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
I would like to think that everyone has had a great Christmas and new year, and that you are now looking forward to what 2022 has to offer. Let’s hope that the effects of festive gatherings do not lead to a large increase in reported Covid cases, which end up increasing hospital admissions, and we can avoid any further restrictions being brought into play again.
Those lucky enough to have had some decent time away from work over the Christmas holidays will, all being well, be rested and now refreshed at the start of a new year. Having the time to ‘switch off’ can be so important, to give yourself and your mind some TLC, which can help avoid burnout and that feeling of not really being on holiday at all.
The weather forecast for early January is predictably wet and cold, which carries on until midway through the month and then there is a change to more favourable drier and sunnier spells with increased temperatures. The temperatures early in the month will keep growth potential to a minimum, which will then slowly start to increase towards the end of the month as temperatures gradually get a little warmer.
At the start of a new year, attentions are typically focused on planning the year ahead. For some it will involve a full 12 month plan; plan is the key word here, in that the best plans can be laid out; however, there still needs to be a degree of flexibility to make changes and adapt to weather and environmental variables throughout the year. When considering a nutritional plan, an integrated approach will provide the most effective programme. Where all the elements of the plan are there as a consequence of another element, which all contribute to the overall success of the plan, rather than any standout single application.
Recovery of turf surfaces may also be a key focus for many throughout January, following a busy festive period and potentially a busy month ahead. A congested fixture list through this period can have serious implications in terms of the condition on the playing surface, particularly if games are played in less than ideal ground conditions. When targeting recovery at this point in the season, it is essential that the fertiliser type is carefully selected. A predominantly slow release nitrogen source is going to provide little effect in the way of an immediate response to promote growth and recovery, compared to a readily available nitrogen source.
Soil samples are a useful way gaining an understanding of what is going on within your soil profile. There are many different options available of what to test for, however a basic soil analysis is a good starting point if one hasn’t been carried out before. This provides data which can be monitored over time and, together with a soil’s physical properties, the chemical/nutrient balance within the soil provides the basis of recommendations for putting together 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.
Typical requirements for nutrition will be low this month, as growth is restricted by the low temperatures. However, those looking to encourage recovery on winter sports may apply low amounts of nutrition to stimulate some growth, if conditions are suitable.
The rate of photosynthesis is affected by temperature, therefore at lower temperatures the rate of photosynthesis is obviously limited by the reduced 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.
Calcium and Silicon may be applied to try help the plant withstand stresses from cold temperatures and harsh winds by strengthening the primary and secondary cell walls. Chelated iron, or where avoiding using iron-based products, a pigment product could be used to provide colour and will not contribute to the accumulation of problematic iron deposits in the soil over time. Pigments not only provide a natural healthy green appearance to turf but also improve turf quality and have been shown to increase surface and soil temperatures by small amounts.
When piecing together an integrated nutrition plan, ensure that the products included have been evaluated for their suitability. Many products can appear similar, however, when researched, there are differences in source, formulation etc…. which can be the difference in the overall results. Safety Data Sheets are a good source of information and will sometimes list ingredients if they are contained at concentrations which must 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.
Colder temperatures should assist in minimising disease pressure. If required, an anti-sporulant fungicide such as fludioxonil is suitable for the time of year when growth is minimal. As ever, monitoring weather conditions is key, and any applications should ideally be made preventatively ahead of disease development. Continuing with applications of penetrant wetting agents and dew dispersants will continue to assist in keeping surfaces dry.
There is still no chemical available to provide control, therefore continue your cultural practices to minimise their impact as much as possible. If soil temperatures are low, then worms will be avoiding colder regions at the surface.
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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.
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 .