Key Tasks for January
The advice below is very much dependent on the weather and the course conditions. With any frost forecast, the advice is, wherever possible, keep off the surfaces. In the event of any milder conditions, the following can be considered:
Continue to brush/switch greens and tees daily to remove moisture from the grass surface, stopping the spread of disease and facilitating an improved quality of cut on the dry grass.
Mowing frequencies will vary considerably at this time of year. 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 coming season.
Greens. Mowing height should be maintained at around 6-8mm.
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.
Aeration of greens, tees and fairways is ongoing when conditions allow. A wide range of solid, hollow or slit aerators are put to use on the playing surfaces. It is essential to keep the greens aerated to maintain air and gas exchange and alleviate compaction.
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. Some golf courses experience flash floods during heavy rain, leaving many bunkers in a poor state (washing out sand from bunker faces). Repair works may be necessary. Continue or undertake bunker construction works, subject to ground conditions allowing for transport of materials.
Inspect greens, tees, flags and hole positions for damage or vandalism. Vandalism often increases during the winter months.
Changing of holes should be carried out regularly, however frequency will be dependant on a number of factors, green size, green construction, tournaments, amount of play and condition of the green.
During the current weather conditions, 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. You may be looking to change the hole positions more than three times per week during wet/frosty periods.
Inspect drainage outfalls, channels and ditches. Ensure that they are working. It is during the winter months that most golf course managers/greenkeepers can evaluate the condition and performance of their drainage systems.
Inspect, check and empty all litter bins
Time to organise winter servicing of machinery
Keep stock of all materials
Tidy mess rooms and sheds
The new year is among us and let’s hope with it we have a way through to getting back some “normality” in our lives. I would like to think that, although many will have just experienced a much different Christmas period, it has still been filled with happiness and good feeling, even if we haven’t been able to share it with all of whom we would have liked.
If fortunate enough to have had a Christmas break, this can be an excellent time for some to switch off from work and re-charge ready to go again in the new year. For others, it is some time to step back, away from the day to day duties and reflect on the previous year and start the planning process for the new year. Either way, hopefully the Christmas period has given everyone that much needed break and now 2021 can be tackled head on.
Early January looks forecast to have favourable conditions, moving away from the wet weather that is given for the end of December, rounding off a very wet end to the year, which has seen many sites saturated for lengthy periods of time. Temperatures appear to be moderate for the time of year with an absence of any extremely cold weather. Although grass growth has slowed down, the mild temperatures will still offer some growth, therefore keep monitoring growth potential data and plan accordingly.
At the start of a new year, attention inevitably turns to planning the year ahead. When considering nutritional programmes for the coming months, following an integrated approach will provide the most effective programme. It is not necessarily individual elements of a programme that will provide total success, rather how all the elements interact with each other and how they will achieve the overall goal together that needs to be considered and applied.
To gain an understanding of what’s going on within your soil, annual soil samples are a useful starting point, this provides data which can be monitored over time. Together with a soil’s physical properties, the chemical nutrient balance with the soil provides the basis of recommendations for an informed fertiliser programme. These recommendations are based on the sufficiency level of available nutrients (SLAN) (other methods are available). The level of nutrients present in the soil are measured through analysis and are compared to an optimal or guideline level. Adjustments to nutrient inputs can be made following the concentrations in the soil analysis. Other analysis methods available consider further factors such as soil properties and growth potential.
Building up data enables you to make more informed decisions. This data can be used within a monitoring system that can be cross referenced against previous results to help detect any trends and diagnose problems. This will ultimately improve quality and reduce costs.
Key factors for early 2021
There will typically be minimal requirements for nutritional inputs by the plant this month as growth will be limited by colder temperatures. Photosynthesis is controlled by enzymes and, as with other enzyme-controlled reactions, the rate of photosynthesis is affected by temperature. At lower temperatures, the rate of photosynthesis is limited by the number of molecular collisions between enzymes. If temperatures are mild, there may continue to be small amounts of growth and therefore applications of a suitable fertiliser may be applied in small amounts to support the requirements of the plant.
Applications of products containing calcium and silicon will assist the plant to withstand stresses from cold temperatures and harsh winds, and by strengthening the primary and secondary cell walls. Chelated iron can be used to add colour and will not contribute to the accumulation of problematic iron deposits in the soil over time. Pigments can also be used on surfaces where contact sport is not played, where transfer onto playing kit may be an issue. Pigments not only provide a natural healthy green appearance to turf without having to apply nitrogen or iron, but also improve turf quality and have been shown to increase surface and soil temperatures in small amounts.
When constructing an integrated nutritional plan, evaluate the products available and assess their merits and how they may benefit your situation and help you to achieve your goals. Products are not all the same and, where they may appear so, there may be subtle differences which can impact on results. Therefore, where possible dedicate time to research the full ingredients list on products rather than solely looking at headline figures. If you are still unsure, then Safety Data Sheets will sometimes list ingredients if they are contained at concentrations which have to be declared in the interests of environmental and human health. If not readily available, suppliers should also be able to provide you with the information you require to understand what is in the products you are considering using.
Favourable conditions of mild temperatures and continued leaf wetness will provide a suitable environment for the development of diseases such as Microdochium nivale. If required, a fungicide with an anti-sporulant, such as fludioxonil, which controls dormant spores residing in the sward and thatch layer in-between outbreaks of infection. As ever, monitor weather conditions and apply a preventative application if conditions are forecast to be conducive for disease development. Applications of penetrant wetting agents and dew dispersants will continue to assist in keeping surfaces dry.
If soil temperatures are low, then worms will be avoiding cold regions at the surface. If mild and wet, there will still be activity and will still be causing major issues due to casting on the surface. There is still no chemical available to provide control, therefore continue your cultural practices to minimise their impact as much as possible.
Servicing, repair and overhaul of mowing equipment should nearly be complete. Sharpening of reels and replacement of bottom blades are a key requirement, therefore it is important that all such replacement parts are in stock and readily available.
The start of the year is also a good time to have an early spring clean, conducting a thorough clean up of mess rooms, toilets and garages. It is good Health & Safety practice to keep garages and working areas clean and tidy.
January is also a time to reflect on the work achieved and what you want to plan for next year. Many golf clubs have their budgets set in January, so it is a good time to prioritise your spending .