Expected weather for this month:

Dry, settled start to the month with above average temperatures throughout

It's all systems go, with Easter behind us and the temperatures heading steadily upwards to produce regular grass growth. Greens drying out can cause problems, so make sure you have a means of watering, whether it be by hand or by automated pop-up watering systems. The key is to ensure the soil profile is watered enough to cope with the evapotranspiration rates (amount of water lost), which on a warm day can be as much as 6mm. Crown greens will be more susceptible to drying out, so hand watering may be required to wet up the crown.

It may also be a sensible option to raise the height of cut to help the grass plant tolerate any dry periods; just raising the height by 1-2mm will help.

Other than that, it's a feed, aerate and mow time - enjoy.

Key Tasks for May

The emphasis at this time of the year will be on mowing frequency, as long as there is sufficient moisture within the soil:

  • Apply 'little and often' foliar feed, consisting of mainly Nitrogen, with other nutrients and ingredients, such as Potassium.
  • Continue to seed sparse or bare areas.

Mowing. Greens should be mown at least three times a week, with some grooming, verti-cutting or brushing being undertaken on a weekly or twice weekly cycle to improve air movement and reduce thatch levels building up in the sward profile.

The sward will be actively growing due to the increased soil temperatures, coupled with the stimulation of fertiliser applications. Regular mowing will be required to maintain sward height at around 4-5mm. Verti-cutting/grooming fortnightly can be carried out to help speed up the green and help improve the health of your turf.

Aeration should continue, using a mix of micro, needle or star tines which give maximum effect and almost zero turf disturbance.

Regular use of a sarrel roller will be beneficial and the use of micro tines to aerate the green will help reduce soil compaction, 'vent' the root-zone and to allow water to move quickly from the surface and into the root-zone, thus encouraging the turf to root deeper.

Irrigation: Soil and air temperatures usually increase in May, often bringing on the need to irrigate. If soil profiles, particularly sandy soils, are allowed to dry out too much they often become water repellent (hydrophobic), a state when soils can become difficult to re-wet. Often the first areas to suffer on greens particularly crown greens are the high spots on the green. You may need to spend more time hand watering these problem areas.

When you do water, ensure you go to a depth of 100-150mm to encourage the roots to go down to find the water.

Fertilising: On surfaces requiring an injection of growth, a nitrogen source such nitrate or ammonium will be readily available to the plant. Something such as Advanced Generate 12-3-9 +2Mg +2Fe has the benefit of the whole 12% nitrogen source being ammonium which is readily available to the plant in cooler conditions. It also contains a big hit of sulphate at 34% which is an essential element for plant metabolism and amino acid production in the spring. On top of that, it also contains magnesium and iron, which will increase chlorophyll production to maximise the efficiency of photosynthesis as well as harden the leaf cell walls against disease and cold weather stress.

If March was a useful spring month with adequate temperature and available moisture, this April has proven to be the polar opposite. Without those two key driving factors, grass growth across the majority of the UK has somewhat stalled. As a result, nutrition, particularly of the controlled release or organic type, will have remained relatively untouched in the soil. To a slightly lesser extent, the same can also be said for conventional release fertilisers, particularly with the lack of rain to flush them through the soil.

This means that where granular fertilisers have been applied, either at the end of March or during April, then once warmer temperatures and rain fall do arrive, we can expect a delayed response.

The key points of understanding here is that we cannot force a result in terms of response to an application, particularly where water cannot be added even if temperatures are adequate. Once those key drives do arrive though, things will really kick in and we can start to implement cultural operations and nutritional programmes.

Poa annua

Given the recent dry and cold prevailing conditions, poa annua has been placed under a great deal of stress, which is leading to the early setting of flowers and uneven growth. Light topdressings will assist in evening out consistency of bowling surfaces. Operations which will thin the sward, such as verti-cutting, should be resisted in such conditions however, as there is not adequate growth to repopulate the thinned areas.

It really is a case of gently nurturing stressed plants through these conditions, with gentle cultural operations and spoon feeding nutrition and biostimulants.

When weather conditions break, be mindful of prolonged warm, humid and still conditions which will enable diseases such as Microdochium nivale to take hold on the stressed Poa annua.  

Nutrition

Whilst conditions remain unfavourable to granular applications, it is liquid foliar applications which are more likely to elicit a response form the plant, particularly when warmer spells of weather are forecast. Adding a small quantity (50 ml per 100 l tank volume) of a high quality liquid humate, such as Maxwell HumiMax, will further chelate the fertiliser, enabling it to pass into the plant leaf more readily for increased absorption and uptake efficiency.

Potassium is a plant nutrient traditionally favoured for autumn winter applications; however, potassium is absolutely critical to the efficient operation of plant stomata, the pores on a leaf’s surface which open and close in response to water demand. For this reason, a steady adequate supply of potassium during the spring and summer helps grass plants to better regulate water usage, increasing resistance to drought pressure.

Research is also increasingly understanding the importance of silicon applications as a preventative nutrient, which will strengthen plants resilience to a range of environmental and pest stresses.

Seaweed is another vital tool in the armoury when it comes to improving uptake of fertilisers and helping plants to resist stress, which should be regularly applied to all turf areas.

Wetting Agents

Utilisation of a penetrant and polymer wetting agent programme, which will drive water away from surfaces and into rootzones, where it can subsequently be stored more efficiently to be utilised by the plant, is a sound strategy for the majority of sports turf locations. Research the market and invest in high quality solutions. Prevention of dry patch with applications prior to symptoms is the most effective strategy.

Herbicides

Traditionally, the end of May presents a good time to spray for weeds in turf areas, applying herbicides immediately prior to, or during, periods of strong active growth. Again, adding a small amount of a liquid humate (50 ml per 100 l tank volume) will significantly aid herbicide uptake and efficacy.

Leatherjackets and chafers are prevalent at the moment. There has been a very interesting discussion on the Pitchcare Forum about these pests; and there is a detailed article on how to deal with them on the Pitchcare Website.

As soils warm up, there may be some symptoms of plant parasitic nematode activity. There are two categories of nematode which will infect grass plants; Ectoparasitic which migrate along the outside of roots and feed accordingly on root cells and Endoparasitic nematodes which enter the root tissue and feed on the plants in these areas.

Be vigilant for the following symptoms:

• Yellowing and thinning of the turf

• Reduced turf vigour

• Premature wilt

• Turfgrass that is slow to recover from stress

• Turfgrass that does not respond to fertilisation

Biomass Sugar will assist in returning balance to the soil and reducing plant stress associated from parasitic nematode attack.

Microdochium patch may also pop up as temperatures increase, particularly if the warmth occurs in conjunction with humidity and moisture on the leaf for prolonged periods. Systemic fungicides can be considered but only as a last option.

Please note: More information on these and many others can be found here: https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php

  • 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 Chris Johnson for information.

The Course Manual is available for purchase separately.