Key Tasks for August
With usage gradually getting back to normal, you should be back into an almost a full maintenance regime.
Greens mowing frequencies should remain high, with mowers set at their summer heights. As levels of competitions increase, there will be an emphasis on ensuring that 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.
Remember, do not bring the cutting heights down to more than a third of the total height of the plant at any one time. As the cutting units are used more regularly, the sharpness of the blade is of paramount importance to reduce the incidence of pressure from disease. If disease does occur, a judgement call will need to be made as to whether it will ‘grow out’ with good growing conditions, or the situation is not likely to improve.
Horizontal growth should be controlled through the use of regular brushing and verti-cutting, with the latter occurring between every 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 judgement 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 - i.e. 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.
As we head into August, the levels of grass growth should be at a peak for the year. This means a lot of mowing for greenkeepers but, more importantly, a greater requirement for essential nutrients. Playing surfaces should be monitored closely for signs of nutrient stress and, allied with soil sample results taken in the spring, fertiliser choices can be made to suit the conditions and type of grass/soil present. The increased growth rate will lead to accelerated thatch accumulation. Utilising the various ways of reducing this is of paramount importance to reduce the occurrence of disease and other problems further down the line.
Moisture management could also potentially be a key feature of the month. Many greenkeepers have invested in weather stations to inform of potential evapotranspiration rates within their sward. Remember not to let the soil dry out too much, but keep irrigation practices as natural as possible. Soaking the playing surface every few days is better than religiously watering at set schedules. Moisture meters are available to help you have a greater understanding of the situation beneath your putting surfaces.
Tees - Mowing requirements are unlikely to be more than twice per week unless conditions are damp and growth remains strong. HOC will also remain at around 12mm for most courses but should be raised for non irrigated tees that are suffering from drought stress. Playing levels are likely to remain high, therefore daily movement of tee markers and regular divoting will be the norm to maintain good surface quality and presentation.Any additional watering should be sufficient to aid recovery and maintain turf vigour, but largely aimed at developing a good root structure. Solid tining with no more than 13mm width tines may be an option to help with moving water quickly from the surface.
Keeping surfaces clean and free of divots and broken tees must be a daily task as well as the need to clean and maintain all course accessories.
Fairways - By August, definition between fairway and light rough can often fade due to the dry conditions. Much will depend on the amount of rain that falls unless of course the fairways are irrigated. Mowing is likely to be less frequent than in June and July but the HOC will remain the same, with most courses cutting at between 14mm and 17mm. At this time of year, divot damage may be slow to recover, therefore divoting of the worst affected areas may be required.
Roughs - Mowing frequency of many areas of rough will be less in August, unless it is a wet month and growth is continuing. As before, the main areas of rough are likely to be rotary cut at 50mm. Any areas of intermediate rough will still be cut weekly, but this is limited to just one or two 'bands' wide. Cutting areas of deeper rough should continue, with the aim of collecting the grass and lowering the nutrient levels to encourage the finer and slower growing grasses to thrive.
Lastly, keep tabs on playing qualities (PQS) as well as aesthetic qualities within the sward. A whole host of factors could conspire to reduce either within the putting/playing surfaces. Monitoring them closely, and on a regular basis, will provide you with a better understanding of your course. Recording findings gives an ability to compare results from previous years. Checking practical elements such as consistency and height of cut, using macroscopes and prisms, will also provide insight during a busy period.
Entering August signals the start of late summer, and with it shorter days and cooler nights. After a very dry spring, June and July have been months where rain showers have prevailed. Coupled with the warmth these months naturally convey, it is hard to think of more useful period for plant growth. As it happens, the same conditions have been quite useful for pathogen growth too.
Strategic application of nutrition aimed at providing the grass plant with the means to maintain consistent health are as important as ever. Calcium is a key nutrient to regulate water use efficiency, as well as increase tolerance to biotic and abiotic stress via thickening of the plant cell wall.
Sufficient nitrogen is always a delicate balancing act and, with frequent showers utilising a granular form as a foundational base will help to provide a more stable supply that little and often feeds with liquids; however, they can still be utilised to top up granular feeds as growth and plant health dictates.
Towards the end of the month, dews will become heavier potentially providing suitable conditions for microdochium patch. At the start of the month, the risk of high temperatures combining with high humidity will promote disease such as rhizoctonia. High temperatures during July’s hot periods may have activated Anthracnose. Other diseases such as take-all patch and waitea patch and dollar spot may occur.
The key here is to understand the environmental and cultural triggers, and then employ nutritional and cultural strategies to counteract the risks. Increasingly, with the withdrawal of chemical fungicides the turf manager is responsible for seeking out the knowledge to understand the drivers of each disease and then employ multiple tactics to combat the risk. For example, take-all patch attacks the base of the plant and root system, acidification in the rhizosphere helps to combat this; something which can be achieved via the regular application of manganese through high risk periods. Anthracnose, it’s a saprophyte, which means once triggered by hot temperatures it lies in wait for senescent (dying) plant material to trigger its attack into full blow foliar blight. Avoiding the stress mitigates the pathogens ability to pounce. Therefore, adequate moisture, consistent appropriate nitrogen levels and the avoidance of other diseases (Anthracnose often occurs as a secondary infection) will help to keep it at bay.
Pests and Diseases
Effective integrated pest management necessitates monitoring of local target pest populations as a precursor for taking action. Chafer beetle lures set out in May will have given an indication of hot spots for adult activity. Lifting back turf in zones identified to be high risk for grubs allows turf managers to eyeball larvae and take action. The same can be said of leatherjackets; simply sheeting the surface with a 1m2 sheet of plastic overnight may encourage larvae to rise to the surface. Knowing what your high-risk areas are, and then identifying the level of pest incidence, allows for targeted treatment with Entomopathogenic nematodes. This biological control requires warmth and moisture in the soil to be most effective. Targeting this year’s larvae when they are small and susceptible gives your army of microscopic worms an increased chance of success. With chafer and crane fly larvae hatching out in August and September, these are the key months to gain preventative control and prevent problems in spring and early summer 2021.
Preparation for end of season renovations should be in full force; the prime aim being to manage organic matter accumulation and promote recovery of the grass plant in time for autumn and winter. Biostimulants, such as liquid seaweed and humic acids, will promote seed germination and establishment in combination with the usual fertilisers.
Senior Technical Manager – Amenity | MBPR
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.