Disease attacks may be quite prevalent during September, especially after the recent warm and humid weather. 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.
With the main growing season coming to a close, many course managers/greenkeepers 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. Regular maintenance regimes will be ongoing, ensuring the course is kept playable during these important renovations.
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.
Key Tasks for September
Mowing frequencies can 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.
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 13-25mm.
Greens mowing frequencies should remain high, with mowers set at their summer heights. There will be an emphasis on ensuring the quality of the playing surface remains high, with many trying to attain good green speeds and consistency of roll as a priority. Dropping the height to reach these speeds is an obvious temptation, but should not generally be used as a tool to achieve this. Instead, look at utilising rollers within your current maintenance programme to ensure good speeds without placing undue stress on your sward.
Remember, do not bring the cutting heights down to more than a third of the total height of the plant at any one time. As the cutting units are used more regularly, the sharpness of the blade is of paramount importance to reduce the incidence of pressure from disease. If disease does occur, a judgement call will need to be made as to whether it will ‘grow out’ with good growing conditions, or the situation is not likely to improve.
Horizontal growth should be controlled through the use of regular brushing and verti-cutting, with the latter occurring between every two to four weeks depending on your own situation. This should help keep on top of thatch accumulation as we move through the growing season. Grooming and brushing the greens to stand up horizontal growth before mowing will encourage a denser and more attractive sward.
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 - i.e. 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.
Playing surfaces should be monitored closely for signs of nutrient stress and, allied with soil sample results taken in the spring, fertiliser choices can be made to suit the conditions and type of grass/soil present. The increased growth rate will lead to accelerated thatch accumulation. Utilising the various ways of reducing this is of paramount importance to minimise the occurrence of disease and other problems further down the line.
Moisture management could also potentially be a key feature of the month. Many greenkeepers have invested in weather stations to inform of potential evapotranspiration rates within their sward. Remember not to let the soil dry out too much, but keep irrigation practices as natural as possible. Soaking the playing surface every few days is better than religiously watering at set schedules. Moisture meters are available to help you have a greater understanding of the situation beneath your putting surfaces.
Tees - mowing requirements are unlikely to be more than twice per week unless conditions are wet and growth remains strong. HOC will also remain at around 12mm for most courses but should be raised for non irrigated tees that are suffering from drought stress. Playing levels are likely to remain high, therefore daily movement of tee markers and regular divoting will be the norm to maintain good surface quality and presentation.
Any additional watering should be sufficient to aid recovery and maintain turf vigour, but largely aimed at developing a good root structure. Solid tining with no more than 13mm width tines may be an option to help with moving water quickly from the surface.
Keeping surfaces clean and free of divots and broken tees must be a daily task as well as the need to clean and maintain all course accessories.
Fairways - definition between fairway and light rough can often fade due to the dry conditions. Much will depend on the amount of rain that falls, unless of course the fairways are irrigated. Mowing is likely to be less frequent than in June and July but the HOC will remain the same, with most courses cutting at between 14mm and 17mm. At this time of year, divot damage may be slow to recover, therefore divoting of the worst affected areas may be required.
Roughs - mowing frequency of many areas of rough will be less frequent, unless it is a wet month and growth is continuing. As before, the main areas of rough are likely to be rotary cut at 50mm. Any areas of intermediate rough will still be cut weekly, but this is limited to just one or two 'bands' wide. Cutting areas of deeper rough should continue, with the aim of collecting the grass and lowering the nutrient levels to encourage the finer and slower growing grasses to thrive.
Fertiliser programme:- if the 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.
Lastly, keep tabs on playing qualities (PQS) as well as aesthetic qualities within the sward. A whole host of factors could conspire to reduce either within the putting/playing surfaces. Monitoring them closely, and on a regular basis, will provide you with a better understanding of your course. Recording findings gives an ability to compare results from previous years. Checking practical elements such as consistency and height of cut, using macroscopes and prisms, will also provide insight during a busy period.
Bunker maintenance during September is largely a continuation of regular raking either by hand or via machine. With growth slowing down, any edging and trimming will be slight but the focus needs to remain on stone and weed removal. Regular checks should be made regarding sand depth and distribution. If weed problems persist on sand faces, then these can be spot sprayed with glyphosate, but care needs to be taken to avoid any drift onto the surrounding banks.
End of season renovations
Renovation to tees will be a priority this month, getting the work done as soon as possible to make use of favourable air and soil tempratures.
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.
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.
Weather conditions:- 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 fertiliser products so that they become activated and soluble, enabling them 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 scarifiers 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 club's 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 dispose 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 to the previous scarification line.
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.
Top dressing 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.
Brush to incorporate dressings and to help the grass stand back up; brushing in with a lute or drag brush/mat to restore levels.
Overseeding restores grass populations. It is 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.
Watering/Irrigation:- it is essential to keep the sward watered after renovations to ensure your seed germinates.
Monitoring the performance of your playing surfaces is a key skill that should be adopted by all Groundsmen and Greenkeepers.
For many years, the turf industry has promoted the use of Performance Quality Standards PQS to ascertain the standard of sport pitch maintenance.
It is important to survey and measure the performance of your facilities; with modern technologies, tools and a camera, we can now measure all manner of aspects of the pitch/golf green or artificial pitch to ensure it meets any stated guidelines by the sports governing bodies.
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.
In recent years, we have seen the development of GPS mapping devices that 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 your playing surface and enable you to make better decisions on what maintenance inputs you will need to undertake to maintain surface playability.
Weed growth will start slowing down during the latter part of September. Depending on soil and air temperatures, this month may be the last opportunity to apply some selective weed control products.
These are more effective when the plant is actively promoting growth. Always follow manufacturers' guidelines.
Moles and rabbit damage repairs can be undertaken as and when required.
Also be on the lookout for craneflies; adults emerge from pupae in the soil in late summer and, after mating, females lay eggs in turfgrass within 24 hours. Eggs hatch into wormlike larvae, often called "leatherjackets". Leatherjackets feed on roots and crowns of plants during autumn and spring. They remain mostly underground but may feed on the above ground parts of plants on damp, warm nights. They spend the winter in the soil but do not feed until the weather warms up. Leatherjackets pupate mid to late spring, just below the soil surface. In late summer and autumn, adults emerge to start the cycle again.
Red thread and a number of other turf grass diseases may be seen after the recent changing weather fronts, conditions have been ideal for this disease. Grass plants are under stress, favourable temperatures for incubation, overcast and moisture in the ground enables the disease to spread quickly. The disease has come in because the grass plant is under stress, quite often due to the fact that it may be under-nourished. In most cases, red thread can be controlled with an application of fertiliser.
If the outbreak is severe, then treatment is likely to be necessary. Choice of a curative or eradicant fungicide, preferably with a systemic action, is most suitable. Protectant types can take time to work and seem less effective on aggressive red thread strains. This must be a last resort, as the costs of annual applications of fungicides to large areas are very high and may eventually lead to pathogen resistance.
Control should be a mixture of good sward management, good observation and use of cultural controls. Occasionally, the bottle (or box) needs to be reached for to keep sanity and the sward alive.
A dose of feed or, in some severe cases, an application of fungicide will help treat the problem.
One of the biggest investments made by any golf club is in thier machinery portfolio, with high levels of expenditure made on their mowing fleet. A ride on triple cylinder mower can now cost in excess of £25,000, so when you concider most clubs have several of them in their fleet, you can soon build up a hefty machinery investment running into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
So, it is important we look after and maintain these valuable machines, carrying out regular servicing and repairs.
It is also important to get yor staff trained to use specific machinery/equipment.
Most clubs do have wash down facilities, it is important to inspect and clean machinery after use.
Maintain a stock of consumables for your machinery, replace worn and damaaged parts when necessary.
Provide adequate storage space for machinery, secure machinery with good locks, and record make and models or, better 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
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 and 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.