Expected weather for this month:

The forecast is for frost, snow and freezing temperatures

Looks like we could be in for quite a harsh winter, according to the forecasters. The temperature is definitely dropping so, as always, keep off frost affected turf; walking on it will cause the brittle leaves to break, thereby causing severe damage and, in some cases, death of the plant. If in doubt, stay off.  

However, recent winters have been variable and unpredictable, so it's always useful to keep a keen eye on forecasts. Being prepared for either mild and wet, or cold and dry periods will pay agronomic dividends.

Key Tasks for December

Leave the green alone if there is frost in the ground - you will do more harm than good by going on it.

During December, weather permitting, the following activities can still be undertaken:

  • Maintain a winter cut height of 10-12mm
  • Inspection and maintenance of machinery and irrigation equipment
  • Aeration should be continued throughout the winter when conditions allow; regular use of a sarrel roller will be beneficial in keeping the surface open
  • Check for disease and pests, seek advice if necessary
  • Frequent surface and deep soil aeration
  • clean up any leaf debris

There is no such thing as putting the green to bed and forgetting about it until the spring.

December heralds the beginning of the meteorological winter and, consequently, inputs are at a minimum as cold soil temperatures slow metabolic activity of both microorganisms and plants to a crawl. As always, keeping an eye on weather forecasts is fundamental in being able to make decisions regarding inputs.

If cool humid conditions prevail, there may still be a risk of fungal diseases. Accordingly, timings of fungicide and plant stimulating nutrition, such as calcium, phosphite and silicon, can be made in suitable weather windows for spraying. It is worth noting that calcium and silicon, in particular, will aid the plant in resisting abiotic (environmental stress) in the form of frost, snow and harsh desiccating winds. Maximising the baseline level of soil and plant health going into harsh environmental conditions will greatly aid the quality of surfaces for longer.

Cold conditions require a move away from systemic fungicides, with iprodione generally being the active of choice for many. 

Be aware that withdrawal of iprodione is pending and you will not have this tool in the locker the same time next year.

Where disease outbreaks have occurred, target dormant spores in the thatch with an application of fludioxonil; this should be done in-between disease outbreaks but not during. The reason for this is due to the fact that, during outbreaks, spores are not spores but rather active disease now going through its life cycle with the aim of creating more spores as its end goal. This tactic of applying fludioxonil will reduce the background population and minimise the severity of further outbreaks once weather conditions for disease proliferation occur.

Chlorothalonil is another contact active ingredient which can be employed at this time of year. Hopefully, a well thought out disease management plan is being employed where timings of non-pesticidal plant nutrition is factored around appropriate fungicide treatments, which pay attention to the correct rotation of the relevant fungicide groups of the active ingredients being chosen.

Avoiding back to back applications of the same groups is a core responsibility for adhering to best practice and managing pathogen resistance. The FRAC website has more details and Syngenta provide some good practical information of how their products can best fit into this important consideration.

Dew may still be heavy at times, contributing to the problem of leaf canopy humidity which, in turn, leads to the spread of fungal pathogens. Removal of dews is a core fundamental cultural control for turf managers in all situations and should remain so. However, dews can be reduced by the application of a dew dispersal agent which will act to stop them forming in the first instance. This adds another element into an integrated approach to disease management, particularly on any persistently damp days when dews re-form post brushing. The key here is to minimise the period of continual leaf blade wetness as much as possible.

An important point of note when using dew dispersants; for best efficacy and longevity, they MUST be applied to a dry leaf.

Another tactic in the integrated locker is penetrant wetting agents. We are all familiar with using wetting agents to help prevent against dry patch in the summer, where they either facilitate the ingress of rain and irrigation into the profile or spread and hold it once it is in there. The flip side of this is using penetrant wetting agents in the autumn and winter to facilitate the efficient passage of water away from the surface and through the profile towards drainage systems. This has two advantages; firstly, by moving water faster through heavier soils or thatchy surfaces prone to waterlogging, you help to maintain an appropriate air/water ratio in the soil. This helps to stop the microorganisms you have spent all summer promoting from drowning. The other factor is that beneficial mycorrhizae and saprotrophic (composting) fungi really don’t like to be waterlogged. If you keep getting thatch build up on waterlogged areas which you know are not overfed, it is probably because the soil system cycle designed to degrade the organic matter is breaking down each and every autumn and winter once it becomes waterlogged.

A further benefit from using a penetrant wetting agent is that the better water penetration from the surface also helps to reduce canopy humidity, and thus the risk of fungal disease.

Aeration is a key activity to maintain throughout the winter, in whatever way possible. Be careful not to drive over waterlogged or wet ground, or also disturb surfaces with holes which will not heal in good time. Little and often with star, slit and sarrel tines, whenever possible, is probably best, especially if you have already been able to aerate deeper in the autumn. Again, the aim is to maintain a health air/water ratio for the benefit of soil life and plants.

Please note: More information on diseases can be found here: https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php

James Grundy – Senior Technical Manager

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.

  • Check all moving parts and ensure they are properly greased and topped up with the right recommended lubricants.
  • Take stock of what you have in your shed and what condition it is in.
  • Take the opportunity to repair and get any equipment serviced.
  • Check over all hand held sprayers.

Our Lantra Accredited Bowls Green Maintenance Course is now available as an online course. 

You can learn about maintaining a bowls green in the comfort of your own home and in your own time. This newly developed course consists of a number of videos with assessment questions, and an accompanying hard copy Course Manual. The Online Course is Lantra accredited and provides you with all the basic knowledge required to maintain a green over a 12 month period.

Pitchcare is the only provider of LANTRA accredited training courses in the maintenance of Bowls Greens. More information

Our next one day courses are taking place:

Monday 5 March 2018 at West End Bowls CF6 5EQ
Tuesday 10 April 2018 at Allscott Sports Club TF6 5EQ

More information

We can also arrange Lantra accredited training on site to groups of 6 – 10 people. Email Chris Johnson for information.

The Course Manual at just £30 is available for purchase separately.

Other Key Tasks

  • Repair Structures: Bench seats, scoreboards and any other fittings around the green.
  • Many greens are surrounded by fences or hedges; these will need some maintenance; natural hedges may need a prune/cut to keep them tidy and manageable.

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