Expected weather for this month:

Expect a textbook July: very warm or hot; more dry spells

Key Tasks for July

General Maintenance

 

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.

Fertiliser requirements will still be high, especially on USGA specification greens. As we move into a period of summer stress (drought), we should be thinking of utilising a better ratio of nitrogen to potassium. Potassium will play a major role in the plant in these periods, by affecting chemical and moisture transfer through the root system, as well as allowing better stomatal control by the individual plant. If potassium is inadequate, the level of metabolic activity will also reduce as enzyme structure can become markedly changed. This is an unwanted scenario during a period of stress. Look to a product with an NPK ratio of something akin to a 9-7-7 or a 12-0-8.

Irrigation

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 such as Qualibra, with a penetrant/polymer mix 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.

Growth regulators

Growth regulators could also be a key tool this month. The advantages include a healthier root system and reduced top growth, with a view to reducing the drought stress the plant will be under. Reducing vegetative growth decreases the amount of energy required for growth, and the amount of moisture required to sustain high rates of photosynthesis. An application of Primo Maxx has been shown to increase density, colour and root mass even in hot and dry conditions, whilst also reducing mowing requirements and wear on machinery.

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. 

Products such as Oxy rush and Primo Maxx can help further enhance root zone and system health as well, respectively. In hot and dry situations such as we can expect, ensuring the plant uses the root system as the plant’s ‘fridge’ will be very important. A monthly application of these products can help provide aerobic conditions beneficial for soil micro-organisms and divert the supply of nutrients from vegetative to root growth, thus ensuring that the basis for a healthy sward is maintained

Other General Work

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 the hot and dry conditions prevail into July the quality of turf areas as dictated by the health and vitality of grass plants will more than likely sit within one of the following:

 

  • Healthy – Adequate, evenly distributed soil water.
  • Stressed – Inadequate, unevenly distributed soil water.
  • Dormant – Parched areas with critically low soil water levels.

 

Whether or not each of those conditions is tolerable on any given area, of course depends on the value of the area and the scope of available turf management resources.

Let’s look at each of these areas in more detail.

 

Healthy – Adequate, evenly distributed soil water levels.

Most likely high value areas such as golf greens, golf tees, well maintained bowling greens, cricket wickets high level winter sports.

 

Contributing Factors

  • Well calibrated irrigation systems, monitoring of soil moisture levels, monitoring of evapotranspiration levels, targeted irrigation volumes designed to replace water losses.
  • Good soil structure, low compaction, adequate aeration.
  • Adequate nutrition, use of biostimulants.
  • Preventative wetting agent programmes which started in early spring.

 

Considerations

Where soil water levels are adequate then plants will be making the most of the high light intensity, high soil temperatures and adequate moisture and performing well.

Maintain adequate soil water levels by continuing quality targeted irrigation comprising night time programmes, syringing with short bursts through the heat of the day to cool leaf and soil surfaces, hand watering of areas known to be vulnerable to drying out such as high spots on greens.

The biggest concern will be heat stress during the warmest parts of the day due to prolonged periods of intense sunshine, use of Cold Pressed Seaweed will prime plant defences to better respond and conserve water. Adopting a little and often approach by perhaps taking a 20L a month target application of seaweed and splitting that into weekly applications of 5L accompanied by some sugar carbon for system energy and a small amount of foliar nitrogen and potassium for plant vigour and water loss regulation should help to maintain a positive status quo. Amino acids will also assist plant health and contribute positively towards maintaining the status quo.

Maintain wetting agent applications designed to aid water penetration and conserve soil water levels in the profile.

 

Stressed – Inadequate, unevenly distributed soil water.

Most likely a broad range of turf surfaces with some available irrigation.

 

Contributing Factors

  • Manual irrigation, areas without automatic systems, poorly calibrated sprinklers, estimated evapotranspiration losses, lack of measurable monitoring of soil moisture levels, via moisture meters.
  • Compacted soils, minimal aeration, high thatch levels.
  • Low potassium levels and low to zero us of biostimulants.
  • Inadequate or misdirected use of wetting agents.

 

Considerations

Apply curative granules to persistent dry patches and hand water with a wetting agent pellet gun. Increase intensity of irrigation where possible and seek advice in terms of monitoring evapotranspiration losses, then aim to replace lost water through watering.

Where thatch levels are high water in the morning when the sun is up but before temperatures increase. This is because water applied in the evening will act as a thermal blanket within the organic matter preventing overnight cooling.

Penetrant wetting agents will aid water percolation, preventing run off and thereby maximising the water which is applied.

Little and often applications of potassium, and cold pressed seaweed, will help the plant to withstand the stress, carbon energy and amino acids should also be considered.

Periods of hot dry weather activate anthracnose disease which will be lying in wait to pounce on susceptible stressed turf. Doing whatever you can to maintain plant and system health will be vital in fending off a severe attack as July and August develop. Where cultural strategies cannot be employed then consider well timed preventative fungicide applications.

Longer term strategies would include engaging with irrigation experts to correctly calibrate systems, invest in soil moisture meters, monitor evapotranspiration levels, reduce thatch, alleviate compaction and instigate preventative wetting agent programmes.

 

Dormant – Parched areas with critically low soil water levels.

Most likely golf tees without irrigation, fairways, surrounds and roughs, community sports pitches and cricket out fields.

Contributing Factors

  • The biggest contributing factor with regards to the drying out and dormancy of these areas is most likely scale, both of area and budgetary resources.

 

Considerations

Where possible areas that have had previous cultural maintenance practices such as compaction relief or, scarification to keep thatch levels healthy, will be able to withstand the stress for longer.

Any areas which had an application of wide area penetrant and block-copolymer wetting agent should have lasted longer and will recover faster once rain does arrive.

The biggest concern will be monitoring areas for signs of progression from plant dormancy into plant death. Grass plants are extortionately resilient to low soil moisture and go brown as a protection method. However, should conditions prevail plants may die, signs of this are a breakdown of the roots and shoots at and just below the soil surface.

Beware; moss and Poa annua will be lying in wait as they are the species evolved to respond and establish the fastest in these exact conditions. Therefore, begin to plan now for overseeing with amenity species and cultivars, the most likely window for doing this will be the end of august or early September when soil moisture levels and soil temperature will be optimal for seedling germination and establishment, just as nature intended.

 

Final Thought

One point of note to consider moving forward is that climate changes models for the British Isles predict an increasing frequency and extended periods of extremes, whether than be wet, dry or cold.

The question turf managers at every level should be constantly asking is; what plans do we have in place to ensure that when the extremes do come, there are the resources at hand to produce a surface which facilitates play?

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.

Pitchcare provide a range of courses suitable for golf courses. In most cases, the courses can be held on site using the club's own equipment and machinery.

Specialist Courses:

Basic Management & Maintenance of Ponds and Wetland Areas

The Maintenance, History and Ecological Principles of Wildflower Meadows

Turf Science and Soil Science

Some of the other courses available are:

Chainsaws - CS30 and CS31

H&S Refresher Training on Combined Turf Care Equipment; Tractors and Trailers; All Mowers (Ride-on and Pedestrian)

Machinery Courses on ATVs; Tractors: Brushcutters/Strimmers; Mowers (ride-on and Pedestrian)

Pesticide Application (PA courses)

Stem Injection of Invasive Species (Japanese Knotweed etc.)

Basic Trees Survey and Inspection

More details about all the courses can be found here, or you can email Carol Smith for information.

Ponds, lakes and streams - Inspect all water features on course, cleaning out any unwanted debris and litter. Some clubs arrange for their ponds to be dredged to clean them out while at the same time recovering any stray golf balls.

Tee boxes, tee markers and competition markers should be inspected daily, cleaned and moved to new tee positions as required.

Regularly empty litter bins/tee boxes.

Mark out trolley areas, out of bound site areas, ground under repair (GUR) and range markings.

Estimate and order seed, loams and fertilisers, fuels and other consumables.