Key Tasks for November
End of season renovations should be completed, therefore, during November, the following activities are usually undertaken, weather permitting:
- Maintain a winter height cut of 10-12mm
- Carry out inspection and maintenance of machinery and irrigation equipment
- Service equipment and replace any worn or damaged parts.
- Check for diseases and pests, seek advice if necessary
- Aerate when conditions allow
- Clean up any leaf debris
- Drag brush daily
- Spike, if and when possible, and only if conditions are right
- Maintenance of fences and hedges
As we leave October behind, we are hopefully saying goodbye to the wet weather we have seen towards the end of the month. Early November looks forecast to be fairly settled, which will be much welcomed as we now move into late Autumn. The clocks have gone back and over the coming month there is a significant shortening of day length, which has a large impact for turf managers trying to maintain surfaces to the best possible condition. The effect of climate change on our seasons means that the run-in to the end of the year needs careful management. The absence of regular, very cold temperatures in late autumn/early winter means that we now experience effectively, a prolonged Autumn.
It is a time that tips the balance in favour of the undesirable factors and away from the grass plant; mainly because there is less available sunlight for photosynthesis, lower temperatures creating a reduction in growth rates and prolonged leaf wetness because of less dry down time throughout the day. These factors play right into the hands of mosses, algae and fungal diseases. One of the main fungal diseases throughout this period is Microdochium nivale (previously known as Fusarium patch).
Understanding the conditions which suit these undesirable factors is the best way of ensuring management practices are carried out to minimise them. Poor drainage characteristics, in particular surface drainage, often in conjunction with a build of thatch in the upper profile and spoon-feeding nutrition onto the surface, are all advantageous factors for the development of moss and algae. Therefore, it is key to ensure turf surfaces are managed, so that the balance of influential factors is weighted towards the grass plant so is kept as healthy as possible. This helps to minimise moss, algae and fungal pathogens ability to capitalise on a weakened sward and take over large surface areas of the sward. For example, where possible, reducing shade by effective tree management (pruning or removal) which ensures maximum use of the available light throughout the day at this time of year.
Undoubtedly, disease management is key throughout this month. Newer fungicide chemistry means that applications, if needed, should be made preventatively (not prophylactically) through close monitoring of disease pressure and the likelihood of disease occurrence. Essentially, pre-empting when all three factors of the disease triangle are likely to coincide for an outbreak of disease. The climatic and environmental conditions present in the UK mean that through November there is a high probability of disease pressure and outbreaks, which means being aware of what can influence the severity of an outbreak is critical to minimising the impact of one occurring. There are numerous factors to consider, but nutrition and water management are two of the main elements to address.
The aim being to promote steady, hardy shoot and leaf growth, avoiding excessive applications where flushes of growth become more susceptible to attack by fungal pathogens. The demand for year-round play on quality sports surfaces increases plant stress and the requirement for recovery, putting an increased emphasis on ensuring the right choice of nitrogen source as well as the amount applied.
Micronutrients and biostimulants are not to be overlooked, with Iron traditionally used to enhance turf colour with fewer of the negative aspects associated with excessive nitrogen fertilisation, such as outbreaks of certain diseases. Applications of seaweed will elicit important beneficial defensive and stress responses in the plant.
Water plays a major role in the development of fungal turf diseases, so it is as important to have a water management strategy for the autumn/winter period as it is for dealing with drought stress in the summer, albeit potentially different chemistries. Maintaining appropriate water/air ratio is a key factor in reducing turf stress during periods of the year when rainfall increases, and drying opportunities are reduced. Aeration timing and methods can make all the difference, sarel rolling can aid water infiltration and help surface drying with minimal disruption, with slitting giving contact to a large surface area within the soil for maximum gaseous exchange, again with minimal disruption to the surface. More heavy-duty aeration such as verti-draining can also be carried out as needed. The use of penetrant wetting agents and dew dispersants are now commonplace in a bid to keep surfaces as dry as possible and restrict the occurrence of disease outbreaks. When using a penetrant wetting agent, it enhances the draining of the soil profile, ensuring that the water has a route out of the upper rootzone; something which is essential to getting effective use out of the products. It is important that growth should be minimal when using dew dispersant products. This increases the longevity of the product which would otherwise be removed with the mowing clippings.
Worms continue to be a focus for turf managers with the increased soil moisture levels. There are no legal controls for earthworms and any product which is applied to directly affect them is done so illegally.
Continue with cultural management practices such as localised surface acidification, removal of grass clippings to reduce their food source and sanding of surfaces to assist in the drying out and dispersal of casts. Sulphate of iron is often used as a surface acidifying agent but it is worth considering that over application may lead to an accumulation of iron in the soil and reduction of pH, causing long term imbalances and negative effects to plant health throughout the rest of the year.
It is important to maintain machines by carrying out regular servicing and repairs.
As grass growth slows down, use the time to take some machines out of operation for an overhaul.
- Keep machines overhauled and clean
- Maintain a stock of consumables for your machinery, replace worn and damaged parts as necessary.
- Keep an eye on your material stocks (seed, topdressing, petrol, oil), remembering to replenish as required.
- Service machinery and equipment - changing oil / air filters and greasing up moving parts and sharpening mower blades.
At this time of the year, when the weather allows, a general tidy-up of areas around the green makes all the difference; this would include tasks such as hedge cutting, clearing ditches, painting club house, weeding paths and borders.
Check and inspect ditches, floodlights, structures and any site furniture for damage; keep the site clean and maintain a tidy appearance throughout the facility.
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