Expected weather for this month:

Unsettled in the north, with drier, sunnier periods in the south

The combination of drying winds and bright sunshine soon increases the need to water your bowling green. Most clubs will hopefully have the means of watering, whether it be by hand or by fully automated pop up watering systems. The key to using both is to ensure the soil profile is watered enough to cope with the evapotranspiration rates (amount of water lost), which on a warm day can be as much as 6mm. Crown greens will be more susceptible to drying out, so hand watering may be required to wet up the crown.

For clubs whose greens are drying out, it may be a sensible option to raise the height of cut to help the grass plant tolerate these extreme dry periods. Just raising the height by 1-2mm will help.

After lower than average temperatures through late April, the weather for May continues to look rather uncertain, although the most likely scenario is for areas of low pressure to move in from the Atlantic, generally to the northwest of the UK. This means that the most unsettled and windiest weather is likely in the north and northwest with showers, or longer spells of rain, interspersed by shorter, drier and sunnier periods. The south and southeast, however, should see longer, drier, sunnier periods with shorter spells of rain or showers.

After a cold start, temperatures should become nearer average through this period, so snow and overnight frost will become increasingly unlikely and confined only to the hills of the far north.

Key Tasks for May

For the next eight weeks or so, UK growth reaches a peak, therefore the emphasis will be on mowing frequency as long as there is sufficient moisture within the soil:

  • Apply 'little and often' foliar feed, consisting of mainly Nitrogen, with other nutrients and ingredients, such as Potassium.
  • Continue to seed sparse or bare areas.

Mowing. Greens should be mown at least three times a week, with some grooming, verti-cutting or brushing being undertaken on a weekly or twice weekly cycle to improve air movement and reduce thatch levels building up in the sward profile.

The sward will be actively growing due to the increased soil temperatures, coupled with the stimulation of fertiliser applications. Regular mowing will be required to maintain sward height at around 4-5mm. Verti-cutting/grooming fortnightly can be carried out to help speed up the green and help improve the health of your turf.

Aeration should continue, using a mix of micro, needle or star tines which give maximum effect and almost zero turf disturbance.

Regular use of a sarrel roller will be beneficial and the use of micro tines to aerate the green will help reduce soil compaction, 'vent' the root-zone and to allow water to move quickly from the surface and into the root-zone, thus encouraging the turf to root deeper.

Irrigation: Soil and air temperatures usually increase in May, often bringing on the need to irrigate. If soil profiles, particularly sandy soils, are allowed to dry out too much they often become water repellent (hydrophobic), a state when soils can become difficult to re-wet. Often the first areas to suffer on greens particularly crown greens are the high spots on the green. You may need to spend more time hand watering these problem areas.

When you do water, ensure you go to a depth of 100-150mm to encourage the roots to go down to find the water.

Fertilising: The cold night-time temperatures have resulted in a slow spring and sluggish growth. On surfaces requiring an injection of growth a nitrogen source such nitrate or ammonium will be readily available to the plant. Something such as Advanced Generate 12-3-9 +2Mg +2Fe has the benefit of the whole 12% nitrogen source being ammonium which is readily available to the plant in cooler conditions. It also contains a big hit of sulphate at 34% which is an essential element for plant metabolism and amino acid production in the spring. On top of that, it also contains magnesium and iron, which will increase chlorophyll production to maximise the efficiency of photosynthesis as well as harden the leaf cell walls against disease and cold weather stress.

Monitoring the performance of your playing surfaces is a key skill that should be adopted by all Groundsman/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 sport 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 the pitch/golf green or artificial pitch 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, levels over a 3m level, hardness and infiltration rates (porosity) of the soil rootzone.

In recent years, we have seen the development of GPS mapping devices that can measure chlorophyll, moisture content and deviation in levels. 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.

Leather jackets and chafers are fairly prevalent at the moment. Merit can still be applied if people have it in stock, but it can be tricky to get a good kill when the grubs are at this stage of development.

As soils warm up, there may be some symptoms of plant parasitic nematode activity. There are two categories of nematode which will infect grass plants; Ectoparasitic which migrate along the outside of roots and feed accordingly on root cells and Endoparasitic nematodes which enter the root tissue and feed on the plants in these areas.

Be vigilant for the following symptoms:

• Yellowing and thinning of the turf

• Reduced turf vigour

• Premature wilt

• Turfgrass that is slow to recover from stress

• Turfgrass that does not respond to fertilisation

Biomass Sugar will assist in returning balance to the soil and reducing plant stress associated from parasitic nematode attack.

Microdochium patch may also pop up as temperatures increase, particularly if the warmth occurs in conjunction with humidity and moisture on the leaf for prolonged periods. Systemic fungicides can be considered but only as a last option. IF grass is growing well and then the disease may well just bubble under the surface and the grass will outgrow it.

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.
  • Continue to check and service your floodlighting systems.
  • Replace any worn tines on your aeration equipment.

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.

In addition, we are able to arrange courses to be delivered on site to groups of 6 – 10 people. Email Chris Johnson for information.