Expected weather for this month:

Expect a textbook July: very warm or hot; more dry spells

Key Tasks for July

General Maintenance

 

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.

Rink Ends

 

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.

 

As the hot and dry conditions prevail into July the quality of turf areas as dictated by the health and vitality of grass plants will more than likely sit within one of the following:

 

  • Healthy – Adequate, evenly distributed soil water.
  • Stressed – Inadequate, unevenly distributed soil water.
  • Dormant – Parched areas with critically low soil water levels.

 

Whether or not each of those conditions is tolerable on any given area, of course depends on the value of the area and the scope of available turf management resources.

Let’s look at each of these areas in more detail.

 

Healthy – Adequate, evenly distributed soil water levels.

Most likely high value areas such as golf greens, golf tees, well maintained bowling greens, cricket wickets high level winter sports.

 

Contributing Factors

  • Well calibrated irrigation systems, monitoring of soil moisture levels, monitoring of evapotranspiration levels, targeted irrigation volumes designed to replace water losses.
  • Good soil structure, low compaction, adequate aeration.
  • Adequate nutrition, use of biostimulants.
  • Preventative wetting agent programmes which started in early spring.

 

Considerations

Where soil water levels are adequate then plants will be making the most of the high light intensity, high soil temperatures and adequate moisture and performing well.

Maintain adequate soil water levels by continuing quality targeted irrigation comprising night time programmes, syringing with short bursts through the heat of the day to cool leaf and soil surfaces, hand watering of areas known to be vulnerable to drying out such as high spots on greens.

The biggest concern will be heat stress during the warmest parts of the day due to prolonged periods of intense sunshine, use of Cold Pressed Seaweed will prime plant defences to better respond and conserve water. Adopting a little and often approach by perhaps taking a 20L a month target application of seaweed and splitting that into weekly applications of 5L accompanied by some sugar carbon for system energy and a small amount of foliar nitrogen and potassium for plant vigour and water loss regulation should help to maintain a positive status quo. Amino acids will also assist plant health and contribute positively towards maintaining the status quo.

Maintain wetting agent applications designed to aid water penetration and conserve soil water levels in the profile.

 

Stressed – Inadequate, unevenly distributed soil water.

Most likely a broad range of turf surfaces with some available irrigation.

 

Contributing Factors

  • Manual irrigation, areas without automatic systems, poorly calibrated sprinklers, estimated evapotranspiration losses, lack of measurable monitoring of soil moisture levels, via moisture meters.
  • Compacted soils, minimal aeration, high thatch levels.
  • Low potassium levels and low to zero us of biostimulants.
  • Inadequate or misdirected use of wetting agents.

 

Considerations

Apply curative granules to persistent dry patches and hand water with a wetting agent pellet gun. Increase intensity of irrigation where possible and seek advice in terms of monitoring evapotranspiration losses, then aim to replace lost water through watering.

Where thatch levels are high water in the morning when the sun is up but before temperatures increase. This is because water applied in the evening will act as a thermal blanket within the organic matter preventing overnight cooling.

Penetrant wetting agents will aid water percolation, preventing run off and thereby maximising the water which is applied.

Little and often applications of potassium, and cold pressed seaweed, will help the plant to withstand the stress, carbon energy and amino acids should also be considered.

Periods of hot dry weather activate anthracnose disease which will be lying in wait to pounce on susceptible stressed turf. Doing whatever you can to maintain plant and system health will be vital in fending off a severe attack as July and August develop. Where cultural strategies cannot be employed then consider well timed preventative fungicide applications.

Longer term strategies would include engaging with irrigation experts to correctly calibrate systems, invest in soil moisture meters, monitor evapotranspiration levels, reduce thatch, alleviate compaction and instigate preventative wetting agent programmes.

 

Dormant – Parched areas with critically low soil water levels.

Most likely golf tees without irrigation, fairways, surrounds and roughs, community sports pitches and cricket out fields.

Contributing Factors

  • The biggest contributing factor with regards to the drying out and dormancy of these areas is most likely scale, both of area and budgetary resources.

 

Considerations

Where possible areas that have had previous cultural maintenance practices such as compaction relief or, scarification to keep thatch levels healthy, will be able to withstand the stress for longer.

Any areas which had an application of wide area penetrant and block-copolymer wetting agent should have lasted longer and will recover faster once rain does arrive.

The biggest concern will be monitoring areas for signs of progression from plant dormancy into plant death. Grass plants are extortionately resilient to low soil moisture and go brown as a protection method. However, should conditions prevail plants may die, signs of this are a breakdown of the roots and shoots at and just below the soil surface.

Beware; moss and Poa annua will be lying in wait as they are the species evolved to respond and establish the fastest in these exact conditions. Therefore, begin to plan now for overseeing with amenity species and cultivars, the most likely window for doing this will be the end of august or early September when soil moisture levels and soil temperature will be optimal for seedling germination and establishment, just as nature intended.

 

Final Thought

One point of note to consider moving forward is that climate changes models for the British Isles predict an increasing frequency and extended periods of extremes, whether than be wet, dry or cold.

The question turf managers at every level should be constantly asking is; what plans do we have in place to ensure that when the extremes do come, there are the resources at hand to produce a surface which facilitates play?

  • Keep machines overhauled and clean.
  • Inspect and repair any watering or irrigation systems.
  • Continue to check and service your floodlighting systems.
  • Replace any worn tines on your aeration equipment.

We are pleased to announce the launch of our new Grounds Training website, together with our new suite of Online Courses

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

We can also arrange Lantra accredited training on site to groups of 6 – 10 people. Email Carol Smith for information.

The Course Manual is available for purchase separately.