Grass growth is still strong following the rain and higher-than-normal temperatures in October. With the end of summer renovations now completed, most golf Course Managers and Greenkeepers are preparing their courses for the winter period. Daily maintenance is ongoing with the added burden of leaf clearing.
Following the strong winds caused by Storm Brian, it is imperative to keep an eye open for any tree damage. Inspect and repair or remove damaged trees and/or limbs. Take note of any fuller tree branches which may need pruning to reduce weight, and make a thorough check of general shrub and tree health and contact your local arboriculturalist if required.
Key Tasks for November
At this time of the year, most course managers and greenkeepers will be looking to increase mowing heights on greens and tees by 1-2mm.
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.
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 season.
- Greens- Mowing height should be maintained at around 4-6mm.
- Tees- Mowing height should be maintained at around 10-15mm.
- Banks- Mowing height should be maintained at 22-30mm
- Fairways- Mowing height should be maintained at around 15-25mm.
- 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. Mowing height will depend on type of course and the standard of play required. Mowing height of cut during the winter between 50-100mm.
Fertiliser programmes are not generally carried out after November due to the change in air and soil temperatures, as most turf grasses usually start to become dormant, slower growing. However, some greenkeepers may apply some liquid iron to keep the turf healthy and strong. USGA greens often do require some top up feeding during the winter to maintain nutrient status of the green.
Overseeding of sparse or bare areas can be continued in November, particularly when using rye grasses. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for diseases.
Aeration is the key to keeping the golf course open throughout the winter periods, especially on heavy soil courses. Various aeration programmes will continue when conditions allow, using a whole range of tines, solid, slit and hollow tines. A wide range of solid or slit aerators are put to use on the greens. It is essential to keep the greens aerated to maintain air and gas exchange in the soil profile, thus improving the drainage capabilities of the greens.
Aeration of tees will continue throughout the winter when weather conditions allow.
When the ground conditions are favourable, aerate fairways with solid tines to increase air and gas exchanges in the soil profile. Encouraging deeper rooting of fairway grasses is important. Deeper rooted grasses are more likely to overcome stresses in the following year.
Inspect, weed and rake bunkers. Repair any damage from rabbits or other animals, maintain sand up the face of the bunkers to prevent erosion and sand loss. Bunker construction works may start in November to make use of the good ground conditions for transporting materials around.
Changing of holes should be carried out regularly. You may be looking to change the hole positions more than three time per week during wet periods.
The works are generally centred on drainage work, bunkers / tees refurbishments, ditch clearance, pathway construction and tree work.
As ever, decisions on agronomic inputs are governed by climactic conditions. October witnessed certain extremes with Atlantic storms delivering forceful winds and heavy rain to the west of the British Isles whilst many other areas simultaneously experienced unseasonal warmth and, for some periods, even sunshine.
Such variability necessitates turf managers at all levels to keep themselves informed of upcoming weather forecasts and also ensure they are suitably prepared with the relevant inputs in stock. This means they are then able to react to application windows swiftly and decisively. Reference to growth degree and growth potential forecasts further allow managers to time inputs when the plant is the most receptive to efficient uptake and utilisation.
Traditionally, November brings with it short, dull days with plenty of rainfall and stormy weather, potentially good for removing leaves off the trees but less favourable for good turf conditions.
November then is a good time to be mindful of good sound cultural practices.
- Remove dews to minimise periods of leaf blade wetness, thereby reducing humidity in the sward canopy and helping to prevent fungal pathogen advance.
- Aerate little and often whenever ground conditions allow to facilitate balanced soil water/air ratios, maintaining aerobic conditions and supporting beneficial soil microorganisms.
- Remove leaves from surfaces to prevent microclimates which promote conditions for pathogen attack and also weaken the plant, making it further susceptible.
- Raise mowing heights to increase leaf surface area and accordingly help the plant to compensate for reduced day length by maintaining photosynthesis potential (the plants energy factory), such that plants can maintain healthy and efficient metabolic function.
Nutritional inputs should be applied with the aim of maximising plant health and resilience through November in a bid to prepare the plant, and thus surfaces, to better cope with the oncoming rigours of December, January and February.
From a feed perspective, adequate nitrogen for plant function is all that is required; forcing growth for aesthetics or recovery from disease scars potentially risks increasing susceptibility to pathogens.
Pay close attention to the secondary micronutrients, sulphur, calcium and magnesium as well as the assorted micronutrients. No one nutrient is more important than the other, they are just required in different quantities. Identifying deficiencies and topping up plant levels with liquid applications is the best way to provide a healthy balanced diet which will allow the plant to be happier, healthier and more resilient in the coming months.
Wetting agents are a go to item at the start of the season with an eye on preventing drought and dry patch. Correct water management should be a prime concern all through the year, with penetrant wetting agents designed to drive water through the profile being the tool of choice from October and November onwards.
Biostimulants are still useful tools through November, whether it be seaweed, sugar or humic substances. Applications should be timed during periods of low disease pressure when they will be most useful to the plant and its associated beneficial microorganisms. Avoid applications during times of pathogenic pressure so as not to further facilitate their function.
Disease management is due to become more challenging following the recent EU vote to not renew the approval of Iprodione on the grounds of human health concerns (Iprodione is an endocrine disruptor). Notification of withdrawal is expected in December, with end of sale and use/disposal of stocks expiry dates expected to come into effect around March and June respectively.
October, November December 2017 then are the last peak fungal disease months where turf managers will be afforded the luxury of a ‘knock it on the head’ active ingredient with which to act reactively to visible signs of disease attack, whether that be mycelium or scarring.
For many months, these diaries have sought to promote the message of Integrated Turf Management with respects to proactive, preventative disease management. Rather than an option, that principle is a rapidly approaching as a necessity.
Anyone seeking further help and advice on such matters should not be afraid to reach out and seek assistance, whether that be from informed peers who are already successfully utilising such techniques, or by telephoning Pitchcare and asking to speak to one of eight BASIS registered advisors, all of whom are trained and accredited in the latest legislative and management practices.
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 other 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.)