Growth will now have slowed down since last month and the underlying soil relatively dry as temperatures reach a peak over the next 6 weeks. With grass cover still reasonably strong throughout the UK following last month's heavy, albeit 'localised' showers, courses should remain in peak condition.
Competitions, society and visitor play will again be high at most, if not all, clubs, especially at a time when the Open Championship is televised for each of the 4 days. In July 2006 and 2007, heavy storms and flash flooding hit many parts of the UK, so there is of course no guarantee that July will be a summer 'sizzler'.
Historically, July is the warmest month of the year and high summer temperatures can put additional stress on the turf. In an average year, we can expect nearly 170 hours of sunshine in July, although more would be expected in the south of England.
Quality, smoothness and consistency of the putting surface will again be the main criteria as the golfing season reaches the half way point. With growth slowing down on the course generally, there should be more time to carry out additional work that may be required if temperatures remain high.
Routine practices will largely continue as before with mowing carried out 6 to 7 days per week at around the typical 4mm HOC. With the emphasis on putting quality while guarding against possible drought stress, a number of practices will have to be 'juggled' as to the needs of both golfer and turfgrass. High soil temperatures, ie above 18° Celsius, will start to reduce the plant's ability to photosynthesise, which in turn can lead to additional turf stress.
Therefore, physical practices such as grooming and verti-cutting may have to be curtailed while sarel rolling and hand watering are increased. The use of seaweed extracts which are full of cytokinins (plant hormones) help the plant through periods of stress by restoring the balance in chlorophyll content.
The use of wetting agents following light aerifying of the surface will help to cool the surface as well as supplying adequate moisture to the roots. During hot periods, there can also be a build of carbon dioxide in the rootzone, and needle, star or micro-tining will effectively 'vent' the soil, allowing oxygen to reach the roots.
Applying a plant growth regulator (PGR) such as Primo Maxx will help divert the plant's energy towards the roots, thus reducing the amount of water that is required as well as improving turf density. Should conditions be less stressful then work to the greens in July will largely be a continuation from that carried out previously.
Additional rolling may negate the need for daily mowing and should temperatures remain high, then raising the HOC by 0.5mm may be required. Where putting surfaces are composed largely of Poa Annua, then anthracnose foliar blight may develop. High soil temperatures and damp surfaces can exacerbate the situation and, if greens are prone to such attacks, then it is important to reduce the risk of this stress related disease.
Cultural control methods include maintaining adequate fertility, avoiding dry patch or drought stress and alleviating compaction. If chemical prevention is required, then applying a mix of the active ingredients Strobilurin and Chlorothalonil along with an adjuvant will help to protect the plant. The use of Phosphite added to a foliar feed tank mix can also be beneficial, since this can act as a mild fungicide.
Mowing 2 or 3 times per week with a ride-on triple at around 12mm will be the norm for most courses. Few courses walk mow tees since this is more time consuming. On smaller ladies tees, care should be taken as to turning, since tyre marking can easily develop since there is little scope for varying direction.
With playing levels high, daily movement of tee markers and the playing areas divoted as often as possible will be the other main criteria. Any additional watering should be sufficient to aid recovery and maintain turf vigour, but largely aimed at developing a good root structure. Presentation should be high on the agenda and this will include blowing debris and broken tees clear of the playing surface, emptying litter bins, filling ball washers and maintaining all accessories in clean condition.
A good practice is to use a small spray cleaner to clean the surfaces before being wiped clean. It is a small 'attention to detail' routine but it can make a difference. By mid summer, nutrient levels may be on the low side, therefore, applying a low N, high K mixed with a PGR will give turf the required mid-season boost. Tees composed of a high sand rootzone may require a higher level feed and, if no irrigation is available for tees, then consider using a wetting agent on a monthly basis.
Other than mowing once or twice each week, it is unlikely that any additional work will be required. Greens surrounds nowadays are largely mown with lightweight triples which can negotiate banks and mow close to bunker edges without any risk from 'scalping' or tyre damage. HOC should remain at around 35mm unless there is a need to mow closer to accentuate swales that may form part of the greens surround. Weaker areas should be dressed or 'divoted' and nutrient levels sufficient for adequate growth.
Any remaining weeds such as clover can be controlled using a broad spectrum selective herbicide.
Unless conditions become very dry, definition and presentation should still remain very good in July. Mowing may be slightly less frequent than in June but the HOC will remain the same with most courses settling for between 14mm and 17mm .
A minor 'nuisance' sometimes encountered is long stalks of grass that tend to get folded over instead of being cut. A monthly pass with a rotary mower set at about 30mm height will eliminate these unsightly stalks.
If time permits, the worst affected areas for divots should be tackled, i.e. lay up holes or where a short iron is played uphill or over a water feature. Divoting parties involving juniors or other members often works well, and the lure of a pizza and a beer afterwards usually guarantees sufficient numbers.
If further weed control is required then this can be carried out, although by July it is more likely to be limited to selected areas. For those courses with irrigation, again it is a case of adding sufficient water for the benefit of the turf and not the golfer.
The frequency of mowing should ease, particularly in areas of the main semi which should continue to be cut at the standard 50mm HOC. The narrow band of intermediate rough will still be cut weekly unless growth remains strong. Areas of deeper rough may now be ready for cutting with a flail type unit. Ideally, this should be collected, especially if a selective herbicide has been applied the previous month.
Removing the clippings will help to lower the nutrient level within these areas, thus giving the finer leaved grasses more chance of survival at the expense of many coarser agricultural style grasses. July is also a good month for controlling clover in the rough, this weed being more common on nutrient hungry and on alkaline soils.
During mid summer, raking either via machine or by hand, should be carried out on most days, although this will depend upon staffing levels and the number of bunkers present. Edging, trimming and removal of stone will be an on-going requirement, along with the re-distribution of sand to ensure an adequate and consistent depth of sand.
If prolonged dry weather persists, steep sand faces may become exposed and, as such, weed and stone may emerge. This will require constant pushing of sand back up the face and, in some cases, it may be necessary to water the sand if connection points are nearby. The reverse, of course, could also happen if short bursts of heavy rain cause wash-outs.
Mixing a PGR with both a low N feed and selective herbicide may be a good exercise for some if the bankings are both weedy and lacking in nutrient. Yellow suckling clover can be a troublesome weed around bunkers and is fairly common throughout courses in the south of England.
Lakes/Ponds/Ditches: General strimming and tidiness will be an on-going requirement during July along with further control of algae if deemed necessary in ponds and lakes. Manual removal of weed and algae may be appropriate if this can be tackled safely and the water features in question are fairly small.
Paths: Control of weeds via an application of glyphosate may be required, along with areas of steps and around ball washers, bins, signage etc. Again, this is largely an 'attention to detail' issue. Top up pot-holes as required with the appropriate path dressing and consolidate after.
Disease: Three diseases, Red Thread, Take-All Patch and Anthracnose Foliar Blight may be apparent in July. The former is more a sign of nitrogen levels being too low and can easily be corrected by applying a foliar feed with a small amount of Nitrogen. Take all Patch may be a problem if there is a sudden change in pH of the rootzone. Check water quality and sand dressings as a first stage and acidify the surface if necessary. Anthracnose Foliar Blight is listed under 'greens' and potentially the most damaging of those mentioned.
Pests: On the increase in the UK is the presence of the chafer beetle. It is the larvae however that tend to be the problem and as it emerges from its pupae stage, it feeds on the roots of the grass, thus weakening the plant. Crows and badgers regard the chafer grub as a delicacy and large areas of turf can effectively be ripped up since there is little root depth left to anchor the grass. Control can be made via Merit Turf containing imidacloprid, which is currently the only approved product on the market for controlling this unwelcome pest. The best time for application is generally early summer, therefore a July application needs to be completed early on.
Turf Disorders: Drought stress and dry patch are likely to be the main concerns as high soil temperatures can cause stress to the turf. Applying a wetting agent must be in conjunction with other practices such as micro-tining, raising the HOC and thoroughly watering the affected areas on a regular basis.
Weed control: Another good month for controlling unwanted weeds, this time more likely to be targeted in areas of semi and deep rough. As before, it is best to apply a mix of active ingredients to give different modes of action; clover, dandelion and thistle likely to be the main targets.
Equipment: Servicing and checking of equipment to continue, with an emphasis placed on hydraulic pipes, valves, safety switches and cutting units. Ensure that a check-out and check-in procedure is in place to minimise the risk of machine failure and that machinery is cleaned and re-fuelled after use.
Irrigation: With the system likely to be at peak usage, regular checks on performance and even coverage are essential, therefore all sprinkler heads and valves need to be checked on a regular basis and any dry or 'missed' areas acted upon immediately to prevent drought stress and eventual dry patch from forming. The system also needs to be checked both automatically and manually every so often. Any leaks should be noted and, if not urgent, left until a day when the system is not in use.
Stock Control: Continue to keep a check on machine parts, irrigation joints, wetting agent, turf conditioners and so on, replacing those that have been used.
Laurence Pithie MG
Turf Master One Ltd