Key Tasks for July
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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?
Start thinking about your end of season renovations, and how you may be tackling the possibility of an extended season and the need to get onto the pitches to carry out the work. Start to build your strategy and get it down on paper. Look at what resources you will need - manpower, materials and machinery.
With reference to your machinery needs; if it's part of your inventory, drag it out, dust it off and fire it up to make sure it will work for you when you need it. If you don't have it in your inventory, but you know someone who has, a neighbouring club or school perhaps, particularly if you are on good terms with them; you may come to some arrangement to borrow it when they are not using it.
Alternatively, look at the option of hiring. There are a growing number of hire companies these days that are now specialising in the hire of sports ground equipment. With reference to your material needs, get them ordered now so that they are on hand when you need them.
Pitchcare is the only provider of LANTRA accredited training courses in the maintenance of Winter Sports Pitches. It is a one day course designed to provide a basic knowledge of rugby and football pitch maintenance. The course enables the Groundsman to grasp the basic needs of a winter sports surface throughout a 12 month period.
Initial Sports Line Marking Course: Thursday 17 May 2018, Allscott, Telford TF6 5DY.
Delegates attending the Winter Sports Pitch Maintenance course and using the accompanying manual will be able to develop their own skills, working knowledge and expertise, by understanding the method of instruction and the maintenance principles it sets out.
Details of our forthcoming autumn courses can be found on our new website Grounds Training
Included in the Course Manual, there are working diaries showing the range of tasks needed to be accomplished each month. The Course Manual is available for purchase separately.
In addition, we are able to arrange courses to be delivered on site to groups of 6 – 10 people. Email Carol Smith for information.
Other courses available include:
Safe Use of Pesticides (PA courses)
Pedestrian operated mowers