Key Tasks for February
During February the following activities are usually undertaken, when conditions allow:
- 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 (not on frozen or waterlogged greens)
Mowing the sward, preparing surfaces for renovation. Grass growth will be influenced by soil and air temperatures. Once we begin to see temperatures rising consistently 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.
Aeration. Over the winter months, and weather conditions permitting, you should be spiking the green 2-3 times per month, using 1/2" solid tines to a depth of 4".
- 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.
- 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.
February, officially late winter. The 1st of February is 42 days post winter solstice (21st December) and come the 29th of the month that figure will rise to 70 days. For comparison, from the 1st February the summer solstice on the 21st June will be 141 days away and by the 29th February 113 days away.
This play of the numbers hopefully illustrates that time marches on, and that means so do the seasons. February can often be a cold month, but the planets relentless march around our home star means that the sun will be higher in the sky come the 29th February. To put this into context, day length in Leeds (to pick a central location in the British Isles) on the 1st February will be 8 hours 54 minutes and the altitude of the sun from the horizon will be 11.65°. Come the 29th February, day length will be 10 hours 47 minutes and the altitude from the horizon will be 20.46°. A difference from the 1st of the month to the 29th of the month of 1 hour 53 minutes, and an altitude difference of 8.81°. The reason for labouring this point is to illustrate that almost two hours of added day length and a 56.9% increase in the height of the sun at mid-day will impart more solar radiation on your sports turf surface at the end of the month compared to the start of the month. Now, it might not feel much warmer, because we are coming out of winter, so the bulk air temperature has not yet had time to warm up, but with more daylight means more opportunity for photosynthesis and a higher altitude for the sun means more radiative heat. How do these factors impact your sports turf surface?
Potential for increasing soil temperatures and the ability for the plant to grow and recover from winter damage.
The thing to remember however is it can’t be forced. Day length may be longer and the sun may be higher as the month progresses, but cool residual winter air means weather patterns may well provide us with cold temperatures and overcast days.
The key agronomic principle then for February is to maximising recovery from winter damage whilst also protecting against inclement weather, at a time when the plant has spent the best part of four months surviving in less than optimal growing conditions.
The way to practically achieve this is; Proactively think about and plan for opportunities and threats.
- Cold winds | cold temperatures | frozen ground | snow fall
Preparation here is key; look at forecasts and seek to protect and fortify the plant to minimise stress, lessen damage and promote faster recovery.
Silicon and calcium will help to strengthen the cell walls.
Amino acids will also help to guard against cold weather damage.
Carbon will not be in immediate requirement, but applications now can act as a power reserve into the system helping to promote faster responses from the plant-soil ecosystem once any cold weather breaks.
Microdochium nivale risk is likely to be low in these conditions, however existing scars in particular may reactivate under prolonged snow cover. Thus an application of fludioxonil to target dormant spores prior to snow cover may provide some security.
Aeration close to a cold spell can aid drying out of the soil, however it may lead to even lower soil temperatures which will place added strain on the system. The ideal time to aerate is once conditions have lifted and warmer conditions are returning.
- Mild days | warm night time temperatures | still air | prolonged dews and rain fall
Microdochium nivale risk is likely to be high in these conditions, so turf hardening packages to strengthen cell walls and promote plant resistance are sensible. Systemic fungicides will only be effective if growth is active due to higher soil temperatures.
Avoid biostimulants in these conditions as the organic compounds can promote fungal activity. Use of penetrant surfactants and dew cure products to reduce leaf blade wetness and canopy humidity will be useful as part of an integrated approach. Dews may need removing more than once a day.
Aeration will oxygenate the soil helping to lessen stress on plants in waterlogged soils.
- Sunny days | warm spells of day time temperature | air movement | reduced rain fall
Taking soil temperature readings throughout the month (and year to that matter) will allow you to see when the system has warmed up to the point that metabolic biological activity is commencing. Things will become noticeably functional at soil temperatures of 8-10°. Take temperature readings at different times of the day to learn how your soil responds to periods of warmer brighter weather. The air may still feel cold but sheltered spots exposed to the sunshine will warm nicely, especially towards the end of the month when day length and sun altitude are increased.
Gentle applications of nutrition, based upon soil test results when the system is warm enough to require it, will promote recovery growth. Biostimulants such as seaweed, amino acids, carbon and humic sources will foster a functional soil-plant ecosystem.
Aeration will provide the soil with the ability to respire, releasing waste gasses such as carbon dioxide, methane, sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide and allow vital oxygen in.
Microdochium nivale risk is likely to be low and scars will begin to recover.
Of course, defining such complexities into neat little sections is somewhat of an over simplification, but it does help to think about scenarios and the cause and effect relationships those factors will have to the system. The key for February is be prepared to act defensively to the threats, but maximise the sweet spots of opportunity without getting carried away and forcing things. We still have typically cold and wet March, followed by cold and dry April to come before the soil-plant ecosystem takes off with confidence in May. Maximise February’s opportunities as best you can but don’t let a few warmer hours of sunshine in an afternoon trick you into thinking spring is in full flow. There may be a sting in the tail yet to come.
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.
Grounds Training was established in 2006 to provide a complete and unique service delivery training courses for the sports turf industry. We are now the go-to provider for on-site, bespoke training for groups. Grounds Training also works with the industry’s awarding bodies – Lantra and City & Guilds (NPTC).
Our Online Sports turf maintenance courses which are independently accredited by Lantra which are going from strength to strength. The video tutor is leading industry consultant, Alan Lewis MSc NDT FinstG. The course provides flexible, cost effective training and is accompanied by a comprehensive training manual. https://www.groundstraining.com/online-grounds-training-courses/
In addition we have a wide range of ground care machinery courses, safe handling of pesticides, tree survey, and ecology courses. All our which are delivered by industry qualified instructors registered with Lantra Awards and or NPTC.
We also offer a small number of open courses at our site at Allscott ,Telford.
All the courses we have to offer can be found by visiting https://www.groundstraining.com/
Here are our upcoming open courses:
PA1/ PA6A - Thursday 27th /Friday 28th February Allscott Telford TF6 5DY