Key Tasks for July
Albeit with a few restrictions, most courses have been up and running with greens staff back to working as usual. So, it's all hands to the deck as far as ongoing maintenance is concerned.
Mowing frequencies should remain high, with mowers set at their summer heights. As levels of competitions and societies increase, there will be an emphasis on ensuring 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.
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 - Mow and tidy up these areas.
Horizontal growth should be controlled through the use of regular brushing and verti-cutting, with the latter occurring between 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 judgment 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 - that is, 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 move deeper into the month, soil temperatures will reach very high levels in places, and the propensity for surfaces to dry out will increase under a warm sunny sky (doubly so if it is windy). Watering the greens will become a major consideration, but do not become reliant on this practice to reduce drought stress. Where possible, hand watering should be employed, especially on high spots, to help reduce the chance of dry spot.
Carry this out in a manner as close to nature as possible, soaking the surface at irregular intervals, rather than using a little and often approach as with topdressing etc. The use of modern wetting agent technology will allow soils to hold water at depth, thereby reducing irrigation costs and requirements whilst encouraging deeper rooting.
Water management will be key this month. Most courses will be looking to utilise wetting agents where possible, especially in well draining situations in the south, to save money and a valuable resource. Making the correct decision with regards to which product to purchase will be key. As with everything else, try not to rely solely on price, unless you are severely restricted in your budget.
Where possible, try to find one that suits your own situation, aims and application ability. Monitoring the effect they have on your own course’s soil will provide you with a great idea of when the next application would be prudent, and how long the product lasts in your situation. This can be done with a moisture probe. There are a number of products to be browsed in the PItchcare shop at pitchcare.com/shop. Upon application, remember to water the products in well to avoid scorch.
Top dressing and aeration
Utilising the little and often approach with topdressing and aeration practices should help ensure a smooth putting surface, whilst increasing the general health of the root system. Try not to apply more than 0.5 tonnes per green of top dressing and, where possible, try to use pencil tines or similar when aerating. Deep aeration should not be required during this month, due to the dry soil conditions, but regular spiking will allow more oxygen into the rootzone, aid root development and drainage potential during periods of heavy rainfall.
Other General Work - subject to any ongoing Coronavirus guidelines
- Bunkers / Daily:- Inspect, weed and rake bunkers.
- Course Inspection / Daily:- Inspect greens, tees, flags and hole positions for damage or vandalism.
- Ponds, lakes and streams /Weekly:- Inspect all water features on course, cleaning out any unwanted debris and litter.
- Seed bare and worn areas / When conditions allow:- Greens, Tees and Fairways. Over seeding of sparse or bare areas can be continued, the rise in temperature will help germination. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for diseases. Remember that without good seed to soil contact the operation is useless. Ensure you use new seed as old material may not give you the required germination rates. Remember, bents and fescue grasses require higher soil temperatures for successful germination.
- Tee boxes, pegs / As required:- All tee boxes, tee pegs and competition markers should be inspected daily, cleaned and moved to new positions as required.
- Wetting agents / As required:- If wetting agents are being used, they are generally applied monthly throughout the season.
- Woodland and conservation areas / As required:- High and strong winds can damage trees on golf courses. Inspect and repair or remove damaged trees. It is important to inspect trees regularly (heath & safety) to reduce the likelihood of a golfer being struck by tree debris.
- Marking out / Weekly:- Mark out trolley areas, out of bound site areas and range markings.
- Materials/ Monthly:- Estimate and order seed, loams and fertilisers, fuels and other consumables.
As we approach halfway through the year, this brings about a familiar feeling of, “Where has the time gone?” and “Is it nearly July already?” It was unfortunate that we had the news that further easing of restrictions was to be delayed, but hopefully that will happen this month. Fortunately, many sports are in full swing, to name a few we have seen Test cricket, the Euros and Wimbledon start.
June finally brought us some consistent temperatures, which actually continued on from the last week in May. This provided more suitable growing conditions compared to previous fluctuating weather which was challenging to manage. This was long overdue and has meant that everything has seemed a little bit later this season in comparison to other years. Although the average rainfall for June is currently at 40mm, which is nearly half of what fell up to the same point last month (average 75.2mm), it wasn’t until the 25th June that the average monthly rainfall went above 10mm, which gives an indication of how little water has fallen since the back end of May. This has proven challenging for those without or with limited and restricted irrigation systems. As such, the recent rainfall has been much needed by many across the different regions.
July temperatures look set to continue to be decent, with most days around 19°C or above. Rainfall is forecast to be sporadic which should help prevent surfaces drying down too much. With warmer temperatures comes the possibility of an increase in humidity. When temperature is higher, the air can hold more water vapour, meaning that when climate conditions are warmer the humidity level can be higher. As an example, at 28°C a densely saturated amount of air may contain 28 grams of water per cubic metre, but only 8 grams of water per cubic metre of air at just 8°C. Higher humidity can increase the likelihood of the development and growth of fungal pathogens.
Water management is a key tool for maximising overall plant health, ensuring there is enough to support nutrient uptake and growth whilst ensuring there isn’t too much that will restrict root growth, prevent gaseous exchange and reduce available oxygen. Following a water management programme is one way to help ensure water is distributed evenly across the whole area and reduce any localised dry patches. When using products to achieve this, the earlier in the season they are applied can have an impact on the results they achieve. Therefore, ensuring applications are made well in advance of drought conditions is recommended. Having less water around the soil surface and base of the plant helps reduce humidity in this area, which helps to mitigate the ability of fungal diseases to proliferate. This restricts the conditions that are suitable for disease development. Regular aeration, using a variety of tine depths help maintain pathways for water to enter the rootzone and pass through it.
The forecasted conditions for the month will provide strong growth. As such, the application of a plant growth regulator alongside any nutrition is a useful management tool with a range of benefits. Reduced clipping yield is a notable advantage, plus many others including increased rooting, regulated growth of different grass species, improving surface conditions, better turf colour through an increase in chlorophyll content and lower ET rates. Where growth is strong, nutrition may only need to be applied to provide enough recovery from wear. All forms, liquid, granular and soluble are suitable and each site will have their own preference. Liquid applications allow greater control in applications supplying little and often, and further beneficial stress relieving biostimulants such as amino acids and sugars can easily be added to the spray solution.
For Anthracnose (Colletotrichum cereale), warm, humid weather and increased light intensity are the primary environmental factors controlling the development of conidia. Laboratory studies indicate that Colletotrichum cereale produces conidia at temperatures between 24‑32°C with increased maturity of conidia observed at 28°C compared with lower temperatures. Once conidia have been excreted from the acervuli in a water‑soluble matrix, they can be spread by wind, water or human activity, but need continued leaf surface moisture to establish. Little and often applications of nitrogen have been shown to mitigate the development of the disease, as has minimising any stresses on the plant. Applied preventatively fungicides are available as a method of control, although some will find the above measures sufficient when dealing with this disease.
Emergency authorisation for Acelepryn has been issued for the treatment of chafer grubs only. The purchase window for chafer grubs expires on 4th August and the storage and application window ends on the 31st 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.
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.