Key Tasks for February
With courses now fully operational, mowing frequencies will vary from daily to twice weekly, 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 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 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.
January seems to have come and gone in a flash, in what has felt like a busy period. The heavy rainfall and freezing temperatures earlier in the month seem to have subsided and it has allowed many to be full steam ahead with projects and continued turf maintenance. It’s always nice to hit the ground running at the start of the year and make good progress, to set things up for the year ahead.
The long-term forecast looks favourable at the beginning of the February, but then towards the back end of the month things look likely to change, with much wetter conditions and low temperatures still no higher than 4°C. Suggesting that there won’t be any significant growth potential for most of the month, which is as expected. Although, in recent years there has been known to be almost a ‘false’ spring in February, which has allowed for more maintenance to be carried out and some recovery from winter wear. If this is to be planned in this year, tracking the forecast will be key to ensure the right window of opportunity is found, to get the best possible outcomes.
There is a significant difference in the amount of daylight available at the beginning of February compared to the end of the month, with approximately two hours more daylight and above 50% increase in the height of the sun (Mid-day). This can mean a turning point for areas of turf that have been cast in shade for long periods, which comes at the end of the month, and so will now benefit from this increase in light, improving the overall health of the turf. The increase in sunlight provides more opportunity for photosynthesis and the turf can begin to ‘wake up’, however this is not an immediate shift, given it’s following on from the colder winter weather from January and early February. Unless you are fortunate enough to have resources, such as undersoil heating and growth promoting lights, its’s best not to hastily try to force growth into action. This can lead to needless wastage of products and potential impacts on the environment from leaching of nutrients that can’t be taken up by the plant. Therefore, unnecessary applications should be avoided.
Monitoring current soil temperatures will give a good indication of when suitable and worthwhile applications can be made. Once soil temperatures start to reach 8-10°C, the rhizosphere will start to have sufficient warmth to support biological activity and influence soil respiration by increasing enzyme activity. At this point, you can start to encourage winter recovery and stimulate some early season growth; an application of a low % nitrogen granular fertiliser with a readily available source of nitrogen such as ammonium could be applied. Soil samples, if already carried out will provide useful information for planning future nutrient inputs. Supplementary applications of biostimulants such as seaweed, humic acids and sugars will start to stimulate soil activity and provide a much-needed carbon source as activity starts to increase.
Protecting the plant in February against potential oncoming stresses can maintain good plant health and will lessen any potential damage. The use of silicon and calcium will assist in strengthening cell walls; amino acids and harpin protein can help protect against cold weather damage. Where conditions may not be suitable for granular fertiliser applications, turf hardener type products, in the form of liquid applications, can also strengthen the plant ahead of these stressful situations.
Gains can be made in February, but nutrient applications should only be made to provide the plant with what it needs or what it can use. Applying excess amounts that can’t be utilised by the grass plant will only be wasted. The possibility then is to make further applications to try and encourage growth, and with a change in conditions there can be bountiful amounts of nitrogen in the soil which could lead to an undesired growth response later in the year.
Low temperatures should continue to assist in keeping disease pressure low. As ever, monitoring weather conditions is key, and any applications should ideally be made preventatively ahead of disease development. If required, an anti-sporulant fungicide such as fludioxonil is suitable for when growth is minimal.
There is still no chemical available to provide control, therefore continue your cultural practices to minimise their impact as much as possible. As conditions improve and surfaces dry out, brushing ahead of mowing may help clear the surface to keep the effect of smearing minimal.
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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.
Now 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.