Key Tasks for April
It's a difficult time for everybody, and our advice is to follow any guidance issued by the Government and the Sports Governing Body regarding the maintenance of your sports surfaces. In addition to the maintenance guidelines below, you will also find topical advice on the Pitchcare Forum on how to manage your surfaces should the Coronavirus restrictions be increased.
Your number one priority is to keep safe.
Hopefully, with spring renovations underway and no players at the moment, 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 spring renovations are completed, there is the business of daily maintenance routines.
Now, mowing operations are in full swing, with frequencies varying from daily to weekly 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.
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.
We face what is an unprecedented situation in modern times. Each and every corner of society at large is facing the reality of global pandemic at the hands of a microscopic infectious agent consisting of genetic material, in the form of long chains of DNA or RNA molecules. Viruses are somewhat indefinable; having been said to be “organisms on the edge of life”. As we all already knew, but are now understanding, whilst they are both incredibly small and incredibly simple, viruses are able to impact all avenues of human life and society on a gargantuan scale. Their simplicity is, of course, their greatest strength.
At a time when the whole of human society is facing its greatest viral adversary since the 1918-19 H1N1 influenza pandemic, the value of the sports turf industry and the dedicated people who work to facilitate a surface for play, will no longer be in an active position of contributing towards providing recreational sporting activity in people’s daily lives. The industry, both at a professional and amateur level, contributes great value to the recreational activities of society; activities which will be sorely missed by many, but perhaps this presents an opportunity for them to be appreciated anew once they return. There are many challenges to be faced in the coming weeks and months, both professionally and sadly personally too, but with each hardship also comes opportunity. In particular, awareness of the smaller things; the details we often overlook in our busy day to day activities and pressures. Time may also be there for thought, reflection and inventiveness. For it is in the quiet times where the greatest opportunities for inspiration and creativity lie. These will be the things which allow all of us to collectively rise from the hardships. Things will be different, but we have it in our control to be able to make things a better kind of different. I was speaking to a Head Greenkeeper of thirty-five years’ experience a few weeks ago. Just as the current situation started to take shape, he said to me; “one thing’s for sure, we’ll all learn a lot from this, each and everyone one of us.” He was right. Let’s make sure we all support each other as an industry to make those lessons count.
The impact of this should mean that we do not hide from a situation where sports turf professionals and amateur volunteers across the country are facing immediate tough challenges and stresses. Clubs of all sporting disciplines will be facing tough decisions, relating to business and people, with curtailed budgets due to wholesale drops in revenue, and reduced staffing due to efficiency savings and governmental advice. All these things are real, and all of them are tough. However, I know that one thing at the forefront of the mind of everyone involved in the day to day management and maintenance of a sports turf area will be the continued maintenance of the facility and the grass plant. For whilst human society grinds to a halt, nature in all its spring-like glory relentlessly endures without pause or consideration for human constructs. In the current situation however, we must be realistic about what we can achieve and we must, as with many aspects of our life, focus on the basics; the basics with respect to the grass plant are nutrition, light and water.
Key Agronomic Points
- Grass plants not being subjected to play will be under reduced levels of abiotic stress. Without the need for play, we can reduce this further by increasing heights of cut. This will allow the plant to collect more energy, giving solar radiation and in turn create more carbon, both for itself and the beneficial microorganisms inhabiting the rhizosphere - as a result, we would expect plant health to be more resilient. Slow release spring fertilisers will provide cost effective nutrition in a steady flow, helping to regulate growth in a manner which promotes plant health but reduces pressure for maintenance.
- Plant growth regulators, such as trinexapac-ethyl and prohexadione-calcium, will reduce growth pressure and may help to ease the mowing burden on stretched teams working reduced shifts or split days.
- Water management will be assisted by sarrel tine aeration, which is time efficient, cost effective and allows a large surface area of the turf to respire gasses and percolate water. Surfactant programmes may still have a place for those seeking to reduce costs with water bills, should irrigation be required later in the year.
- Pests such as leather jackets and chafer grubs will continue in their life cycles. So, whilst it may not seem the most pressing thing to pay attention to at this moment in time, maintaining observations as part of your Integrated Pest Management plan will be crucial for timing operations later in the season. The aim being to keep surfaces in the best condition possible later in the year, and at a time when maximising revenue streams may well be even more important than ever.
The coming weeks will be challenging, but if we do support each other as a sports turf community we can all help one another to the other side.
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.
Grounds Training was established in 2006 to provide a complete and unique service delivery training courses for the sports turf industry. We are now the go-to provider for on-site, bespoke training for groups. Grounds Training also works with the industry’s awarding bodies – Lantra and City & Guilds (NPTC).
We provide training for a wide range of ground care machinery courses, safe handling of pesticides as well as Basic tree survey & Inspection course . All our courses are delivered by industry qualified instructors registered with Lantra Awards and or NPTC.
We also offer a small number of open courses at our site at Allscott ,Telford.
All the courses we have to offer can be found by visiting https://www.groundstraining.com/