Temperatures dropped below average for much of the country in late February as overnight frosts crept in. March will see most of the country battening down the hatches as spring gets off to a cold, wet and windy start. Experts warn to expect a washout to the start of the season, with the south in the firing line for the worst of the stormy onslaught.
Priority work for the start of the month is to aerate the green to help gaseous exchanges and increase water infiltration through the soil profile; an application of iron sulphate will help improve colour and kill any moss that has established during the winter months, some clubs apply a lawn sand to kill the moss.
You will need to ensure your mowers are ready for the start of the season, serviced, sharpened and ready to go. Check your height of cut, you do not want to be cutting too low; some clubs may even use pedestrian rotaries to help clean up the green and carry out their initial cuts.
Ensure you brush the dew off the green before cutting, this helps reduce the amount of water on the leaf blade, a dry leaf cuts better than a wet one. This can be done by dragging a hose pipe, a dragmat or dragbrush or a switching cane.
Key Tasks for March
It is during March and early April that spring renovations are carried out to prepare the greens for the forthcoming playing season:
- Roll the greens
- Daily brushing and switching of greens
- Worm control. It may be necessary to apply an approved carbendazim based product to control worm activity.
Mowing. Weekly or as required. Soil and air temperatures will begin to rise in March and this will stimulate grass growth. Begin cutting when weather conditions allow. Regular mowing will now be implemented to develop an even sward and to keep the surface uniform. It is important to lower the height of cut gradually until reaching the optimum height for match play at the start of the bowling season.
Keep at 10-12mm at the start of the month and gradually reducing to 8mm by the end of the month.
Aeration: When conditions allow. Do not carry out aeration when there is the likelihood of smearing or damaging the surface. Aeration is important to improve surface and subsurface drainage of the green.
Scarifying: Pre-season scarifying should be carried out to remove moss, thatch and decaying matter that may have formed during the winter.
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). March 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.
Daily brushing and switching should continue to keep the greens clean and remove any early morning dew. Keeping the sward dry, particularly in the spring, helps minimise the likelihood of any disease attacks.
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
Use appropriate fungicides to control any further outbreaks, however, with the grass 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
You should have had your mower serviced and sharpened ready for the new season; it is well worth the money investing in a winter service.
Remember to check the condition of your machinery, and plan to get it repaired/serviced during the winter months.
- 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.
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:
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.
- 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.
- Clean out the shed, sell off any old machinery and dispose of any junk that’s clogging up the shed.