Key Tasks for March
March and early April is usually the time when spring renovations can be carried out to prepare the greens for the forthcoming playing season. However, this ongoing spell of wet weather will limit and determine what you can do. Once the soil has dried out sufficiently, the following is the course of action to take:
- 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.
Ideally, you should be gradually reducing the height of cut to the preferred playing height of 8mm .
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.
No number of graphs of historical data, or TV news bulletins that feature wellie-clad reporters against a backdrop of rivers that have burst their banks, can portray what we’re experiencing at the moment. Saturated doesn’t cover it, and even as I sit writing this agronomic diary update, it is steadily raining.
Although the Blackthorn is blooming and the Hawthorn is starting to break its buds in the hedgerows, spring feels like it’s a long way away. Spring officially starts in three weeks’ time, although the adage not to ‘cast a clout till May is out’, referring to the Hawthorn blossom which typically occurs during the month of May, and which also gave rise to the playground nursery rhyme:
Here we come gathering nuts in May,
Nuts in May, nuts in May,
Here we come gathering nuts in May,
On a cold and frosty morning.
The nuts actually referring to ‘knots’: the May blossom which would have been gathered as part of the May Day celebrations - an expression of the evident joy and relief that late spring and early summer finally bring; when all this water will be a memory.
Research has shown that a series of complex chemical signals are triggered in plants as soon as it starts raining. Myc2 is a protein which, when activated, causes thousands of genes to spring into action to prepare the plant’s defences. These warning signals travel from leaf to leaf and induce a range of protective effects. Why would plants panic when it rains? Rain is the leading cause of disease spreading between plants.
When a raindrop splashes across a leaf, tiny droplets of water ricochet in all directions. These droplets can contain bacteria, viruses or fungal spores which have evolved to utilise this means of transmission to a new host. A single droplet can spread these up to 10 metres to surrounding plants. Evidence also suggests that when it rains, the same signals spreading across leaves are transmitted to nearby plants through the air.
One of the chemicals produced is a hormone called jasmonic acid that is used to send signals between plants. If a plant’s neighbours have their defence mechanisms turned on, they are less likely to spread disease, so it’s in their best interest to spread the warning to nearby plants. When danger occurs, plants are not able to move out of the way, so instead they rely on complex signalling systems to protect themselves (Moerkercke et al. 2019).
It’s a good time of the year to undertake training updates, and during a recent education session that was provided to some members of our internal teams, I was reminded that the most diverse ecosystem that exists is in the environment immediately around the plant’s root system. The impact upon playing surfaces, of the volumes of water that we’re experiencing, is as direct consequence of the affect that saturated soils have upon the plant’s capacity to cope with inundation.
Apart from increased levels of disease, the disruption caused to the plant in the form of appreciably reduced populations of micro and meso-organisms, apparent in the amount of worms floating about on the surface trying to obtain respite from a saturated environment.
This loss was written about in the December update which discusses the means to mitigate against damage and develop a strategy which can aid effective recovery, and is as relevant now as it was then. The importance of a well-structured substrate when it comes to water flow off the surface and into aquifers was highlighted for me on a weekend walk over the Shropshire Hills. The fields with standing water have been worked over the winter, this disruption to the existing soil structure has impaired field drainage whereas the surrounding permanent pasture has removed the water off the surface.
It would appear that the intervals, or opportunities to undertake the timely operations necessary to maintain sports surfaces to a good standard, appear to be diminishing – speaking to managers over the winter, for some renovations were incomplete or lacking at the end of the season and the start of this period is proving to be troublesome.
As I get older, I appreciate my capacity to forget, and I can say with confidence that once the sun shines and the grass is growing vigorously, thoughts of this water will evaporate and more pressing problems will emerge for our attention.
Alex Van Moerkercke, Owen Duncan, Mark Zander, Jan Šimura, Martyna Broda, Robin Vanden Bossche, Mathew G. Lewsey, Sbatie Lama, Karam B. Singh, Karin Ljung, Joseph R. Ecker, Alain Goossens, A. Harvey Millar, Olivier Van Aken (2019) 'A MYC2/MYC3/MYC4-dependent transcription factor network regulates water spray-responsive gene expression and jasmonate levels', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , 116(46).
- 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.
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 19th /Friday 20th March Allscott Telford TF6 5DY