similarly, they can be 'masked' within a playing surface through the use of fertilisers. In periods of stimulated growth, iron should be used to provide colour without excessive vegetative growth.
For type 1 fairy rings, the management practices are similar. However, the death of turf within the ring means that sometimes more radical approaches may be required, once established. One school of thought is that fairy rings are anatagonistic to each other, meaning if you mixed the mycelium, new fairy rings should not be produced. However, this has been met with some mixed results. In most situations, it can be more effective to dig out and completely remove the infected turf and soil to a depth of approximately 30 centimetres. Some advise sterilising the soil replacement, but the results of this treatment are again mixed.
In summary, as with most things in life, the best method of controlling disease is through a policy of moderation. Producing effective irrigation, fertilisation and aeration practices without going to excess should provide a good platform for a healthy sward, and playability for that matter. Utilising all of these in an integrated approach is therefore an excellent method for reducing the likelihood of fungal attack. In case of fairy ring establishment, there are still management practices available to reduce the severity of the problem and the effects on playability and aesthetic quality of sportsturf.
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.
Our next course:
Friday, 14 August West End Bowls Club, Merthyr Tydfil
£140.00 + VAT - More information
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.
Pitchcare provide a range of courses suitable for bowls clubs. In most cases, the courses can be held on site using the club's own equipment and machinery.
Some of the other courses available are:
Chainsaws - CS30 and CS31
H&S Refresher Training on Combined Turf Care Equipment; Tractors and Trailers; All Mowers (Ride-on and Pedestrian)
Machinery Courses on ATVs; Tractors: Brushcutters/Strimmers; Mowers (ride-on and Pedestrian)
Pesticide Application (PA courses)
Stem Injection of Invasive Species (Japanese Knotweed etc.)
Basic Trees Survey and Inspection
More details about all the courses can be found here, or you can email Chris Johnson for information.
Many bowling clubs have hedges surrounding their greens. July is a good time to trim and reshape these, thus reducing any potential shading or access problems.
Check and inspect ditches, floodlights, structures and any site furniture for damage; keep the site clean and maintain a tidy appearance throughout the facility.
Ensure you mowers are kept clean and set, nothing worse than a badly adjusted mower