A good deal of bright weather is likely in early August, but with showers affecting western and northwestern parts. Southeastern areas will remain generally dry. Temperatures will be near or slightly below average, with some chilly nights, especially in the north. Later in the month it is expected to turn more unsettled generally, with a mixture of brighter but showery spells interspersed by cloudier conditions with outbreaks of rain. Northwestern parts will see the heaviest rain and strongest winds, whereas the southeast will get the best of the dry and bright weather. Temperatures should be around average, but sometimes cooler in the northwest.
August is the time to plan and organise your autumn renovation programme. The level of work required will initially be governed by the condition of your green, how much thatch you have and the extent of the wear on the surface.
Key Tasks for August
Mowing frequency will often be dependent 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.
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.
Many bowlers complain about slow, inconsistent greens, often resulting in many clubs trying to speed them up by shaving off more grass. In the short term, this may increase speed but, in the long term, it will be very damaging to the green.
- Remove and control the rate of unwanted vegetative growth (thatch and side growth) by regular grooming and verticutting operations.
- Light applications of topdressing will restore and maintain surface levels, thus increasing green speed.
- Mowing in several directions to reduce nap layering will help increase green speed.
- Double cutting for matches will increase green speed.
- Controlling soil moisture will help influence green speed.
- Brushing/switching of the playing surface keeps the green clean and removes any dew or surface water. Keeping the surface dry will improve resistance to disease.
Mowing. Too many bowls clubs choose to cut their greens far too low during the summer months, mainly influenced by club members who want faster greens. Do not be tempted to cut below 4mm unless you have the expertise, resources and knowledge to support this type of maintenance regime. Mowing the green below 4mm will, in the short term, give the members what they want - fast greens - however, there is often a cost to bear for doing this. It generally comes in the form of the green suffering in many ways, grass cover begins to thin out, bare areas develop which allow weeds and mosses to establish. Beneath the surface, the constant rolling will have compacted the soil profile, reducing the air spaces. This leads to poorer root growth, less movement of water and resulting in flooded surfaces.
In fact, the most common cause of slow bowling greens is the presence of a layer of accumulated organic fibre, commonly known as thatch. This is found just below the surface and is caused by the accumulation of matted grass stems. This is easily detectable when you walk across the green and the surface feels soft.
Aeration is a key activity to ensure that there is a good air/gas exchange going on in the soil profile. The use of a sarel roller (depth 5mm) helps to keep the surface open without disturbing the playing surface. Deeper aeration should only be done with micro tines when moist conditions allow penetration.
Irrigation. 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.
The soil water balance will be affected by a number of factors:
- Soil type and condition; the water holding capacity of soils will vary depending on their classification. Clay soils can hold more water than loamy or sandy soils, therefore soil type will effect and contribute to the amount of water required. Soils are continually going through phases of wetting and drying caused by local weather conditions.
- Turf type and condition; healthy vigorous turf will transpire more water than an unhealthy turf plant.
- Time of the year; there is likely to be more soil water present during the spring, autumn and winter months when temperatures are cooler coupled with higher levels of rainfall.
- Weather; air temperature, daylight hours, solar energy inputs, wind speed and shading are factors that will affect evapotranspiration rates.
- Maintenance regimes; keeping the soil open and aerated will increase the drainage capacity of the soil. On the other hand compacted soils will prevent the movement of water through soils, often creating an environment that prevents water getting down into the soil profile. By carrying out effective regular maintenance regimes that include aeration, scarifying, harrowing, brushing, top dressing all help to keep the soil in good condition.
- Irrigation system; type, capacity, running time, calibration and efficiency.
- Water resources; quantity and quality. The quantity of water available, and the amount licensed for use in any one year, will determine the performance of any system and irrigation capabilities.
- Facility type; design and construction. USGA greens perform differently to pushed up soil greens, each having different water and management requirements. Modern drainage systems also effect soil water conditions. Extensive drainage systems will freely drain water from the soil.
- Groundsman knowledge; it is important that there is someone who understands all of the above parameters and can access the water requirements of the turf and correctly implement the right irrigation schedule for the facility.
Soil water relationships are key drivers in maintaining plant health, so it is vitally important you readily water your bowling green and ensure the plant does not become stressed from the lack of water, on the other hand you do not want to be over watering, as this may bring you other problems.
Fertilising. 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.
A regular feeding programme is essential to maintain colour, vigour and well-being of the sward. A combination of a slow release granular based fertiliser, topped up with some organics/liquid feeds, are becoming a popular method of feeding bowling greens. The slow release will generally last around three months, whilst the liquids can be applied every 4-6 weeks depending on the plant's needs.
The use of wetting agents are a good preventative cure for dry patch. Many groundsmen are now using these products regularly on fine turf situations. Wetting agents are usually applied on a monthly basis.
Soil wetting agents are available in three forms - Residual, Penetrant and Curative.
Residuals keep working over a given stated period, depending on the amount of time you require it to work they hold water near the surface.
Curatives combat the problem of dry patch by stripping off the waxy organic coating on the soil particle which renders the soil profile water repellent, but never totally alleviates the problem as, every time you topdress with sand, you add a further layer of water repellent organic coating to your soil profile. This type of wetting agent is believed by some to also remove beneficial bacteria etc from the soil and therefore can be controversial. One of the lesser known facts is that when using curatives your water consumption can reduce by up to 30% year on year. Product example Correct Oars by Vitax.
Penetrants help remove standing water as well as move water through the profile. Many turf managers use penetrants in a tank mix, when using other chemicals to get the product through the profile immediately.
To achieve the best from wetting agents any factors contributing to the dry patch should be addressed. Such as alleviation of compaction, removal of thatch and preventing the rootzone from reaching the critical moisture content by ensuring even and timely irrigation.
Best results are achieved by applying wetting agents in a programmed approach, starting early in the season before symptoms are observed. Blanket applications are also more effective than spot treatments.
Generally, you should be looking at a programme of scarifying in several directions to remove unwanted thatch layers and dead matter, aerating with some deep solid tines to break up compaction, topdressing with some 70-30 topdressing to restore levels, and overseeding with some new grass seed.
Unfortunately, one of the deciding factors that often reduces the effectiveness of these planned works is the amount of money (budget ) the club has available. It can cost anything between £1200-£1500 for a contractor to come in and do all the work.
Savings can be made if the club undertake the work themselves, however, the effectiveness of the work carried out will be determined by the equipment they have at their disposal.
Savings can also be made if clubs buy materials in bulk (several clubs group buying).
The best way to balance the health of the grass plant and to achieve good green speed is to promote and carry out effective cultural practices.
August is a good time for another organic fertiliser application; with a two month longevity, an application in August will take you through to October, which is the perfect time for an autumn winter feed. Maxwell Turf Food Myco2 4-6-12+4%MgO provides a nice kick of phosphorous, potassium and magnesium for plant resilience and colour but without too much nitrogen so as not to encourage excessive soft lush growth. The mycorrhizal fungi combined with the phosphorus content means it is also especially good as a fertiliser when sowing seed.
The risk of severe drought stress has largely passed and August tends to produce substantial rain fall. Moisture combined with warmth and humidity is going to place stress on the plant from a number of directions. Aeration is vital to keep the soil oxygen ratio balanced, 8mm needle or 12mm standard tines down to a depth of 200-300 mm with a vertical aerator will be particularly beneficial in allowing the soil to breath. Combining this with a weekly pass from a Sarel or Star Tine aerator will provide a large volume of aeration into the sward and thatch layer to provide a rounded approach to aeration.
Continued use of polymer and penetrant wetting agents will also help to manage soil water percolation and retention more effectively by moving rain fall away from the surface but holding it further down in the profile where it will be readily available during any hotter and sunny spells.
Disease pressure has been unseasonably high throughout July and this is likely to continue into August. With both microdochium patch and anthracnose forecast to be problematic. Heritage Maxx fungicide is a strong contender for use as a preventative and early curative with its systemic action making it an sensible option during the growing season and especially as a preventative prior to turf renovations. Red thread will also thrive in humid conditions and reducing total time of continual leaf blade wetness through switching and brushing is the first line of defence when aiming to minimise disease activity.
Seaweed is a fantastic way of boosting soil flora, priming the pant to resist environmental stress and extending the longevity of fertilisers. However, it is a fantastic fungal food and stimulator so applications need to be timed carefully to boost good fungi and not pathogenic ones. Keeping a close eye on weather trends combined with fungicide treatments is important, or put simply; do not apply it when fungal disease is active, apply it about a week after a fungicide application, ideally with some Chelated Iron to strengthen plant cell walls.
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. With the renovations due to start in September, it would be a good practice to eradicate any weeds using a selective weed killer, invest in a professional product and choose the right active chemical ingredient to deal with the weed problem you have.
Please note: More information on diseases can be found here: https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php
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.
Keep your machinery clean and well serviced, check bottom blades and cylinders for sharpness.
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:
SEAFORD, East Sussex - Tuesday 23 August
In addition, we are able to arrange courses to be delivered on site to groups of 6 – 10 people. Email Chris Johnson for information.
- Do not be afraid to cut a sample plug from the green and check to see the extent of the thatch layer. Problems start occurring when you have more than 15mm depth of thatch. This thatch layer is the main cause of many problems associated with the performance of the green. It is essential you control the amount of thatch by means of verticutting, grooming and scarification. Greens that have high levels of thatch will take longer to dry out due to the thatch acting like a sponge.
- Continue to carry out the regular maintenance tasks, cutting, feeding and irrigating if required. Use wetting agents if you feel the water is having difficulty going through the surface. It is important to get the water deep into the soil profile.
- A summer feed can be applied, but go for liquid rather than a granule to minimise the risk of scorching.
- Begin to plan your end of season renovations, calculate your material requirements, seed, topdressing and pre-order to prevent any delays in delivery.
- You may need to hire in professional equipment, scarifiers and aerators to complete your end of seasons works. Ensure you mowers are kept clean and set, nothing worse than a badly adjusted mower.
- Check floodlights and irrigation systems, ensuring they are working.
- Keep ditches clean and relace any ditch materials.
- Maintain hedge lines and shrub beds.