With the main growing season coming to a close, many course managers/greenkeeperss will be undertaking end of season renovations on tees and greens. This usually sees a programme of works that encompasses scarification, aeration, topdressing, overseeding and fertilising.
Restoring levels and overseeding tees and greens will be beneficial whilst soil and air temperatures remain favourable during the month.
In addition to end of season renovations, course managers / head greenkeeps should now, if they have not already done so, plan their winter works programme - clearing out ponds and ditches, bunker replacement / repairs, path repairs and, of course, any new construction works.
It is important to ensure that all materials (seed, fertilisers, topdressings) and any hired machinery have arrived and are secured and stored safely on site ready for use. Often, when ordering materials late, you may be faced with delays on delivery or not being able to get the products you want in time for your planned works.
The intensity of your renovation programme will be dependant on your individual requirements. However, it will be important to inform the members of your intentions and works programmes in advance. This will alleviate any confusion and clarify why these operations are taking place.
The objectives of end of season renovations are:
* To repair worn areas
* Prevent a build up of thatch layers (scarification)
* Restore surface levels (topdressing)
* Alleviate compaction (aeration)
* Re-establish sward densities (overseeding)
* Application of pre seeding/autumn fertilisers to help promote sward establishment
The weather will be an important element when carrying out end of season renovations, planning and timing of operations are critical. You do not want to be topdressing when inclement weather is about (during rain showers) because once the topdressing gets wet, it becomes very difficult to spread and brush in. You have to work with the weather. Putting on too much dressing in one go will smother the turf. Keep jobs in proportion and keep an eye on weather forecasts.
The success of these renovations is dictated by a number of factors:
* Timing of operations
* Weather conditions
* Type and often the condition of the machinery used (aerators, scarifiers, overseeders and top dressers).
* Choice of materials
* Knowledge and experience of the persons undertaking these works.
* Budgets Available
If you do decide to use external contractors to carry out your renovations, ensure you have checked their credentials and that they have the relevant skills, experience and machinery to do the job. Obtain references.
It is important to ensure that all materials (seed, fertilisers, topdressings and any hired machinery) have arrived and are secured and stored safely on site ready for use. Often, when ordering materials late, you may be faced with delays on delivery or not being able to get the products you want in time for your planned works.
Timing of operations
The earlier you can get on with your renovations the better (mid September through to mid October are usually optimal times for renovations). It is important to make good use of the warm soil and air temperatures that will aid seed germination.
Also, there needs to be some moisture in the ground to allow adequate penetration of both the scarifiers and aerators.
It is important to work with the weather conditions, particularly when applying and spreading topdressing materials, the surface needs to be dry. However, there needs to be adequate moisture in the soil profile when applying granular fertilizer products so that they become activated and made soluble enabling then to be taken up by the plant.
Types of machinery
Choice of machinery is vital for successful renovations; ensure that scarifiers and aerators are fit for purpose and that the blades and tines are sharp, clean and of correct length. Also, check that they are safe to use and have the appropriate guards fitted.
There are many different makes and models of machines available, all of which offer different techniques or modes of action. Some scarifies are more aggressive then others.
Ideally, you need to take a soil profile of your green and measure the thatch layer present. If it measures 10mm you will need to ensure the scarifier is capable of operating to this depth, therefore being able to eradicate the thatch layer you have.
Aerators come in many different forms offering different tine spacing and depth and size of tines. Again, you need to choose the appropriate aerator for your needs. In most cases the biggest factor dictating the clubs choice of machinery is often what they have or what they can afford to hire.
Choice of materials
It is important to ensure you use compatible topdressing materials. Changing materials can often have disastrous results. Layering of different materials can cause root breaks and interfere with the hydraulic movement of water through the soil profile.
Seed should be used from approved suppliers and be certified. The use of old seed (more than twelve months old) may decrease its germination rates.
Mow the greens and tees before commencing renovations to clean up any surface debris.
Scarify to remove unwanted thatch. Collect and disposal of debris. Depending on the severity of the thatch, you may need to scarify several times in different directions. However, in most cases if regular verticutting/grooming has taken place during the growing season you would probably only be required to scarify in two directions. Do not scarify at right angles. Depth of scarification between 4-15mm depending on depth of thatch to remove. The mower can then be used to clean up the green after scarifying has been completed.
Aerate to relieve compaction and encourage root development. Aeration is the decompaction of soil, improving air and gas exchange in the soil profile. Depending on the turf's condition, you can choose to carry out hollow or solid tine spiking. Hollow tines are generally used on a bi annual basis or when you have a severe thatch problem. Depth of aeration will be determined by the depth of your soil profile and what problems you want to rectify. Hollow tining is best achieved to a depth of between 75-100mm. Solid or slit tines can be set to penetrate deeper, ideally between 100-300mm.
Topdressing, restores levels and improves surface drainage. Ensure you use compatible top dressing materials, sands, sand/soil mixes. Spreading can be achieved by several methods, utilising pedestrian or ride on disc or drop action top spreaders, or by hand using a shovel and a barrow. Best carried out in dry weather. It is important that the topdressings are spread uniformly.
Overseeding, restores grass populations. Important to ensure a good groove or hole is made to receive the seed, good seed soil contact is essential for seed germination. Good moisture and soil temperatures will see the seed germinate between 7-14 days.
Fertilising, provides nutrients for grass growth. Apply a low N nitrogen fertiliser product something like an Autumn Fertiliser NPK 5:5:15 to help the sward through the autumn period.
Brush to incorporate dressings and to help the grass stand back up. Brushing in with a lute or drag brush/mat to restore levels.
Watering/Irrigation. It is essential to keep the sward watered after renovations to ensure your seed germinates.
Disease attacks may be quite prevalent during September. Heavy rainfall will have washed and leached out many soil nutrients, especially on sandy and free draining sites. The loss of nutrients from the soil profile inevitably puts the sward under stress, decreasing the plant's ability to withstand an attack of disease.
September is a time when Greenkeepers will be looking to use some preventative fungicide treatments to ensure disease is kept under control, using systemic fungicides whilst temperatures remain high and contact fungicides when the temperatures become cooler towards the end of the month.
September Maintenance Tasks for Golf
Aeration. When conditions allow:-
Greens. Generally from May through to September any aeration completed on greens is done with micro tines only so as not to disturb the playing surfaces.
Tees. Aeration of tees will commence in September with works continuing throughout the winter when weather conditions allow.
Fairways. When the ground is fit, aerate with solid rather than slit tines to reduce chances of surface cracking.
Amenity areas. Weekly:- Tidy up any flower and shrub borders around the club house and entrance. Most summer bedding and hanging basket displays are coming to an end. New winter bedding/plant materials need to be sourced and ordered. Remove and prepare areas for planting.
Brushing/Sweeping. Daily:- Greens & Tees. Prior to mowing the surface should be thoroughly brushed. Continue to brush greens and tees daily to remove moisture from the grass surface, stopping the spread of disease and facilitating an improved quality of cut on the dry grass.
Bunkers. Daily:- Inspect, weed and rake bunkers. Repair any damage from rabbits or other animals, maintain sand up the face of the bunkers to prevent erosion and sand loss. Some golf courses experienced flash floods in August, leaving many bunkers in a poor state. Repair works may be necessary.
Course Inspection. Daily:- Inspect greens, tees, flags and hole positions for damage or vandalism.
Diseases including Moss & Algae. Daily/:- Greens, Tees, Fairways. Keep an eye on fungal disease attack. September is a prolific month for disease due to the onset of heavy dews on the playing surfaces in the mornings. Use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. Red thread and fairy rings are very active in September.
Fertiliser programme. If grass shows signs of stress (weak growth, discoloured). Fertiliser treatment and turf tonic 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.
Most groundstaff will be applying their Autumn fertilisers to maintain some vigour and colour, aiming to cut back on the (N) nitrogen input and (P) phosphate elements, and apply something like a 5-0-10 +6% Fe +2% Mg +25% Nutralene or similar NPK fertilisers. Generally, USGA sand based greens tend to be more hungry for fertilisers compared to the pushed up soil greens.
The choice of materials and how well they work can be dependant on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and air temperatures being the catalyst for growth.
Hole Changing. As required:- Changing of holes should be carried out regularly, however frequency will be dependant on a number of factors, green size, green construction, tournaments, amount of play and condition of the green. During wet periods it is likely the hole will wear more quickly, resulting in a crowning affect and surface wear. This wear is more apparent if the green has thatch problems. The hole will tend to wear quickly and form a depression caused by the placement of the golfers feet. You may be looking to change the hole positions more than three time per week during wet periods. Most golf courses are changing their hole positions at least three times a week.
Inspect Course structures. As required:- The course, clubhouse, car parks. Check and repair fences, seating, shelters, bridges, litter bins, shoe and ball cleaners, signs, and tee boxes.
Irrigation. Daily:- Check and monitor all sprinkler head controls/valves to see that they are working, and check the spray patterns and timing of each and every sprinkler head. Also check any manual systems, hose pipes, sprinklers and pumps. Soil and air temperatures during September can still remain warm and dry affecting the rate of evapotranspiration ET (water loss from both the soil and grass plants) increasing the likelihood of the ground and surfaces drying out. It is very important that irrigation is uniformly applied to keep the grass plant alive and healthy and to prevent dry patch occurring. Further information about irrigation of sports surfaces can be see on link. Irrigation.
Litter/debris. Daily:- Greens, tees and fairways. Inspect and remove debris from playing surfaces. Litter, twigs and leaves. Regularly empty litter bins/tee boxes.
Machinery (Repairs & Maintenance). Daily:- Inspect and clean machinery after use, service and repair damaged machinery.
Marking Out. Weekly:- Mark out trolley areas, out of bound site areas and range markings.
Materials. Monthly:- Estimate and order seed, loams and fertilisers, fuels and other consumables.
Mowing. As required:- Greenkeepers will try to retain their summer heights of cut (3-6mm) during September, especially as many courses still have a number of competitions running. However, most course managers/Greenkeepers will be looking to increase mowing heights on greens and tees by 1-2mm by the end of September. Other tasks that complement this work involve the use of grooming and verticutting units to remove unwanted thatch and side shoot growth. The frequency of grooming is fortnightly and verticutting monthly.
Mowing frequencies varying from daily to twice weekly operations dependant on the growth of the grass and the standards set by the course manager. Mowing heights may vary depending on local conditions, type of course, course expectations, sward type and mower type. The mowing heights are a guide, and will be subject to local weather conditions, but remember not to remove more than 1/3 of total grass height in each cut. The less stress that is placed on the grass at this vital time the better the results further on into the year.
Greens. Mowing height should be maintained at around 3-6mm.
Tees. Mowing height should be maintained at around 10-15mm.
Fairways. Mowing height should be maintained at around 15-25mm.
Rough, semi rough grass areas. Mow and tidy up these areas. Reduce build up of clippings by cutting little and often with a rotary or flail. The rough will be bursting with natural flora and fauna at present. Next year why not add some more native flower species to the rough, there are many on the market, produced by national grass seed breeders.
Pest control. As required:- The opportunity to control weed growth by using chemicals products is now not viable due to the lower light levels and fluctuations of air and soil temperatures in September. The efficiency of using systemic products has been greatly reduced, and in most cases they do not work effectively when the plants metabolism has slowed down. Other cultural practices can be undertaken, usually in the form of hand weeding and hoeing (bunker weeds).
Pests scrounging for food can cause a lot of damage on turf surfaces, foxes have been known to regularly dig up old hole placements, night after night. Moles and rabbits are still very active in September.
Birds feeding on grubs and larvae of insects can cause severe surface damage. Reducing or stopping their food source is a viable control method to reduce pest damage.
Ponds, lakes and streams. Weekly:- Inspect all water features on the course, cleaning out any unwanted debris and litter.