Key Tasks for October
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:
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.
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.
The start of October promises to be fairly settled as high pressure dominates and clear skies promise low relative humidity and cold night time temperatures. The sun is still high enough in the sky that bright sunshine during the day will provide enough energy to drive continual recovery growth from post drought renovations. It is likely, however, that settled weather will not extend throughout the whole of the month; beware cloudy days, milder nights, still days and high relative humidity, for these are the conditions where Microdochium nivale will proliferate. With the withdrawal of the fungicide Iprodione in June of this year, autumn 2018 is the first year UK turf managers head into high periods of disease pressure without a get out of jail curative card. Furthermore, there is significant pressure on other active substances so don’t be surprised if autumn 2019 sees us with even less chemical options on the menu. Now then more than ever, all levels of the turf industry from top end professional to the hard working volunteers of the local amateur scene need to engage with a proactive mentality of Integrated Pest Management. If you are at all unsure of what this entails, then pick up the telephone and call one of the Pitchcare Technical Advisors who will be able to provide you with advice on cost effective solutions and practical steps to implement.
Regulating nitrogen inputs to maintain steady hardy shoot and leaf growth is a priority. Lush growth is more susceptible to attack by fungal pathogens so slow release nitrogen, either polymer coated or methylene urea in combination with straight urea, will give longevity through to the new year. Where conventional fertilisers are chosen, ensure the ammonium value is not above 4 or 5 percent.
A dose of micronutrients is a good idea to ensure the plant has a full menu of essential nutrition.
Iron – the traditional go to option for hardening the plant in the winter. However, there is no research to suggest iron plays a role in hardening the plant against pathogen attack. Calcium and silicon are the proven elements for this need. Sulphate of iron in particular will weaken the cell walls of the leaf due to the acidity, rather a fully chelated iron with a pH more towards neutral will be far less antagonistic towards cell wall integrity and beneficial leaf dwelling beneficial microorganisms.
Carbohydrates - Applications of carbon energy in the form of sugar during the autumn will be sorted in the plant and soil over winter. The benefit of this is a more resilient and well developed plant in the early spring.
Seaweed – maintain seaweed applications during October, but avoid applications at times when environmental conditions favour fungal pathogens. Seaweed will illicit important beneficial defensive and stress responses in the plant and associated microorganisms when applied ahead of disease activity and when conditions favour the disease.
Amino acids – play an important role in abiotic stress tolerance, helping plants to prepare for and cope with autumnal and winter stress events.
Humates – continue applications to maximise nutrient availability and application efficiency as well as providing habitable zones for beneficial bacteria.
Ø Adequate balance nutrition of all plant essential elements not just NPK
Ø Minimise stress by raising heights of cut and avoiding activities such as top dressing which weaken and damage leaf integrity
Ø Look after the soil via regular light aeration
Ø Reduce periods of leaf blade wetness by removing dews or using dew dispersants (apply only to a dry leaf)
Ø Monitor disease forecasts via resources such as Syngenta’s Greencast
Ø Plan, stock, apply beneficial nutrition as part of non-pesticidal disease management
Ø Take advice on and plan strategic preventative fungicide applications using historic data, live weather forecasts and site specific conditions and protected maintenance operations which may cause abiotic stress.
There are no legal substances which can be applied for the control of worms. Any substance or products which act directly upon worms would never be approved by CRD for authorisation.
The only legal option is modification of the local surface soil environment via acidifying with specifically formulated solutions of ammonium sulphate or the application of straight sulphate.
Beware regular applications of sulphate of iron, they may well discourage surface casting activity, but the iron will accumulate in the soil causing long term imbalances and negative effects to plant health throughout rest of the year.
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.)