Key Tasks for June
The good news is that play has been recontinued, albeit on a limited basis - for now.
As cutting frequencies increase, alter cutting directions and patterns to reduce the amount of stress from turning circles and the problem of grass ‘napping’. Remember to make large turning circles where possible, or to make three-point turns.
Tees, fairways and surrounds will require heavy divoting as volumes of play start to increase. The warmer weather and sporadic showers should allow for quicker germination and establishment. Similarly, any bare areas should also be renovated to try and reduce potential levels of weed/poa invasion as we move through the growing season.
The increased temperatures and sunshine hours will bring with it increased volumes of play. Whilst pressures to produce the highest levels of playing surface will be high, with many competitions and social events occurring, remember the importance of little and often aeration and topdressing. During warmer, drier periods, do not use tines that will leave large holes (e.g. slit tines), as the ability of the hole to fully recover will be lessened in these conditions.
With expected continued dry weather, irrigation systems will begin to be used more often. Ensure that all pop-ups and central systems are in good working order. Cleaning the system and ensuring the sprinkler arcs are in the correct positions should be major objectives. Trimming around the pop-ups and valve boxes will aid presentation and increase the speed of work during busy morning periods. Try to use the pop-ups when the surfaces need moisture, as this is better practice than applying water at set intervals or when there are few signs of stress. Also, check your water quality, what pH is it? Is it suitable for your green? Check filters on recycled water systems. Poor water quality will affect plant growth and sustainability.
Mowing frequencies can vary from daily to twice weekly operations dependent 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 season.
- Greens - Mowing height should be maintained at around 3.5-6mm.
- Tees - Mowing height should be maintained at around 10-15mm.
- Fairways - Mowing height should be maintained at around 15-20mm.
- Rough and Semi rough grass areas - Mow and tidy up these areas.
Changing of hole positions should be carried out regularly, however frequency will be dependant on a number of factors; green size, greens construction, tournaments, amount of play and condition of the green. During 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 golfers' feet. Most golf courses are changing their hole positions at least three times a week.
Light topdressings of sand/rootzones are essential for maintaining surface levels preparation and again, 'little and often' being the ideal practice. Aeration should also continue, using a mix of micro, needle or star tines which give maximum effect and almost zero turf disturbance. Sarel rollers are another alternative; the main objectives being to 'vent' the rootzone and to allow water to move quickly from the surface and into the rootzone, thus encouraging the turf to root deeper.
Moisture management could also potentially be a key feature of the month. Now is the time to get ahead of dry patch with a wetting agent – prevention by applying them whilst the soil is still moist is much better than cure on baked hard massively hydrophobic soils. 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.
- 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.
As parts of the country begin to open back up for sporting activity, there is no let-up in recent pressures for many across the industry. With effects of the Covid-19 crisis ongoing, there will be a lot of variance in what is achievable for individual facilities but, as late spring gives way to early summer, let’s look at how we can focus on providing the grass plant with some helpful assistance where circumstances allow.
Consistently warm soil temperatures in June create ideal conditions for fertilisers with an organic component, whether that be straight organic fertilisers or organo-mineral. Organic sources of nutrition help to support the soil food web and manage the soil-plant system in an holistic fashion. Spring inputs of nitrogen aiming to get things going can be reduced and grass growth will naturally start to drop back as temperatures rise. In the wild, the plant would have now gone through its leafy growth spurt and be diverting energy into setting flower.
Calcium is a key driver of growth for roots and shoots, as it is responsible for the construction of cell walls. Calcium availability can become limited in dry soils, so ensuring soil levels are adequate and supplementing with foliar calcium helps to maintain good health. Calcium, along with potassium, are essential for regulating stomatal function, helping the plant to better react to the onset of heat and water stress. Cold pressed liquid seaweeds contain plant hormones which also help to regulate against water stress and are a significant resource to be employed. Seaweed also contains hormones which promote germination and establishment.
The use of wetting agents, where it was feasible this spring, will start to pay dividends during June if hot weather occurs. Ideally, these should have started with the application of a block co-polymer in March at the latest, to give the soil a chance for the chemistry to accumulate in the soil. Where that wasn’t able to take place, or where planned applications were interrupted, penetrants surfactants will facilitate increase of water from the surface, although the holding capacity in the soil will be reduced.
Regular sarrel tine aeration is a key cultural means of maintaining soil moisture levels as the shallow but tightly spaced tines puncture a large percentage of the surface area, allowing gas to escape from the soil and better aiding the percolation of water from the surface.
Growth regulators such a trinexapac-ethyl and prohexadione-calcium applied during periods of good growth in anticipation of hot dry weather to come will help the plant to conserve energy and manage water stress, again mitigating drought pressure.
With respect to irrigation, applying water at the end of a hot day creates a nice thermal blanket, trapping a greater percentage of the day’s heat in the soil.
Little and often watering is appropriate for germinating seed and very young plants, but it is advantageous to thoroughly wet the profile and then let the soil dry down to just above wilting point if you can. This encourages the roots to penetrate and allows carbon dioxide to leave the soil and life-giving oxygen to enter.
Little and often watering also maintains surface humidity and will encourage algae, mould and fungi such a botrytis and Rhizoctonia spp. to attack swards.
Disease such as dollar spot and anthracnose may become a concern as the month progresses. Ensuring adequate fertility and soil moisture levels are cultural means to lessen the impact of these fungal pathogens by mitigating plant stress. Closely monitor weather forecasts, your historical site records and disease predictors to keep an eye out for major outbreaks. Resorting to a systemic fungicide if required.
Chafer grub traps deployed in May should have shown up garden chafers on sites where that species is present. Regular monitoring and recoding of other areas for adult beetles of the other species will facilitate the prediction of accurate intervention points for treatments such as entomopathogenic nematodes and Acelepryn later in the summer, should you be managing a site authorised for application of this insecticide. Acelepryn has been awarded an emergency authorisation again in 2020 but this time it is split into two windows, one each for Chafer grubs and leatherjackets respectively. As with 2018 and 2019 applications of Acelepryn are governed by a stewardship process and all releases of stock must be validated by a BASIS qualified advisor.
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.