Key Tasks for November
At this time of the year, most course managers and greenkeepers will be looking to increase mowing heights on greens and tees by 1-2mm.
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.
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 season.
- Greens- Mowing height should be maintained at around 4-6mm.
- Tees- Mowing height should be maintained at around 10-15mm.
- Banks- Mowing height should be maintained at 22-30mm
- Fairways- Mowing height should be maintained at around 15-25mm.
- 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. Mowing height will depend on type of course and the standard of play required. Mowing height of cut during the winter between 50-100mm.
Fertiliser programmes are not generally carried out after November due to the change in air and soil temperatures, as most turf grasses usually start to become dormant, slower growing.
Overseeding of sparse or bare areas can be continued in November, particularly when using rye grasses. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for diseases.
Aeration is the key to keeping the golf course open throughout the winter periods, especially on heavy soil courses. Various aeration programmes will continue when conditions allow, using a whole range of tines, solid, slit and hollow tines. A wide range of solid or slit aerators are put to use on the greens. It is essential to keep the greens aerated to maintain air and gas exchange in the soil profile, thus improving the drainage capabilities of the greens.
Aeration of tees will continue throughout the winter when weather conditions allow.
When the ground conditions are favourable, aerate fairways with solid tines to increase air and gas exchanges in the soil profile. Encouraging deeper rooting of fairway grasses is important. Deeper rooted grasses are more likely to overcome stresses in the following year.
Inspect, weed and rake bunkers. Repair any damage from rabbits or other animals, maintain sand up the face of the bunkers to prevent erosion and sand loss. Bunker construction works may start in November to make use of the good ground conditions for transporting materials around.
Changing of holes should be carried out regularly. You may be looking to change the hole positions more than three time per week during wet periods.
The works are generally centred on drainage work, bunkers / tees refurbishments, ditch clearance, pathway construction and tree work.
As we leave October behind, we are hopefully saying goodbye to the wet weather we have seen towards the end of the month. Early November looks forecast to be fairly settled, which will be much welcomed as we now move into late Autumn. The clocks have gone back and over the coming month there is a significant shortening of day length, which has a large impact for turf managers trying to maintain surfaces to the best possible condition. The effect of climate change on our seasons means that the run-in to the end of the year needs careful management. The absence of regular, very cold temperatures in late autumn/early winter means that we now experience effectively, a prolonged Autumn.
It is a time that tips the balance in favour of the undesirable factors and away from the grass plant; mainly because there is less available sunlight for photosynthesis, lower temperatures creating a reduction in growth rates and prolonged leaf wetness because of less dry down time throughout the day. These factors play right into the hands of mosses, algae and fungal diseases. One of the main fungal diseases throughout this period is Microdochium nivale (previously known as Fusarium patch).
Understanding the conditions which suit these undesirable factors is the best way of ensuring management practices are carried out to minimise them. Poor drainage characteristics, in particular surface drainage, often in conjunction with a build of thatch in the upper profile and spoon-feeding nutrition onto the surface, are all advantageous factors for the development of moss and algae. Therefore, it is key to ensure turf surfaces are managed, so that the balance of influential factors is weighted towards the grass plant so is kept as healthy as possible. This helps to minimise moss, algae and fungal pathogens ability to capitalise on a weakened sward and take over large surface areas of the sward. For example, where possible, reducing shade by effective tree management (pruning or removal) which ensures maximum use of the available light throughout the day at this time of year.
Undoubtedly, disease management is key throughout this month. Newer fungicide chemistry means that applications, if needed, should be made preventatively (not prophylactically) through close monitoring of disease pressure and the likelihood of disease occurrence. Essentially, pre-empting when all three factors of the disease triangle are likely to coincide for an outbreak of disease. The climatic and environmental conditions present in the UK mean that through November there is a high probability of disease pressure and outbreaks, which means being aware of what can influence the severity of an outbreak is critical to minimising the impact of one occurring. There are numerous factors to consider, but nutrition and water management are two of the main elements to address.
The aim being to promote steady, hardy shoot and leaf growth, avoiding excessive applications where flushes of growth become more susceptible to attack by fungal pathogens. The demand for year-round play on quality sports surfaces increases plant stress and the requirement for recovery, putting an increased emphasis on ensuring the right choice of nitrogen source as well as the amount applied.
Micronutrients and biostimulants are not to be overlooked, with Iron traditionally used to enhance turf colour with fewer of the negative aspects associated with excessive nitrogen fertilisation, such as outbreaks of certain diseases. Applications of seaweed will elicit important beneficial defensive and stress responses in the plant.
Water plays a major role in the development of fungal turf diseases, so it is as important to have a water management strategy for the autumn/winter period as it is for dealing with drought stress in the summer, albeit potentially different chemistries. Maintaining appropriate water/air ratio is a key factor in reducing turf stress during periods of the year when rainfall increases, and drying opportunities are reduced. Aeration timing and methods can make all the difference, sarel rolling can aid water infiltration and help surface drying with minimal disruption, with slitting giving contact to a large surface area within the soil for maximum gaseous exchange, again with minimal disruption to the surface. More heavy-duty aeration such as verti-draining can also be carried out as needed. The use of penetrant wetting agents and dew dispersants are now commonplace in a bid to keep surfaces as dry as possible and restrict the occurrence of disease outbreaks. When using a penetrant wetting agent, it enhances the draining of the soil profile, ensuring that the water has a route out of the upper rootzone; something which is essential to getting effective use out of the products. It is important that growth should be minimal when using dew dispersant products. This increases the longevity of the product which would otherwise be removed with the mowing clippings.
Worms continue to be a focus for turf managers with the increased soil moisture levels. There are no legal controls for earthworms and any product which is applied to directly affect them is done so illegally.
Continue with cultural management practices such as localised surface acidification, removal of grass clippings to reduce their food source and sanding of surfaces to assist in the drying out and dispersal of casts. Sulphate of iron is often used as a surface acidifying agent but it is worth considering that over application may lead to an accumulation of iron in the soil and reduction of pH, causing long term imbalances and negative effects to plant health throughout the 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.