Key Tasks for May
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 courses, 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 any 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.
It has been a challenging spring for everyone in the turf industry. With weather patterns causing prolonged periods of cold temperatures which have restricted growth. Unseasonably warm period at the end of April encouraged much needed winter recovery growth across the country which helped with the start of summer sporting seasons, some of which had been delayed a week or two.
The long range forecast for May is rather more typical with indications of temperatures around average for the time of year and projections of warmer and drier spells towards the end of the month. However the old English proverb of 'Ne'er cast a clout till May be out' should be kept in mind as colder and wetter spells with low nighttime temperatures are likely to crop up.
As a result it is likely we will experience peaks and troughs in growth and consideration towards the timing of inputs for maximum uptake and effect when soil temperatures and moisture are suitable will produce the best results.
Growth will generate plant demand for nutrition. Nitrate and ammonia have been good nitrogen sources in the colder temperatures. Out of the two ammonia remains a constant favorite throughout the spring and summer but as soil temperatures consistently warm into double figures urea and the controlled release source methylene urea will come into play.
As a foliar application Urea is very effectively absorbed into leaf tissue over a period of 48 hours where it is then metabolized into free nitrogen by the plant very effectively. As a soil source of nitrogen urea first needs to be broken apart by the enzyme urease before then being converted into the plant available form of nitrogen ammonium and nitrate. This process is dependent on the presence and activity of soil microorganisms. Consequently urea makes nitrogen less available to the plant in colder soils with its availability increasing as soil temperatures rise. The full concersion process in good growing conditions can take between 7-10 days.
A similar process is at work with organic fertilisers as microbiology goes to work on degrading and mineralizing the nutritional contents of the organic matter. So an application of organics during the month is a good option for steady sustained results.
It seems like every month is a good month for biostimulants and in many respects this is true. The three key components are summarized below.
Seaweed – contains hormones (Gibberellic acids) which accelerate germination of seed and seedling maturity. Also acts as a chelate and growth
promotor and elicitor of plant protection mechanisms in response to heat, drough and cold (abiotic) stress
Humates – Chelation and enhanced root absorption of nutrients, improved nutrient retention in soils and bacterial habitat as well as stable carbon source.
Sugar - Provide carbon energy which is the base foundation of energy processing in all plants an soil life. Consequently supports greater soil biodiversity and efficiency of fertiliser use.
By understanding the numerous benefits of the key biostulants turf mangers can utilize them to support specific desired responses from other work.
For example: Overseeding?
Apply liquid seaweed over the seed to enhance germination before adding humates and carbon into the mix at the first feed 5 days post germination with the aim of driving and accelerate growth thanks to better response from fertilisers driven by increased availability and energy in the system.
As winter sport seasons reach their conclusion the pitch renovation season begins.
When over seeding opting for the best cultivars you can afford is a wise investment in the base foundation of your surface.
Taking a broad spectrum soil analysis prior to renovation allows the identification of deficient secondary macronutrients and micronutrients. All nutrients share equal importance and by identifying the weakest link in the chain you can maximise health and performance throughout a growing in period and beyond.
One trap which can occur is to apply vast quantities of phosphorous to drive establishment regardless of the soil sample result. This is questionable wisdom because a soil sample result details plant available nutrient. Where phosphorous is high it will inhibit the availability of copper, calcium, potassium, iron, and zinc and adding more P in to the system will not encourage the plant to uptake a greater quantity. The plant will take what it needs and no more, something which is true of all nutrients.
The same can be said of nitrogen, young seedlings cannot absorb large quantities of nitrogen, a base foundation of granular fertiliser is essential as a reserve once roots develop but, wherever possible little and often foliar applications accompanied by biostimulants will support their needs much more responsibly.
As a master variable water is the key ingredient to the successful health and performance of any turf surface. Residual polymer wetting agent programs hopefully started in March to give the chemistry time to build up in the soil ahead of likely drier periods and heat stress from the end of May into June.
Monitoring of literal hotspots and considered application of water onto these areas helps to keep consistency. Where irrigation is installed ensure you are aware of the liter per minute rates for your sprinklers (speak to manufacturers and installers if unsure) and monitor weather forecasts for local information on evapotranspiration rates. When irrigating during hot periods aim to replace 50% of daily ET loss in the form of millimeters of water applied rather than minutes of water applied. There are many resources to assist with this approach which is much more beneficial and accurate towards the plants needs rather than an arbitrary amount of sprinkler time.
Weeds, Pests and Diseases
Disease pressure is likely to be low throughout May with the plant being able to outgrow any pathogen attacks which do occur. Be mindful of any longer spells of cold damp weather which do occur but only apply fungicides if deemed absolutely necessary.
Active growth is the perfect time to apply herbicides, whether it be total weed killers to paths and paving or selective herbicides to turf areas. In the case of the latter consult label recommendations with regards to timing this around any seeding operations.
May would usually be a little late to treat mature leather jackets with Entomopathogenic nematodes however, with such a delayed spring applications may still be successful. Be aware that Steinernema feltiae is the preferential spring species being more active at colder temperatures of 10°C and upwards. That being said the primary window for control is August through to October. Spring applications require a double dose rate of nematodes and even then control is likely to be reduced from what would be expected later in the year.
There is no effective spring control for chafer grubs however chafer grub pheromone traps will collect adult males on the wing and form the basis of an integrated management plan of monitoring and recording the pest life cycle so you can better time nematode applications later in the year.
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.
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
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.