We had a promising end to March with some decent temperatures up to and over the early Easter break. Let's hope Mother Nature is kind this spring and summer, to make up for the miserable wet conditions that many people have suffered in most parts of the UK.

Not surprisingly, moss will have made the most of the damp conditions; an application of soluble iron sulphate, coupled with a scarification/verticutting pass once the moss has died off should provide the desired results.

Coming into April, with temperatures in the mid to high teens, it is a good idea to put down a starter fertiliser. This will help balance the amount of nutrients (NPK and trace elements) being absorbed from the soil by the turf. Remember that regular soil sampling will provide the best basis for fertiliser selection as we head into the growing season.

It will also be essential to finish off any winter projects, before the onslaught of the main growing season - or maybe it is already too late!

Key Tasks for April

With spring renovations well underway, most courses will be looking to aerate the greens and get some new topdressing materials back into the surface to restore levels and maintain surface porosity.

Choice of aeration varies between solid tine and hollow tine spiking depending on your goals, with the aim of getting some air back into the soil profile. Vert-draining using solid tines to a good depth (preferably >8 inches) should help the roots to start chasing the moisture down the soil profile, providing the sward with a stronger root system, which is the foundation of plant growth success.

This will be followed by topdressing with a compatible rootzone material. Do not over-do the topdressing rates; you do not want to smother your sward. The type of sand used in topdressings is vitally important, and you should be aware that most sand sales in the UK are for other uses. The sports turf market is small in comparison, so be careful if you are offered cheap materials, as these can be finer, differ in shape, colour, lime content and be more interpacking than the sands specified for sports turf.

For golf, winter pitches and bowling greens, the dominant particle range in the sand should be medium sand (0.250mm to 0.5mm).

The amount of topdressing will vary dependant on your needs. However, in the spring you would be looking to spread between half to one and half tonnes of material per green (2 to 3mm of material per m2). Many Greenkeepers are now topdressing on a monthly basis, a little and often approach.

Feeding programmes should be determined by soil analysis. Obtaining nutrient levels for greens tees and fairways will provide essential information that can be used to help choose the appropriate fertiliser product for your given turf surface. There are a wide range of fertiliser products now available and tailored to stimulate healthy grass growth.

It is important that your mowing machines are serviced regularly and are set up accurately, ensuring that both the height of cut and blade sharpness are correct. Damaged blades affect sward quality.

Irrigation systems should have been tested and calibrated by now, there is a need to ensure that all sprinkler heads are working and delivering the appropriate amount of water to the turf. You should calibrate your sprinklers at least once a year to ensure the spray pattern and coverage is sufficient for your needs. This can be done by placing out a number of catch cans on your green and measuring the amount of water collected. You may be surprised to find how much your sprinklers are actually delivering. There may be a need to irrigate during spring renovation programmes, as air temperatures and daylight hours are getting longer, increasing the likelihood of the ground and surfaces drying out.

Once these spring renovations are completed, you can then get on with the daily routines of maintenance.

Now, mowing operations are in full swing, with frequencies varying from daily to weekly operations dependant on the growth of the grass and the standards set by the course managers.

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 season.

* Greens - height should be maintained at around 4-6mm. 
* Tees - height should be maintained at around 10-15mm. 
* Fairways - height should be maintained at around 15-20mm. 
* Rough, semi rough grass areas - mow and tidy up these areas.

Ensure you clean your mowers after use (wash down or blow off ), ensure you apply some WD 40 or similar oil based lubricant on the cutting cylinder after washing down. Keeping them clean makes the job of checking cutting heights and maintaining the bottom blades easier.

Hole changing should be carried out regularly, at least three time s per week as a general rule; however, frequency will be dependant on a number of factors - green size, greens 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.

April is a good time to take soil samples, especially prior to end of season renovations and get them sent off for analysis. If you have not had one done before, you should have a full (PSD) Particle Size Distribution soil analysis done to tell you the actual make up of your soil profile. SoilTexturetriangle

Soil is made up of percentages of clay, silt and sand. The PSD Analysis will identify the ratio of these and confirm soil type, thus giving you a better understanding of what soil you are dealing with. Also, you can establish the amount of organic matter (OM) content as well as soil nutrient status and soil pH. With this information, you will be able to identify the needs of your soil.

Pitchcare provide an independent Soil Anaylsis service that enables you to get specific results for the soils you manage. Soil analysis is a means to discover what levels of nutrients are available to plants. There is an optimum for each plant nutrient and, when coupled with other properties such as soil structure and particle sizes, determine how vigorous your plants are. Different nutrients undertake different tasks within the plant.

If grass shows signs of stress (weak growth, discoloured), fertiliser treatment and turf tonic can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. Most greenstaff will be applying a spring/summer N P K fertiliser, perhaps something like a 12/0/9 or 9/7/7 will effectively get the grass moving during April, then towards the end of April/early May applying a slow release fertiliser to see you through June/July. However, the choice of material and how well it works can be dependant on many factors - soil type, weather, with moisture and and air temperature being the catalyst for growth.

There are a number of greenkeepers now using compost tea formulations to help improve the fertility of their greens, encouraging more microbiale activity in their soils, and reducing the amount of Nitrogen being applied. These compost teas are brewed on site and applied on a monthly basis along with a number of other bio stimulants.

Take care when applying fertilisers, you do not want to be over dosing or over lapping which will cause you problems. Calibrate your spreaders and sprayers before use and choose the correct nozzles/aperture settings for the product being used.

 

After the wet conditions many courses have suffered for the last six months or so, moss will be a problem everywhere. The traditional method of moss control utilises the use of lawn sand and other cultural practices.

As with anything else in turf, a preventative approach is often better than a curative or responsive approach. Ensuring a minimisation of bare areas throughout the growing season, whilst keeping in control of thatch is essential. As moss is an advantageous species, the important thing is to try and ensure a competitive growth habit by the individual grass plants. Ground coverage, especially heading into the winter, is therefore essential.

What else can be done to reduce the risk of moss invasion/establishment?

• Ensure adequate irrigation without over-watering. Many sports complexes around the country utilise an automatic irrigation system. In periods of stress, it would be advisable to water thoroughly, but to requirement. Over-watering can lead to other unwanted problems.

• Find a balance in mowing height. Particularly in golf and bowls, mowing height plays a significant part in how the ball reacts with the surface. Ensuring you can find a balanced mowing height to allow good coverage without affecting playing quality is important in all sports in terms of moss reduction.

• Reduce thatch. The utilisation of controlled frequency verticutting and deep scarification during periods of good recovery will reduce the organic content within the thatch layer. Reducing this moisture holding ability within the O horizon of the soil is very important in moss control.

• Aeration, aeration, aeration. As with anything in a sports surface, ensuring the best aeration will help provide a competitive grass sward. As mosses prefer compacted, moist soils, reducing the compaction and increasing drainage ability is a great tool in reducing the efficacy of moss invasion.

• Removal of surrounding causes of shade. In areas that are prone to moss, look around the area and whether anything can be done to reduce the shade/increase direct light levels (e.g. removal of tree limbs etc). As mentioned previously, moss is highly competitive in shade over grass.

• Overseeding. Overseeding in the autumn is recommended due to a more reliable amount of moisture and mild temperatures promoting early germination and establishment. Ensuring good establishment could be key in increasing coverage as you head into winter, particularly in known bare areas.

• A balanced fertiliser programme.

Obviously, with all of these control methods it's important to strike a balance between the needs of your customers/visitors and the effective control of moss. Following this sort of integrated approach in general should provide an excellent basis for the production of quality surfaces. Therefore, the effective control of moss could/should occur as a by-product of solid greenkeeping techniques.

Worm treatments can be carried out if needed, but please remember to ask yourself why worms are present. pH level, organic matter and your cultural practices on the turf surfaces need to be assessed.

Moles and rabbit damage, repairs as required.

Keep an eye on fungal disease attack and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.

At this time of the year, it is important that all machinery is in good condition and well maintained. Machinery downtime, due to lack of maintenance or poor set-up, can be costly. As the weather continues to improve, you will be all-out to keep your course in tip top condition.

Courses with their own workshop and mechanics will be at an advantage. Those without such luxuries need to be ahead of the game - all machinery should have been serviced and back in action by now.

Having a good wash down facility is an essentail tool for keeping equipment clean; it is a wise investment.

New courses for 2016:

The Maintenance, History and Ecological Principles of Wildflower Meadows

Basic Management & Maintenance of Ponds and Wetland Areas

Toolbox Training Refresher Course

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

More details about all the courses can be found here, or you can email Chris Johnson for information.

Ponds, lakes and streams - Inspect all water features on course, cleaning out any unwanted debris and litter. Some clubs arrange for their ponds to be dredged to clean them out while at the same time recovering any stray golf balls.

Tee boxes, tee markers and competition markers should be inspected daily, cleaned and moved to new tee positions as required.

Regularly empty litter bins/tee boxes.

Mark out trolley areas, out of bound site areas, ground under repair (GUR) and range markings.

Estimate and order seed, loams and fertilisers, fuels and other consumables.