As we left fairly settled weather behind at the end of September, the Met Office are promising more of the same for October, but with more persistent rain for the south of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland in the middle of the month. Depending on where you are in the UK, temperature will be either around or a couple of degrees below average.
This settled weather should allow greenkeepers to complete any unfinished renovations, tidy up the course after, what was, a pretty dreadful summer for most and then move on to their winter projects.
Key Tasks for October
Autumn renovations are dependent on a number of factors:
- The current state of the sward and soil profile - planning and preparation
- Ordering materials early, ensuring they are available and arrive in time for your planned renovations. Ensure they are stored safely on site.
The objectives of end of season renovations are:
- To repair worn areas.
- To prevent a build up of thatch layers (scarification).
- To restore surface levels (top dressing).
- To alleviate compaction (aeration).
- To re-establish sward densities (overseeding).
- Application of pre seeding/autumn fertilisers to promote sward establishment.
Before you start, take a core sample from each of your greens to ascertain their current state. A visual inspection of the core will allow you to see the level of thatch/organic matter (OM) you have and to what depth.
Target OM levels:
An excess of OM will lead to poor hydraulic conductivity, soft putting surfaces, increased disease problems, loss of green speeds and poor all year round playability.
Appropriate renovation work will help reduce and control thatch / OM levels in your swards.
Greens: October is a key month for aeration. A wide range of aerators are put to use, from star tines, vertidrain tines to hollow tines; the choice or combination of tines will be dependent on the outcomes required. Hollow tines are used to remove a core of soil from the green which then allows the opportunity to topdress with some new materials, a process that offers a good soil, air and gas exchange in the soil profile.
Tees: Aeration of tees will continue with solid or hollow tines, in line with autumn maintenance. Aeration should continue throughout the winter when weather conditions allow.
Fairways: When the ground is capable of taking the tines, and before it gets too wet, aerate with solid tines to reduce the chance of surface cracking.
With air temperatures still averaging around 10-12°C in most parts of the country, seeding is still a viable option.
The recent spell of dry weather may have prompted disease attacks, with red thread, fusarium, leaf spot and fairy rings being common. Use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.
Prior to mowing, remove moisture from the grass surface. This will help to stop the spread of disease and improve the quality of cut.
Keep a daily diary of work carried out on the course as these records will be a valuable reference for future course management.
- Details of who worked and how many man-hours were spent on the task/activity
- What materials were used?
- Digital and mobile phone cameras should be used to provide reference at a later date. Also useful when explaining your work to a committee and/or members
Mowing and feeding
While temperatures remain in double figures, grass growth will continue, resulting in the need to continue the regular mowing regimes on the course.
After autumn renovations, most course managers/greenkeepers will be looking to increase mowing heights on greens and tees by 1mm-2mm, with many factors dictating the height of cut - soil type, grass species and golf traffic.
Mowing frequencies will vary 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 4mm-8mm.
Tees. Mowing height should be maintained at around 10mm-15mm.
Fairways. Mowing height should be maintained at around 15mm-25mm.
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.
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.
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.
As part of the autumn renovations, most groundstaff will be applying their autumn fertilisers to maintain some vigour and colour, aiming to cut back on the (N) nitrogen input and increasing (P) phosphorous elements to encourage root growth. 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 dependent on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and air temperatures being the catalyst for growth.
When approaching autumn, it is advisable to use slow release forms of fertiliser. Routine and sequential applications of phosphite, as part of an integrated disease management programme, significantly reduces the incidence and severity of the disease. This alternative to the use of iron as a turf hardener is becoming more popular. Use iron prudently to harden plant cells off and make them less susceptible to disease.
Care must be taken when applying iron in the form of iron sulphate, as swards that are dominated by Annual Meadow-grass tend to have received an abundance of fertilisers that contain a high proportion of ammonium sulphate. High levels of sulphur can lead to 'black layer'. Black layer is a deposit of metal sulphides caused by the activity of anaerobic bacteria. The anaerobic bacteria produce hydrogen sulphide which is highly toxic to turf.
Hole changing should be done once or twice a week depending on golf traffic, wear or competition requirements. The first and most important is good judgment in deciding what will give fair results. Study the design of the hole as the architect intended it to be played. Know the length of the shot to the green and how it may be affected by the probable conditions for the day - that is, wind and other weather elements, conditions of the turf from which the shot will be played, and holding quality of the green.
There must be enough putting green surface between the hole and the front and the sides of the green to accommodate the required shot. For example, if the hole requires a long iron or wood shot to the green, the hole should be located deeper in the green and further from its sides than should be the case if the hole requires a short pitch shot. In any case, it is recommended that generally the hole be located at least four paces from any edge of the green. If a bunker is close to the edge, or if the ground slopes away from the edge, the distance should be greater, especially if the shot is more than a pitch. Consideration should be given to fair opportunity for recovery after a reasonably good shot that just misses the green. For more information about Hole changing click on the following link :-http://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/the-art-of-hole-changing.html
Monitoring the performance of your playing surfaces is a key skill that should be adopted by all greenkeepers.
These can include measuring sward height, composition of grass species, soil temperature, weed content, levels over a 3m level, hardness and infiltration rates (porosity) of the soil rootzone.
GPS mapping devices can measure, chlorophyll, moisture content and deviation in levels. Soil tests will also help determine soil type, nutrient status of the soil, organic matter content, CEC capacity and soil pH.
Keeping a record of these parameters will help you have a better understanding of what is going on within the playing surface and enable you to make better decisions on what maintenance inputs are required.
The opportunity to control weed growth by using chemical products is not viable due to the lower light levels and fluctuations of air and soil temperatures. The efficiency of systemic products will be greatly reduced and, in most cases, will not work effectively when the plant's metabolism has slowed down. Other cultural practices may be undertaken, such as hand weeding and hoeing (bunker weeds).
Pests searching for food can cause a lot of damage on turf surfaces. Reducing or stopping their food source is a viable control method to reduce pest damage.
It is important to maintain machines by carrying out regular servicing and repairs.
As grass growth slows down, use the time to take some machines out of operation for an overhaul.
- Inspect and clean machinery after use.
- Maintain a stock of consumables for your machinery, replace worn and damaged parts as necessary.
- Secure machinery nightly with good storage facilities and strong locks
- Record makes and models and take pictures of your equipment as additional referencebetter still, take pictures of your equipment.
Pitchcare provide a range of courses suitable for golf courses. In most cases, the courses can be held on site using the club's own equipment and machinery.
Some of the courses available are:
Chainsaws - CS30 and CS31
H&S Refresher Training on Combined Turf Care Equipment; Tractors and Trailers; All Mowers (Ride-on and Pedestrian)
Machinery Courses on ATVs; Tractors: Brushcutters/Strimmers; Mowers (ride-on and Pedestrian)
Pesticide Application (PA courses)
Stem Injection of Invasive Species (Japanese Knotweed etc.)
Basic Trees Survey and Inspection
- Plan your winter works, arranging the delivery of materials and hire equipment as required
- October is a good month to plant whips and saplings, or even move large ones to other areas of the course
- Bunker construction or remodelling work should start in October to make use of the good ground conditions for transporting materials
- Inspect all water features on course, cleaning out any unwanted debris and litter. Keep streams and brooks clean and free of unwanted debris such as leaves and twigs
- 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.
- Inspect and repair or remove damaged trees and/or limbs. Take note of any fuller tree branches, which may need autumn pruning to reduce weight. Contact your local arboriculturalist as required
- Check deer and rabbit guards on whips and saplings
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*Please note that Merit will be discontinued in 2016