Recent Novembers have tended to be either very wet or quite dry with only a couple experiencing near normal rainfall. Frosty mornings have tended to be few and far between as temperatures have generally been relatively mild. These type of conditions can raise disease pressure as well as an early return of worm casting for many courses.
With reduced hours of daylight, morning play can be quite busy but afternoons quiet and it is during this time when most work can be completed. November is also the month when clearing leaves becomes the daily routine although not all courses are affected. Our 130 or so links courses and those on open downland do not have to allocate time for this task and are also fortunate not to be affected by problems of shade.
By November, growth will have slowed down considerably, especially on sand based greens where temperatures fall quicker. Any late season renovation work should have recovered by now and the aim for all courses is to enter the winter with turf in good health and free from any stress.
For greens to survive the winter period and constant play, the grass plant must be strong, the surface firm and both drainage and airflow good. Every step must be made to maximise this situation otherwise there will be a high dependence on temporary greens and the use of fungicides; neither of which equate to good business. Mowing frequency will gradually reduce and become more of a 'clean-up, come roll' operation to maintain good, smooth playing surfaces.
HOC for most will now be around 5mm but a few courses will wish to maintain lower heights for as long as possible. It all comes down to turf health vs green speed and the risks involved. The weaker the turf the higher the risk of disease infection and reduced tolerance to wear, therefore caution is recommended. Regular aerifying should now be the norm and this is likely to be in the form of deep tining, solid tining or slitting. A very light sand dressing can be applied afterwards to restore surface firmness, but care must be taken not to smother the turf.
Disease control measures will be at the forefront for many Course Managers and it is all about maintaining dry and open surfaces. This, of course, can be a considerable challenge if rainfall levels are high. The use of one of many iron products on the market, such as Go-Green, has been shown to reduce disease pressure as long as other practices are carried out and that good Potassium levels are also maintained. Using a dew dispersal can help but the cost and duration of effectiveness may also limit their use.
Rolling vs mowing will help prolong their effectiveness since no part of the leaf is being removed. Any fertilising at this time of year must be minimal and only what the plant requires; this being generally restricted to sand based greens where nutrients are more likely to have leached through the root zone.
Many courses will use designated winter tees for the next few months, thereby giving the main tees time to recover before next Spring. Where this holds true, then the aim should be to aerify and dress these teeing areas. Unless the teeing areas are rye free and consisting of bent and/or fescue then over-seeding can still be worthwhile since dwarf rye can germinate at temperatures below 10 Celsius.
Any badly worn or damaged areas, eg from tyre turning or rabbit damage, should be re-turfed now in order to give maximum recovery time. For those tees in play, then routine divot filling and periodic light sand dressings will be essential to maintain good playable surfaces. Maintaining dry surfaces should also be a daily requirement for improved turf quality as well as being appreciated by the golfer.
Clearing leaves may or may not be required depending upon each individual tee and likewise earthworm control. Regularly sand dressed tees are likely to be relatively worm free but there are always exceptions and banks are more likely to be affected than the teeing surfaces. Either way, an application of Carbendazim will give effective control for around 2 to 3 months. Mowing requirement is likely to be a weekly pass and the HOC should be between 12mm to 15mm for the majority of courses.
The key maintenance requirements around greens are for traffic control measures, aerifying and sand dressing, followed by worm control where necessary. The objective is to protect the turf from excessive wear and this can only be achieved if the ground is dry, firm and the turf is in good health. It is also best to attend to these tasks early as opposed to dealing with the problem reactively.
Every course has its own 'pinch points' due to design and limitations for traffic movement and it is these areas that should be the first priority for such work. The side of the green adjacent to the next tee will be at far greater risk than the opposite side, therefore such work should be limited to where it is necessary in order to maximise labour and material costs.
Various methods of traffic control can prove effective, whether it is via white line or post and rope and it is down to individual circumstances for what works best, ie the latter is ineffective if the course has the presence of deer or is constantly vandalised. Once routine measures are established, then playing quality will improve each year and the need for such work will become less.
Collars should be treated as per greens with regards to treatment since there is little point in having dry, disease free putting surfaces and damp, disease scarred collars. Mowing height for collars should be the same as per tees whereas green surrounds are unlikely to change from the norm of around 35mm.
Mowing requirement is now likely to be a weekly to fortnightly requirement, depending on individual circumstances although the HOC is likely to remain the same or marginally higher. Between 14mm and 17mm is the industry norm for winter fairway height. If worm control is required then this should be carried out as soon as conditions are favourable.
Where worm casting is present then fairway quality will diminish and in severe cases, it can impact surface drainage. For leaf clearing, a tractor mounted blower probably offers the best line of defence since large areas can be cleared relatively quickly and leaves moved to areas where it can be collected via a sweeper or manually loaded into a trailer.
The latter can be time consuming but, fortunately, is limited to about a 6 to 8 week period. Aeration work should now be underway, either deep tining or deep slitting as long as ground conditions are suitable, ie not overly wet. Where drainage has been installed, possibly at 10m spacings and the areas in between lie wet, then the use of a rotary decompactor such as a Shockwave can help move water into the drains relatively quickly.
Mowing should now be at an end although odd areas may require a final cut before the year draws to a close. Leaf clearing will be high on the agenda for many clubs and the same criteria applies as per fairway clearing. If worm casting is a problem then key areas such as corners of dog-legs can be treated otherwise it can be an expensive operation to treat large areas where grass height is 50mm. Management of deep or out of play rough should continue when time permits with a view to 'cleaning' and 'topping' all areas.
This will also prevent leaves from being stuck in long rough and then rotting down over the winter months.
Routine maintenance work such as trimming and edging should largely be finished since growth will generally have ceased. This being the case, the emphasis will be on reducing sand build-up on the faces of well used bunkers and periodic moving sand back up the face after wash-out. Any planned bunker renovations (see last month's comments) should now be underway and regular updates and photographs should be made available via the club's website and/or notice board.
For most courses, it is a case of maintaining bunkers in a good playable condition and to this end it may require opening up existing drain lines and cleaning out blocked pipes or adding additional drainage. The other likely requirement is for re-turfing of droughted or worn/damaged banks. Where this is the case, this task is best completed early in order to give the turf maximum time to grow in and settle. All areas recently re-turfed should be kept out of play to avoid further damage.
Lakes/Ponds/Ditches: General trimming and tidying around water features plus the need to ensure that ditches are free of debris and that water can move freely are the key requirements. Ditch crossings may need repaired or re-turfed, depending on what type of surface is present.
Paths: At this time of year it is more a case of ensuring that paths are free of main pot holes and that their condition is satisfactory to the standard desired. Path ends in key areas may need to be sand dressed if the exit point is on heavy soil or that where drainage is insufficient. This may be a regular requirement for some courses and may also require additional traffic control measures.
Trees: The clearing of leaves has already been mentioned and is undoubtedly the main task this month. General tree trimming is an on-going requirement but usually a task left to when ground conditions are unsuitable for other work to commence.
Disease: During November, disease pressure from Fusarium is likely to be high for many courses. Just to re-iterate what was stated in the September article, the disease is caused when the pathogen Michrodochium Nivale changes from saprophytic mode to a parasite, once environmental and cultural conditions are favourable.
These include, surface wetness, shade, lack of air movement, thatch, compaction, shallow rooting, poor oxygen supply within the rootzone, poor drainage, over fertilising & so on. In summary, it is all about managing turf in a more healthy condition. Where greens are prone to this disease then chemical control must be part of an IPM strategy.
Depending upon soil temperatures at the time of disease, applying a mix of a systemic and contact fungicides will give the best form of control. Using chemicals with different modes of action will give a broader spectrum of activity whereby the disease is tackled at different stages of its development.
Pests: Other than earthworms which have already been listed as the main pest to be controlled at this time of year, leatherjacket grubs may also be apparent as they emerge from pupae stage at the end of Autumn to feed on the roots of turf. These larvae are still relatively small but can inflict considerable damage if present in large numbers. Fortunately, they are controlled relatively easily with the active ingredient Chlorpyrifos and mixed with a penetrant to ensure maximum effect below ground.
Turf Disorders: For Black Layer see last month's comments. Another turf disorder that may be troublesome is algae, which is an indication of surface wetness, often brought on by poor surface drainage, shade and thatch. The key to controlling algae is to correct the physical condition that is causing it to be there in the first place. Aerifying and adding Axis will help to dry out the surface but this has to be part of the answer in overcoming poor surface drainage and wetness. Applying an algaecide chemical is not the solution although it may give temporary relief.
Equipment: As regular usage of mowing equipment is fast diminishing, this is the time of year when equipment can be thoroughly cleaned, serviced and units sharpened. Any repairs can be made and parts replaced where worn such as ball joints, bearings and housing brackets etc. A check on all hydraulic motors and pipes must also be made at this point and any wear of such items noted for replacement. A check of filters and other stock parts should also be made to ensure that necessary spares are in stock and ready for use.
Irrigation: The system should now be drained down and any repairs should have been completed last month while water was still available for testing. It is essential that this work is thorough to ensure that no water is left in the pumps which are most at risk from freezing.
Compound: As in previous months take any opportunity to tidy up external areas of the compound and to check on supplies of sands, gravel and fungicide which are likely to be required over the coming months.
Laurence Pithie MG
Turf Master One Ltd