Key Tasks for October
Autumn renovations are upon us and will be dependent on a number of factors:
- The current state of the sward and soil profile - planning and preparation
- Ordering materials early, ensuring they are available and arrive in time for your planned renovations. Ensure they are stored safely on site.
The objectives of end of season renovations are:
- To repair worn areas.
- To prevent a build up of thatch layers (scarification).
- To restore surface levels (top dressing).
- To alleviate compaction (aeration).
- To re-establish sward densities (overseeding).
- Application of pre seeding/autumn fertilisers to promote sward establishment.
Before you start, take a core sample from each of your greens to ascertain their current state. A visual inspection of the core will allow you to see the level of thatch/organic matter (OM) you have and to what depth.
Target OM levels:
An excess of OM will lead to poor hydraulic conductivity, soft putting surfaces, increased disease problems, loss of green speeds and poor all year round playability.
Appropriate renovation work will help reduce and control thatch / OM levels in your swards.
Greens: October is a key month for aeration. A wide range of aerators are put to use, from star tines, vertidrain tines to hollow tines; the choice or combination of tines will be dependent on the outcomes required. Hollow tines are used to remove a core of soil from the green which then allows the opportunity to topdress with some new materials, a process that offers a good soil, air and gas exchange in the soil profile.
Tees: Aeration of tees will continue with solid or hollow tines, in line with autumn maintenance. Aeration should continue throughout the winter when weather conditions allow.
Fairways: When the ground is capable of taking the tines, and before it gets too wet, aerate with solid tines to reduce the chance of surface cracking.
With air temperatures still averaging around 10-12°C in most parts of the country, seeding is still a viable option.
The recent spell of dry weather may have prompted disease attacks, with red thread, fusarium, leaf spot and fairy rings being common. Use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.
Prior to mowing, remove moisture from the grass surface. This will help to stop the spread of disease and improve the quality of cut.
Keep a daily diary of work carried out on the course as these records will be a valuable reference for future course management.
- Details of who worked and how many man-hours were spent on the task/activity
- What materials were used?
- Digital and mobile phone cameras should be used to provide reference at a later date. Also useful when explaining your work to a committee and/or members
While temperatures remain in double figures, grass growth will continue, resulting in the need to continue the regular mowing regimes on the course.
After autumn renovations, most course managers/greenkeepers will be looking to increase mowing heights on greens and tees by 1mm-2mm, with many factors dictating the height of cut - soil type, grass species and golf traffic.
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 year.
Greens. Mowing height should be maintained at around 4mm-8mm.
Tees. Mowing height should be maintained at around 10mm-15mm.
Fairways. Mowing height should be maintained at around 15mm-25mm.
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.
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.
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.
We end September with what seems like more rainfall in the last few days of the month than we have seen over both August and September combined. Although looking back, there have been a few days of significant rainfall in these months, however this rain at the end of September feels much needed as there has been very little over the past weeks and most places are looking significantly dry, certainly for the time of year. Looking ahead at the forecasts, the unsettled end of the month carries on into the start of October. Although further into October appears more settled, those with renovations planned in early October may have to consider the option of drier but cooler conditions slightly later, or wetter but warmer soil temperatures slightly earlier.
As weather conditions change, October can be a high disease pressure month. Cooler temperatures, with increased leaf and soil wetness, mean that it’s important to constantly monitor the local environmental conditions with a view of the site’s previous history and patterns in disease outbreaks; knowing which areas are key indicators can help massively to stay ahead of damaging disease outbreaks. As conditions become more conducive for disease development, being aware of historic turf responses to certain weather conditions form a central part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach.
For many, the focus this month is Microdochium nivale (microdochium patch) control. There may still be some signs of the increasingly present Anthracnose, but as maintenance practices alter, raising heights of cut, reduced mowing etc… many of the stresses that contribute to this disease are eased slightly. Conditions in October can be ideal for Microdochium nivale outbreaks, and predicting when these outbreaks may occur is challenging. Gaining an understanding of what contributes to disease pressure reaching tipping point on your own site allows better informed decisions when selecting and timing any of the applications aimed at counteracting disease pressure. These may be fungicidal, nutritional or plant response applications.
As it becomes more difficult to rotate active ingredients, due to the decrease of new chemistry in the amenity market, the more information there is available then the easier it is to make accurate decisions on what, when and how to apply. Fungicide technology is only one part of an IPM approach, and increasingly it will be the other applications which will become more in focus as tools with which to reduce disease outbreaks and severity. Morning dews can lead to an increase in leaf wetness in October and this additional moisture on the surface can be the perfect vehicle for pathogens. Therefore, utilising dew dispersant technology can be a useful tool. Expectations need to be set to a realistic level in relation to longevity of the products compared to when using them in cool months when growth potential is low. When frequent mowing is still taking place, the longevity is going to be relatively short, however this can still be long enough to reduce the level of leaf wetness to get through a high disease pressure period.
With changes in temperatures and available sunlight, a shift in approach to nutrition should follow. The aim being to promote steady, hardy shoot and leaf growth, avoiding any flushes of growth that would be more susceptible to attack by fungal pathogens. Fertilisers with a slow release nitrogen source, such as IBDU or CDU will give longevity through the autumn and into winter. If slow release fertilisers are not suitable for a specific site, when using a conventional fertiliser ensure the ammonium value is not above 4 or 5 percent (to avoid the aforementioned flushes of growth) or use a suitable application rate.
Biostimulants applied at the right time will be beneficial to the plant and soil over winter. Applications of carbon energy in the form of sugar can assist the plant in being more resilient and well-developed in the early spring. Therefore, a well-planned autumn application can have benefits on the start of the following season.
Seaweed has been shown to elicit important beneficial defence and stress responses in plants and associated microorganisms. Amino acids play an important role in abiotic stress tolerance, helping plants to prepare for and to cope with autumnal and winter stress events, such as varying changes in temperature and volumetric water content.
Don’t forget the emergency authorisation for applicatons of Acelepryn for the control of leatherjackets is still available with an end date for sale and application being 29th November. A month later than previous years.
There has been plenty of activity recently reported, with some noting a particularly long hatch period. Applications of the product should continue to be made when peak activity of the adult crane fly on the wing are observed, if this has given satisfactory results previously. If satisfactory control is not been achieved, new research indicates applications can be made up to one month after peak flight. Adult flies commence egg laying almost immediately, with hatching and larvae emergence about two weeks later; Acelepryn is most active on the 1st and 2nd instar larval stages. As with an integrated approach to disease management, monitoring, record keeping and understanding of the pests organisms life cycle are key factors for success.
With the relatively dry August and September, worm activity has been minimal for most, however as moisture levels continue to rise, these may become a major issue to contend with. There are no legal controls for earthworms and any product which is applied to directly affect them is done so illegally. Cultural management is the only route currently available. There are many options available, but the result should be measured against the amount of input required to get those results and then whether it is justifiable to carry the practices out. 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. This does not completely eradicate the problem, but it will lead to less negative lasting impressions on the surface from the casts. Sulphate of iron is often used as a surface acidifying agent, but it is worth using with caution to avoid over application which may lead to 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.