Moving into April, it appears there is an increased chance of below average temperatures and above average precipitation, until the end of the month brings drier and warmer than average weather. Early April will see most parts unsettled and rather cold at times. Showers or more persistent spells of rain are likely to affect all regions. It may still be cold enough at times for some wintry showers which could bring sleet or snow, especially in northern areas. Nightly frosts are likely at times but, as the month progresses, there may be an increasing chance of drier and warmer spells of weather developing in southern and central regions.
Green speeds are likely to be slow to start with due to the fact that many greens are wet, lush and bumpy.
Some greens may not have received enough attention through the winter months in respect of essential maintenance regimes such as aeration, brushing and cutting, coupled with the fact there is probably a considerable amount of moss in the sward.
Key Tasks for April
You may have to put your spring renovations on hold until you see some recovery and look to lightly:
- Scarify the green
- Solid tine spike
- Apply a spring fertiliser
- Apply wetting agent, if required
Mowing should be more frequent now, at least 2-3 times per week. These frequencies can often be dictated by budget and the club's level of play. The height of cut should be decreasing until the optimum cutting height is achieved for the standard of play, usually between 4mm and 5mm.
Do not be tempted to cut any lower, especially if members are complaining the green is too slow. Cutting below 3.5 mm is really asking for trouble. Cutting off too much leaf material will put the sward under stress. The grass plant needs its leaves to manufacture energy for growth.
Brushing/switching. Keeps the green clean and removes any dew or surface water. Keeping the surface dry will help stop the spread of disease. There are a number of dragmats or brushes that can be used. See the Pitchcare shop for details - brushes/drag mats
Aeration is important to improve the surface and subsurface drainage capacity of the green. Aeration also increases gaseous exchanges in the soil. It is important to use the right aeration equipment as you do not want to disturb the surface too much prior to the playing season.
Do not carry out aeration when there is the likelihood of smearing or causing damage to the surface. The condition of the green and what budgets you have may decide what type of aeration programme can be achieved
Verti-cutting: fortnightly. Verti-cutting helps to thin the sward, removes weak grasses, helps the sward to stand up vertically and encourages tillering.
Fertilising: 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.
Particle Size Distribution (PSD). April is an ideal time to obtain a soil analysis of the green, measuring for soil pH, nutrient levels and organic matter content, which are seen as good indicators of the condition of the soil. 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.
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.
Fertiliser: Most groundstaff will be applying a spring/summer NPK fertiliser, perhaps something like a 9:7:7 which will effectively get the grass moving during April. Then, towards the end of the month, or early May, apply a slow release fertiliser to see you through to June/July. However, the choice of feed and how well it works can be dependant on many factors - soil type, weather, with moisture and air temperature being the catalysts for growth.
The present condition of the green will also have a bearing on what maintenance operations you should be doing. 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.
Keep an eye on fungal disease attack and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. The typical types of diseases you may come across are:
- Fusarium Patch
- Red Thread
- Fairy Rings
Some of the damage symptoms that insects and pests can cause are very similar to those caused by diseases, so it is very important to correctly diagnose the problem before treatment is applied.
The most common Pests are:-
- Chafer Grubs
- Frit Fly
Please note: More information on these and many others can be found here: https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php
You, should have had your mower serviced and sharpened ready for the new season.
- Keep machines overhauled and clean
- Inspect irrigation equipment for leaks
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 course:
Tuesday 5 April 2016, Ferndown, Dorset
In addition, we are able to arrange courses to be delivered on site to groups of 6 – 10 people. Email Chris Johnson for information.
- Carry out any repairs to ditches, paths, gates, floodlights and other building features
- Inspect and clean out drain outfalls and gullies. Replace and level up drainage ditch materials
- Inspect and clear away any litter or debris (high winds may blow debris onto greens)
- Check and service floodlighting systems; ensuring they are ready for the new playing season
- It also important to replace any worn tines on your aeration equipment
- Ensure you have organised and ordered the appropriate materials from suppliers, don't leave it too late! There should be a supply of topdressing and seed as well as your chosen fertiliser. Possibly some wetting agent and any chemical controls that could be needed at short notice.