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.
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.
January seems to have come and gone in a flash, in what has felt like a busy period. The heavy rainfall and freezing temperatures earlier in the month seem to have subsided and it has allowed many to be full steam ahead with projects and continued turf maintenance. It’s always nice to hit the ground running at the start of the year and make good progress, to set things up for the year ahead.
The long-term forecast looks favourable at the beginning of the February, but then towards the back end of the month things look likely to change, with much wetter conditions and low temperatures still no higher than 4°C. Suggesting that there won’t be any significant growth potential for most of the month, which is as expected. Although, in recent years there has been known to be almost a ‘false’ spring in February, which has allowed for more maintenance to be carried out and some recovery from winter wear. If this is to be planned in this year, tracking the forecast will be key to ensure the right window of opportunity is found, to get the best possible outcomes.
There is a significant difference in the amount of daylight available at the beginning of February compared to the end of the month, with approximately two hours more daylight and above 50% increase in the height of the sun (Mid-day). This can mean a turning point for areas of turf that have been cast in shade for long periods, which comes at the end of the month, and so will now benefit from this increase in light, improving the overall health of the turf. The increase in sunlight provides more opportunity for photosynthesis and the turf can begin to ‘wake up’, however this is not an immediate shift, given it’s following on from the colder winter weather from January and early February. Unless you are fortunate enough to have resources, such as undersoil heating and growth promoting lights, its’s best not to hastily try to force growth into action. This can lead to needless wastage of products and potential impacts on the environment from leaching of nutrients that can’t be taken up by the plant. Therefore, unnecessary applications should be avoided.
Monitoring current soil temperatures will give a good indication of when suitable and worthwhile applications can be made. Once soil temperatures start to reach 8-10°C, the rhizosphere will start to have sufficient warmth to support biological activity and influence soil respiration by increasing enzyme activity. At this point, you can start to encourage winter recovery and stimulate some early season growth; an application of a low % nitrogen granular fertiliser with a readily available source of nitrogen such as ammonium could be applied. Soil samples, if already carried out will provide useful information for planning future nutrient inputs. Supplementary applications of biostimulants such as seaweed, humic acids and sugars will start to stimulate soil activity and provide a much-needed carbon source as activity starts to increase.
Protecting the plant in February against potential oncoming stresses can maintain good plant health and will lessen any potential damage. The use of silicon and calcium will assist in strengthening cell walls; amino acids and harpin protein can help protect against cold weather damage. Where conditions may not be suitable for granular fertiliser applications, turf hardener type products, in the form of liquid applications, can also strengthen the plant ahead of these stressful situations.
Gains can be made in February, but nutrient applications should only be made to provide the plant with what it needs or what it can use. Applying excess amounts that can’t be utilised by the grass plant will only be wasted. The possibility then is to make further applications to try and encourage growth, and with a change in conditions there can be bountiful amounts of nitrogen in the soil which could lead to an undesired growth response later in the year.
Low temperatures should continue to assist in keeping disease pressure low. As ever, monitoring weather conditions is key, and any applications should ideally be made preventatively ahead of disease development. If required, an anti-sporulant fungicide such as fludioxonil is suitable for when growth is minimal.
There is still no chemical available to provide control, therefore continue your cultural practices to minimise their impact as much as possible. As conditions improve and surfaces dry out, brushing ahead of mowing may help clear the surface to keep the effect of smearing minimal.
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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.