Key Tasks for August
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.
It’s hard to believe that July is drawing to a close and we will soon be into August, with shorter days and cooler nights.
July has given us some very high temperatures, and for prolonged periods, which has brought with it challenges for turf managers, especially those without or with unreliable irrigation systems. When the rain has come, it has been well received. These extreme weather conditions put extra stress onto the plant at a time when stress is already exacerbated from the intensive management carried out to provide excellent playing surfaces. This in turn can be the tipping point for pathogen populations to increase and disease incidence to occur. Therefore, attention should be on stress management and alleviation where possible.
The forecast for August looks far more consistent with daily high temperatures typically being around 20°C. The rainfall looks scattered which means those that are desperate for some rain will get some respite and a good chance at some recovery. The key here is to ensure that those areas that need water the most will be receptive to it when it comes. Water will run off areas that have become hydrophobic; utilising a surfactant to break the surface tension and allow the water to penetrate into the profile can have a positive impact on recovery of drought stressed areas.
The increase in weather extremes is ultimately influencing how successful our nutritional plans are. Little and often nutrition provides a steady supply of the nutrients required, minimising peaks and troughs in growth and assisting in providing excellent surfaces. However, changes in the weather which brings heavy downpours impacts on the effectiveness of this method. It essential that plans are proactive and reactive to the day to day conditions and not simply what was drafted out at the start of the season. Granular fertiliser with a portion of high-quality slow release technology offers a base nutrition which can be topped by liquids as required. Calcium and Potassium are both key nutrients when considering biotic and abiotic stress, due to their role in cell walls and water regulation. Therefore, looking out for these when selecting your fertiliser is recommended.
This can be a key time of year for renovations, with weather conditions ideal for getting recovery and establishment of seed. Practices will vary across the different surfaces, however having objectives planned out will increase the probability of having a successful renovation. If over-seeding, consideration should be given to selecting the right cultivars for the intended usage. Organic matter removal can be a major component of renovation work, and ensuring that the maximum amount is removed with minimal disruption is recommended. Carefully selecting the most suitable method of removal to ensure the desired outcome is achieved efficiently is important.
Planning work out in advance, at this time in the season, allows for a full recovery of the plant and establishment of new seed in time for autumn and winter. Utilising biostimulants, such as liquid seaweed and humic acids, will further promote seed germination and establishment in combination with the usual renovation fertilisers.
Later in the month, the cooler nights will increase the probability of dew occurrence. The increase in leaf wetness will undoubtedly increase disease pressure. At a time when growth potential is still high and cutting is still regular, utilising dew dispersant technology to reduce leaf wetness is only going to be effective for short periods of time, due to the growth rate of the plant. This isn’t to say that this is not an effective management tool for reducing leaf wetness, as long as expectations on product performance in these conditions is taken into consideration. The amount of time that they do last can just be enough to see you through a high-pressure period, and thus can be invaluable.
The purchase window for chafer grubs control expires on 4th August and the storage and application window ends on the 31th August 2021. A separate authorisation is awaiting approval for Leatherjackets, but this is yet to be approved. As with previous years, all applications must be approved by a BASIS qualified advisor.
For anyone not able to apply Acelepryn, cultural and biological controls in the form of Entomopathogenic nematodes are the only legally authorised controls available. As with the specific restrictions of application for Acelepryn, these are in line with best practice Integrated Pest Management. This biological control method requires warmth and moisture in the soil to be most effective, and as such this time of year provides an ideal window. Targeting larvae when they are small and susceptible gives the nematodes the best chance of success.
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.