Expected weather for this month:

Generally unsettled with seasonal average temperatures

October tends to be a month that can swing either way from prolonged dry spells and resultant dry patch to distinctly autumnal wetter days. Key things to keep an eye on will be night time temperatures, relative humidity and periods of leaf blade wetness. 

Warmth and available moisture are the keys to both grass and fungal pathogenic growth. If night time temperatures fall, growth rates will start to drop off, however lower night time temperatures will lead to heavier morning dews, prolonged periods of leaf blade wetness and increased risk of attack from fungi.

If your local conditions are at the drier end of the spectrum, water stress can quickly creep in, especially on windy days when evapotranspiration rates are higher. This is something which represents a particular risk to newly sown seed which may be in the initial stages of early germination and establishment.

Key Tasks for October

General Maintenance

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:

0-20mm 6-8%

20-40mm 4-6%

40-60mm 2-4%

60-80mm 2-4%

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

Cooling temperatures, shorter days and longer nights, and heavy dews inextricably lead to reduced recovery growth, fungal pathogens and worm casts. October truly is the middle of Autumn and the steady march towards winter gathers pace. That said, October can still throw up some sunnier and drier spells, not to mention vibrant autumn colour, so all is not lost for the month. It does undoubtedly represent a time of change for turf managers as the plants needs adjust with the environmental conditions.

Nutrition

Accordingly, nutrition geared towards growth should be placed on the back burner. Organic fertilisers are best phased out any time after the start of the month as the release of nitrogen is inhibited once soil temperatures fall below 10 ◦C.

Nitrogen, the key driver for growth, is in much lower demand within the plant and forcing growth with nitrogen has its risks, but it is important to maintain adequate potassium levels.

Traditionally, accepted wisdom has been preventative applications of iron sulphate throughout the autumn and winter. The latest research demonstrates that iron sulphate statistically performs no better than control when used in this manner and, when used curatively, only reduces disease by 40-50%. Furthermore, iron sulphate is acidic and, when applied to the leaf, can actually weaken the cell structure. Phosphite is a much better option to use in this manner and calcium is the element responsible for cell wall thickness, not iron. Hence, we should all be applying calcium in combination with phosphite to effectively guard against disease.

Silicate is utilised by grass plants to provide structural support to cells. When applied as a foliar plant feed, available forms of silicate will accumulate in the secondary cell walls, providing added protection to biotic (pathogen) and abiotic (environmental) stresses.

Aeration

Increasingly, we see greater extremes of weather and the main pressure during autumn across many areas of the country can be heavy rainfall.  Aeration ahead of prolonged periods of rain aids percolation rates, which helps to maintain appropriate soil/water ratios and which are important for microorganisms and plants alike. This aeration can take numerous forms, however a mix of deeper aeration from solid or hollow tines will facilitate water movement to deeper depths in the soil profile. This can be combined with frequent shallow sarel tine aeration, just into the surface, which has the benefit of aerating a large percentage of the surface area, aiding initial movement away from the surface.

It goes without saying that, whilst frequent aeration is important during wet conditions, it should only be undertaken when ground conditions allow, so to avoid surface damage and soil compaction.

Maintaining the soil water balance prevents hypoxia (deprivation of oxygen) and black layer due to sulphur metabolising anaerobic bacteria proliferating in low oxygen soils.

Penetrant wetting agents will aid water movement through profiles and are worth considering as another tool in the armoury.

Pest Control

Two main pest issues are causing pressure to turf managers currently. Insect pests, in the form of Leatherjackets and Chafer grubs, and worms.  Both sets of circumstances are due to the withdrawal of chemical pesticides.

In the case of the insect pests, we are in the second season without chemical controls. Some sites were caught out in spring 2017 due to missing preventative controls in late summer 2016. The control in question is Entomopathogenic nematodes, a natural native predator of the insect pests which have been proven, over many years, to be very effective when applied correctly; i.e. at the right time of the pest life cycle and in conditions conducive to beneficial nematode activity. 

The approach to managing pests with biological controls is multifaceted and requires a thoughtful prepared mindset. The Pitchcare articles library and the shop webpages provide a wealth of information on this subject to help you maximise your results.

The control of worms is a significant issue for turf managers, and the withdrawal of Carbendazim for their suppression earlier in the year means that this is the first time we enter the main worm season without any legal means of mitigating their effect. There are a number of products available on the market which are known to have effects on worms in a variety of ways; however, knowledge as to their effects on the environment, the grass plant rhizosphere and wider soil ecosystem are extremely limited to non-existent.

In some circumstances, we may have to consider cultural management combined with tolerance in the form of dispersal when dry, or localised acidification of rootzone surfaces. Consideration of controls which are sustainable in the long term is also important.

There are no easy or perfect answers to this situation, but turf managers should arm themselves with informed knowledge before taking decisions, especially where they feel they are employed by organisations who may not be overly sympathetic should the ultimate outcome of a decision be something unintended.

Disease

Disease management will be at the forefront of turf managers minds across the country. Whilst soil temperatures remain above 10◦C, systemic fungicides are still an option; otherwise, products with a contact action will be required.

Autumn/Winter 2017 is likely to mark the final season turf managers will be able to call upon the eradicative action of products containing the contact active Iprodione. For many years, this has been the go to active ingredient providing eradicative activity of numerous diseases. With this option removed, turf managers have to arm themselves with the knowledge and skills to manage surfaces to prevent against disease. One method in the integrated armoury for achieving this is via plant nutrition. In this regard, the main elements are calcium, phosphite, silicate.

Traditionally, accepted wisdom has been preventative applications of iron sulphate throughout the autumn and winter. The latest research demonstrates that iron sulphate statistically performs no better than control when used in this manner and, when used curatively, only reduces disease by 40-50%. Furthermore, iron sulphate is acidic and, when applied to the leaf, can actually weaken the cell structure. Phosphite is a much better option to use in this manner and calcium is the element responsible for cell wall thickness, not iron. Hence, we should all be applying calcium in combination with phosphite to effectively guard against disease.

Silicate is utilised by grass plants to provide structural support to cells. When applied as a foliar plant feed, available forms of silicate will accumulate in the secondary cell walls, providing added protection to biotic (pathogen) and abiotic (environmental) stresses.

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.

Specialist Courses:

Basic Management & Maintenance of Ponds and Wetland Areas

The Maintenance, History and Ecological Principles of Wildflower Meadows

Turf Science and Soil Science

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.)

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

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