The unrelenting wet weather continued throughout January and, with most parts seeing frost and snowfall, temperatures returned closer to the average following the cold snap.
Moving through February, it will remain changeable, with unsettled, milder spells interspersed with colder, showery interludes. The most unsettled and windy weather is likely to occur in the north and northwest while the south and southeast should see somewhat drier conditions overall, though even here, some rain and strong winds are likely. Despite relatively mild conditions dominating, especially at first, some overnight frost and fog is quite probable.
If the frosty weather persists over a number of days, it could lead to a number of problems within your irrigation systems, hose pipes and outside taps. Ideally, any water carrying pipe work should be lagged or protected from frost damage, as this will lead to burst pipes and joints; make sure you keep an eye open for these leaks.
Spring renovations are four to six weeks away, so ensure you have ordered your topdressing and seed requirements, along with any specialist machinery you may need to hire in for the tasks ahead. Get your orders in early to avoid disappointment.
Key Tasks for February
During February the following activities are usually undertaken:
- Dragbrushing when dew is present
- Clean out the ditches and repair surrounds
- Tip the grass with the mower if it grows above 12mm (1/2 inch)
- Aerate, if and when possible, and only if conditions are right
Mowing the sward, preparing surfaces for renovation. Grass growth will be influenced by soil and air temperatures. Once we begin to see temperatures rising above 8 degrees centigrade, grass growth will be stimulated and mowing will be required to maintain sward at between 8-12mm.
Fertilising. Soil temperatures should and will begin to rise towards the end of February/early March, enabling the grass plant to make use of any fertilisers being applied.
The grass plant's transpiration/respiration rates need to be active to initiate movement of soluble solutions from the soil into and through the plant's tissue.
To ensure you are applying the correct amount and balance of fertilisers for your turf, it would be useful to have a soil analysis undertaken, which will give you a full nutrient analysis of your soil's requirements. Based on these results, an appropriate fertiliser programme can be initiated for your facility.
The extreme waterlogging is causing some problems. If you managed to undertake a decent renovation at the end of last year, the mild temperatures have been kind and this will have grown well, however the Annual Meadow-grass is typically dragging its heels at this time of the year and there’s a large disparity between the perennial species, i.e. Bent and Fescue and the ephemeral opportunist which is Annual Meadow-grass. The moist surface and low light levels is leading to high levels of moss, mainly Bryum argenteum, Silver Thread-moss, a tufted acrocarpous moss which is equally at home on tarmac, so maybe an indication that surfaces are compacted but, with little opportunity to get on the green with a machine, this is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. Aerating when ground conditions are unsuitable will lead to smearing the sides of the hole; lateral compaction means that the water is unable to percolate away from the hole.
Toadrush is also a problem as well as increased levels of thatch and black layer as anaerobic conditions continue to prevail.
Tough it out and aerate as much as possible as soon as conditions allow and, critically, NOT BEFORE. In the intervening time, be vigilant for Microdochium Patch and treat at the very first symptoms. As conditions improve, provide some much needed TLC and a good quality fertiliser to help the turf recover. In the long term, use biostimulants such as SeaAction liquid Seaweed and BioMass Sugar throughout the early part of the year to help the soil food web recover.
Particle Size Distribution (PSD). 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.
Soil pH. 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.
N:P:K: Keeping a balance of N P K nutrients within the soil profile is essential for healthy plant growth.
Brushing or 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.
The typical types of diseases you may come across are:
- Fusarium Patch
- Red Thread
- Fairy Rings
Use appropriate fungicides to control any further outbreaks, however, with the grass soon beginning to grow, it won't take long for these scars to grow out.
Please note: More information on these and many others can be found here: https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php
It is important to maintain machines by carrying out regular servicing and repairs.
Remember to check the condition of your machinery, and plan to get it repaired/serviced during the winter months.
- Service and sharpen mowers ready for the new season; it is well worth the money investing in a winter service.
- Keep machines overhauled and clean.
- Inspect and repair any watering or irrigation systems; many bowling clubs now have pop-up irrigation systems, so ensure they have been drained down for winter. Organise an inspection, re-commissioning and calibration of the system in late February.
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.
We are already planning our spring courses:
Friday 11 March 2016, West End Bowls Club, Merthyr Tydfil
Tuesday 5 April 2016, Ferndown, Dorset
£140.00 + VAT
In addition, we are able to arrange courses to be delivered on site to groups of 6 – 10 people. Email Chris Johnson for information.
- 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.
- Most bowling green facilities are enclosed by fences or hedges and now is a good time to tidy these up.
- Carry out any repairs to ditches, paths, gates and other building features.