The unsettled conditions experienced in the latter part of June look likely to continue into July.
As with June, this month's main tasks will revolve around presentation and the playing qualities of the course. In July, most clubs should be up to speed with their daily maintenance regimes; greens, tees, fairways and bunker hazards should be at their best, both in a visual and performance perspective.
As temperatures continue to rise, we will need to be ensuring consistency across our putting surfaces. Reducing the cutting height and ensuring the cutting units are sharp should therefore be a priority.
If we do get any dry spells, irrigation will be a priority. It is important to apply the correct amount of water, uniformly and to depth. In recent years Greenkeepers have resorted to applying wetting agents to help maximise the uptake of water into the soil profiles.
Presentation of the course will be at the forefront of the greenkeeper's mind, ensuring the whole course is looking its best and everywhere is tidy and set for play.
Key Tasks for July
Mowing frequencies should remain high, with mowers set at their summer heights. As levels of competitions and societies increase, 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.
Greens - Mowing height should be maintained at around 3.5-6mm.
Tees - Mowing height should be maintained at around 10-15mm.
Fairways - Mowing height should be maintained at around 15-20mm.
Rough and Semi rough - Mow and tidy up these areas.
Horizontal growth should be controlled through the use of regular brushing and verti-cutting, with the latter occurring between 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 horizontal growth up 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 - 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.
Fertiliser requirements will still be high, especially on USGA specification greens. As we move into a period of summer stress (drought), we should be thinking of utilising a better ratio of nitrogen to potassium. Potassium will play a major role in the plant in these periods, by affecting chemical and moisture transfer through the root system, as well as allowing better stomatal control by the individual plant. If potassium is inadequate, the level of metabolic activity will also reduce as enzyme structure can become markedly changed. This is an unwanted scenario during a period of stress. Look to a product with an NPK ratio of something akin to a 9-7-7 or a 12-0-8.
As we move deeper into the month, soil temperatures will reach very high levels in places, and the propensity for surfaces to dry out will increase under a warm sunny sky (doubly so if it is windy). Watering the greens will become a major consideration, but do not become reliant on this practice to reduce drought stress. Where possible, hand watering should be employed, especially on high spots, to help reduce the chance of dry spot.
Carry this out in a manner as close to nature as possible, soaking the surface at irregular intervals, rather than using a little and often approach as with topdressing etc. The use of modern wetting agent technology such as Qualibra, with a penetrant/polymer mix will allow soils to hold water at depth, thereby reducing irrigation costs and requirements whilst encouraging deeper rooting.
Water management will be key this month. Most courses will be looking to utilise wetting agents where possible, especially in well draining situations in the south, to save money and a valuable resource. Making the correct decision with regards to which product to purchase will be key. As with everything else, try not to rely solely on price, unless you are severely restricted in your budget.
Where possible, try to find one that suits your own situation, aims and application ability. Monitoring the effect they have on your own course’s soil will provide you with a great idea of when the next application would be prudent, and how long the product lasts in your situation. This can be done with a moisture probe. There are a number of products to be browsed in the PItchcare shop at pitchcare.com/shop. Upon application, remember to water the products in well to avoid scorch.
Growth regulators could also be a key tool this month. The advantages include a healthier root system and reduced top growth, with a view to reducing the drought stress the plant will be under. Reducing vegetative growth decreases the amount of energy required for growth, and the amount of moisture required to sustain high rates of photosynthesis. An application of Primo Maxx has been shown to increase density, colour and root mass even in hot and dry conditions, whilst also reducing mowing requirements and wear on machinery.
Top dressing and aeration
Utilising the little and often approach with topdressing and aeration practices should help ensure a smooth putting surface, whilst increasing the general health of the root system. Try not to apply more than 0.5 tonnes per green of top dressing and, where possible, try to use pencil tines or similar when aerating. Deep aeration should not be required during this month, due to the dry soil conditions, but regular spiking will allow more oxygen into the rootzone, aid root development and drainage potential during periods of heavy rainfall.
Products such as Oxy rush and Primo Maxx can help further enhance root zone and system health as well, respectively. In hot and dry situations such as we can expect, ensuring the plant uses the root system as the plant’s ‘fridge’ will be very important. A monthly application of these products can help provide aerobic conditions beneficial for soil micro-organisms and divert the supply of nutrients from vegetative to root growth, thus ensuring that the basis for a healthy sward is maintained
Other General Work
Bunkers / Daily:- Inspect, weed and rake bunkers.
Course Inspection / Daily:- Inspect greens, tees, flags and hole positions for damage or vandalism.
Ponds, lakes and streams /Weekly:- Inspect all water features on course, cleaning out any unwanted debris and litter.
Seed bare and worn areas / When conditions allow:- Greens, Tees and Fairways. Over seeding of sparse or bare areas can be continued, the rise in temperature will help germination. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for diseases. Remember that without good seed to soil contact the operation is useless. Ensure you use new seed as old material may not give you the required germination rates. Remember, bents and fescue grasses require higher soil temperatures for successful germination.
Tee boxes, pegs / As required:- All tee boxes, tee pegs and competition markers should be inspected daily, cleaned and moved to new positions as required.
Wetting agents / As required:- If wetting agents are being used, they are generally applied monthly throughout the season.
Woodland and conservation areas / As required:- High and strong winds can damage trees on golf courses. Inspect and repair or remove damaged trees. It is important to inspect trees regularly (heath & safety) to reduce the likelihood of a golfer being struck by tree debris.
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.
If the agronomic principles within sports turf areas are governed by the three fundamental laws of physics, chemistry and biology all working in harmony, then the overarching master variable which regulates the system is - the climate. As all those involved in turf maintenance and management will attest, the climate is becoming more unpredictable and variable. The other trend is for the peaks and troughs within this pattern of variability to be more extreme.
At the time of writing, we are not too far gone from the hottest June day on record at 34.5 °C; however, a few short days later, the blazing sunshine and heat had been replaced by a 16 degree temperature differential, lingering cloud and the promise of persistent and heavy rainfall. For the turf manager, then it is a lurch from one extreme to the other and, practically speaking, it is ever more important to implement sound turf maintenance principles in a bid to generate surfaces which are able to withstand such rigours.
From one stress to another
As the climate lurches from blazing sunshine, intense heat and high evapotranspiration to low light levels, high humidity and potential waterlogging, so the plant is exposed to abiotic (environmental) stress one week and biotic (organism) induced stress the next.
Accordingly, a turf surface may enter wilt and dormancy one week or it may come under attack from fungal diseases the next. The key thing to understand is this; as the extremes are more intense and unpredictable, the buffer zone of tolerance before the onset of plant, and ergo surface damage, comes under increasing pressure. Turf surfaces which do not conform to good agronomic standards and are not being maintained with sound agronomic principles will have a very narrow buffer zone of tolerance, and will be toppled over the edge into damage far quicker than those which are.
So, theory aside, what practical steps can turf managers take through throughout July to help mitigate against stress damage?
- Use weather windows wisely
Time waits for no man and the British weather is no exception. Make sure you have stocks of feed and treatment on the shelf; in this way, you can make applications at the very best time to maximise positive effect on the plant and soil ecosystem, thus maximising turf quality and value for money.
- Monitor climactic patterns and gain an awareness of triggers
5-7 day forecast is hot and sunny – foliar apply seaweed to trigger plant systemic-acquired resistance mechanisms, tank mix with a little potassium to better regulate stomatal function and thus water loss, add a little calcium to compensate for its lack of mobility in dry conditions by shortcutting it straight into the plant where it can be utilised for the growth of cells.
5-7 day forecast is warm and humid – foliar apply some seaweed and a carbon sugar, again to trigger plant systemic-acquired resistance but also to boost plant beneficial rhizobacteria in the soil, add some phosphite and calcium to guard against fungal pathogen penetration of the leaf.
The key factor for determining success with these strategies is three fold: Monitor the upcoming climate > Understand what the prevailing climate will trigger > Understand the mechanisms by which products have an effect on the plant and in the soil.
The number one rule which applies to both - undertake these operations proactively prior to the stress, aim to prevent not cure.
- Look after the physics
Coming into or out of a wet period – soft ground means opportunity for deeper vertical aeration which will allow the soil to breathe assisting soil microorganisms and encourage deeper vertical rooting, increasing the plant’s tolerance to dry periods.
Coming into or experiencing a hot period – undertake sarel or star tine aeration to break through a high percentage of the soil surface, increase the ability of irrigation or water to penetrate, thus increasing the surface’s tolerance to dry periods.
General agronomic jobs for July
- Maintain wetting agent programmes.
- Maintain plant growth inhibitor programmes.
- As a rule of thumb, apply granular feeds when rain is prevalent and look more toward foliar or liquids when experiencing dry spells.
- Don’t apply herbicides when experiencing hot weather, as the plant will have shut down its systems, massively reducing uptake, transportation and thus efficacy.
- Continue to monitor the life cycle of insect pathogens such as leatherjacket and chafer beetles in readiness to apply entomopathogenic nematodes, as per the seasonal application periods.
- Monitor for anthracnose activity - the spores will have been activated by high temperatures at the end of the May and again the end of June, incubation takes around 6 weeks. Chemical treatments are an option, as are weekly small doses of nitrogen.
Recently, we have seen incidences of turf diseases such as Microdochium nivale (fusarium) on greens. Fairy Rings are in evidence and Red Thread has swept spectacularly through a lot of outfield turf. With such a peak in disease activity in mid-summer we are expecting continued problems over the next few months; therefore acting preventatively by applying a systemic fungicide such as Heritage Maxx will be the most effective form of control. Application before symptoms are visible but the threat is imminent is the key to success when adopting a preventative approach.
Weed growth is very active during July, and may require the use of selective herbicides. 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.
Golf clubs invest a lot of money in buying equipment, they genarally have large fleets of mowers and other course machinery such as sprayers, top dressers, aerators and many other small mechanised hand tools, all of which require regular servicing and maintenance.
Having a good wash down facility is an essential tool for keeping equipment clean, there are a number of companies who spcialise in the installtion of these facilites.
In recent years, we have also seen clubs investing in their own grinding machines for keeping the mowers sharp; running mowers with sharp blades improves the quality of cut and ensures the plant is kept stress free.
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.)
Basic Trees Survey and Inspection