The hot, dry weather we experienced a couple of weeks ago will have severely tested the greens, and those responsible for their maintenance. I know there are many smaller clubs who do not have irrigation facilities or the funds to cover the costs of additional watering or the use of wetting agents; they will have been pushed to keep the greens in a decent playable condition. This week the weather has been more unsettled, with plenty of rain about, and this is forecast to continue into July.
This will be a busy month for bowling clubs; there is usually a high demand for play, with many clubs involved in domestic competitions.
Key Tasks for July
Greens are likely to be in play on a daily basis. Coupled with the long daylight hours and warm temperatures, grass growth will be quite prolific if there is plenty of moisture about.
- Continue to carry out routine maintenance tasks, mowing, verticutting, fertilising, watering to keep the green in a playable condition.
- Grass growth will dictate mowing frequencies, in most cases clubs are cutting daily or on a three to four times a week regime.
- Only apply fertilisers if you have significant moisture in the green; clubs that are struggling to water should refrain from applying feeds whilst the greens are dry.
- Try and keep a diary of what work you have undertaken on your green, and keep records of how it has performed; take some pictures of the green and make note of any issues/problems you have.
- Get into the habit of taking a number of soil core samples to monitor what's happening underground; a visual look at a soil profile will enable you to monitor thatch content, moisture levels and root depth.
Mowing. With regard to mowing, ensure your mower is kept sharp and set at the correct height. No two greens are the same; Height of cut (HOC) will vary from green to green, with HOC influenced by several factors, type of mower used, condition of the green, sward composition and surface levels. In general, HOC will range between 3mm-8mm during the growing season, with most clubs cutting at around 5mm.
Some clubs will reduce their mowing heights, perhaps down to 3mm, to help speed up the greens for club competitions. Prolonged mowing at these heights will lead to plant stress. As an alternative, instead of reducing the height, do a double cut (in different directions), this will speed up the greens without reducing the grass height. 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.
Irrigation. Nowadays, irrigation is an important and integral part of the turf grass management industry, especially as the demand for better quality playing surfaces has increased. Therefore, careful consideration and investment in a decent watering system is a key requirement to managing fine turf surfaces. Irrigation is essential for a number of reasons:
- for plant survival and growth
- for soil formation
- for soil strength
- for chemical transport
- for managing playability
- for presentation
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.
It is also important to state that overwatering can equally be damaging to your surface. Keeping the surface waterlogged will reduce air porosity and decline plant growth; constant shallow watering will also increase Poa annua populations. Ideally, you should apply a sufficient amount of water to flood up the green and then allow to drain for two - three days. This allows the water to get deeper into the soil profile.
Fertilising. Most groundstaff will be applying a summer N P K fertiliser, perhaps something like a 8:0:6 reducing the N and P inputs, and trying to maintain a stable balanced growth during July. The choice of material and how well it works will be dependent on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and air temperature being the catalyst for growth.
If you have access to water for the greens, 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.
Aeration is a key activity to ensure that there is a good air/gas exchange going on in the soil profile. Providing the green is adequately irrigated, the use of a sarrel roller (depth 5mm) helps keep the surface open without disturbing the playing surface. Deeper aeration should only be done with micro tines when conditions allow, as we do not want to risk disturbing the surface, especially during the playing season.
Topdressing is usually carried out in spring and autumn in conjunction with the renovation programmes. However, some bowling clubs have a policy of applying topdressing materials during the season. It is important that an appropriate material is sourced to ensure compatibility with the existing rootzone materials of your green. The last thing you want to encourage are rootbreaks in the green.
This is often a contentious point between groundsmen and players.
Many players and committees insist on keeping the ends in the same position and direction, usually for obscure reasons such as "it's my lucky rink".
Playing in the same direction with the rink ends in the same position will cause uneven wear on what should be a flat, level green. Ruts and depressions will occur, causing the bowl not to roll true.
The rink settings should be moved laterally and directionally every 3 days or so, playing across and up and down the green.
On the same basis, all rinks should be used in rotation so that wear is evenly spread across the green. Just using the centre links will quickly affect the level of the green.
Read the article on Bowls Rink Rotation.
General agronomic jobs for July
- Maintain wetting agent programmes.
- Maintain plant growth inhibitor programmes.
- As a rule of thumb, apply granular feeds when rain is prevalent and look more toward foliar or liquids when experiencing dry spells.
- Don’t apply herbicides when experiencing hot weather, as the plant will have shut down its systems, massively reducing uptake, transportation and thus efficacy.
- Continue to monitor the life cycle of insect pathogens such as leatherjacket and chafer beetles in readiness to apply entomopathogenic nematodes, as per the seasonal application periods.
- Monitor for anthracnose activity - the spores will have been activated by high temperatures at the end of the May and again the end of June, incubation takes around 6 weeks. Chemical treatments are an option, as are weekly small doses of nitrogen.
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.
Recently, we have seen incidences of turf diseases such as Microdochium nivale (fusarium) on greens.
Fairy rings are today one of the most common diseases encountered by groundsmen and greenkeepers alike, and most will have experienced them under their supervision. It is an unsightly and annoying blight on any sports turf playing surface, but the damage that these rings can cause depends on their type, location, biological environment and abundance.
Fairy rings are generally caused by fungi that are a part of the basidiomycetes genus. There are more than 50 fungi known to cause similar reactions though. When the disease first appears, it is important to correctly identify the symptoms, as there are three types of fairy rings to be found in amenity sports turf in this country:
- TYPE I Marasmius oreades
- TYPE II Scleroderma & Lycoperdon spp
- TYPE III Hygrophorus & Psilocybe spp
If the fairy rings have already taken hold, there are still control methods available. The most important factor at this point is to identify what type of fairy ring your course/pitch is afflicted with. As type 3 fairy rings are mainly aesthetic, their ability to reduce the aesthetic quality of turf can be decreased by physical removal of mushrooms/toadstools. However, for type 1 and 2 fairy rings, there are many options available for effective control.
Please note: More information on these and many others can be found here: 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 mower clean and well serviced, check bottom blades and cylinders for sharpness.
Our Lantra Accredited Bowls Green Maintenance Course is now available as an online course.
Now 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. There is also the option of attending a one day practical course.
Pitchcare is the only provider of LANTRA accredited training courses in the maintenance of Bowls Greens. More information
Our next one day course will be held at:
Allscott Sports Club, Telford on Friday 25th August. 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 is available for purchase separately.
Many bowling clubs have hedges surrounding their greens. July is a good time to trim and reshape these, thus reducing any potential shading or access problems.
Check and inspect ditches, floodlights, structures and any site furniture for damage; keep the site clean and maintain a tidy appearance throughout the facility.
Current Forum discussion: Bowls - Summer feed on bowling greens