Expected weather for this month:

Dry, settled start to the month with above average temperatures throughout

Despite last week's cold spell, all the signs are indicating some good growing weather during May, so greenstaff will be flat out keeping their courses under control and in a pristine condition for the increasing number of rounds being played. This is when the greenstaff earn their corn - with maintenance regimes in full swing and players expecting top quality surfaces. As mentioned many times before, if you are planning any work which is likely to be disruptive to play, make sure your members know well in advance; keep them informed. Communication is the key in such matters.

We have had a number of reports of leatherjacket and chafer grub damage - by the pests and the predators. This problem and solutions are discussed further in the Weeds, pests & disease section of this diary.

Key Tasks for May

Maintenance Regimes

May will see mowing operations in full swing with the aim of reducing the height of cut of the greens; by the end of month, the greens should be at their summer height (3.5-6mm). Other tasks that complement this work involve the use of grooming and verti-cutting units to remove unwanted thatch and side shoot growths. The frequency of grooming is fortnightly, with verti-cutting monthly.

Mowing frequencies can vary from daily to twice weekly operations, dependent 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 season.

  • 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 grass areas - Mow and tidy up these areas.

Changing of hole positions should be carried out regularly, however frequency will be dependant on a number of factors; green size, greens construction, tournaments, amount of play and condition of the green. During wet periods, 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 golfers' feet. Most golf courses are changing their hole positions at least three times a week.

Light topdressings of sand/rootzones are essential for maintaining surface levels preparation and again, 'little and often' being the ideal practice. Aeration should also continue, using a mix of micro, needle or star tines which give maximum effect and almost zero turf disturbance. Sarel rollers are another alternative; the main objectives being to 'vent' the rootzone and to allow water to move quickly from the surface and into the rootzone, thus encouraging the turf to root deeper.

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.

Top dressing / As required:- Greens and Tees. Ensure you have enough top dressing material for any renovation works that may still be carried out in May.

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.

Machinery (Repairs & Maintenance)/ Daily:- Inspect and clean machinery after use, service and repair damaged machinery.

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.

If March was a useful spring month with adequate temperature and available moisture, this April has proven to be the polar opposite. Without those two key driving factors, grass growth across the majority of the UK has somewhat stalled. As a result, nutrition, particularly of the controlled release or organic type, will have remained relatively untouched in the soil. To a slightly lesser extent, the same can also be said for conventional release fertilisers, particularly with the lack of rain to flush them through the soil.

This means that where granular fertilisers have been applied, either at the end of March or during April, then once warmer temperatures and rain fall do arrive, we can expect a delayed response.

The key points of understanding here is that we cannot force a result in terms of response to an application, particularly where water cannot be added even if temperatures are adequate. Once those key drives do arrive though, things will really kick in and we can start to implement cultural operations and nutritional programmes.

Poa annua

Given the recent dry and cold prevailing conditions, poa annua has been placed under a great deal of stress, which is leading to the early setting of flowers and uneven growth. Light topdressings will assist in evening out consistency of putting surfaces. Operations which will thin the sward, such as verti-cutting, should be resisted in such conditions however, as there is not adequate growth to repopulate the thinned areas.

It really is a case of gently nurturing stressed plants through these conditions, with gentle cultural operations and spoon feeding nutrition and biostimulants.

When weather conditions break, be mindful of prolonged warm, humid and still conditions which will enable diseases such as Microdochium nivale to take hold on the stressed Poa annua.  

Nutrition

Whilst conditions remain unfavourable to granular applications, it is liquid foliar applications which are more likely to elicit a response form the plant, particularly when warmer spells of weather are forecast. Adding a small quantity (50 ml per 100 l tank volume) of a high quality liquid humate, such as Maxwell HumiMax, will further chelate the fertiliser, enabling it to pass into the plant leaf more readily for increased absorption and uptake efficiency.

Potassium is a plant nutrient traditionally favoured for autumn winter applications; however, potassium is absolutely critical to the efficient operation of plant stomata, the pores on a leaf’s surface which open and close in response to water demand. For this reason, a steady adequate supply of potassium during the spring and summer helps grass plants to better regulate water usage, increasing resistance to drought pressure.

Research is also increasingly understanding the importance of silicon applications as a preventative nutrient, which will strengthen plants resilience to a range of environmental and pest stresses.

Seaweed is another vital tool in the armoury when it comes to improving uptake of fertilisers and helping plants to resist stress, which should be regularly applied to all turf areas.

Wetting Agents

Utilisation of a penetrant and polymer wetting agent programme, which will drive water away from surfaces and into rootzones, where it can subsequently be stored more efficiently to be utilised by the plant, is a sound strategy for the majority of sports turf locations. Research the market and invest in high quality solutions. Prevention of dry patch with applications prior to symptoms is the most effective strategy.

Ecology

Whilst growth levels are impaired and ground conditions allow, May is a good time to scarify areas of long rough grass where you may be looking to encourage finer grasses such as fescue to establish.

Herbicides

Traditionally, the end of May presents a good time to spray for weeds in turf areas, applying herbicides immediately prior to, or during, periods of strong active growth. Again, adding a small amount of a liquid humate (50 ml per 100 l tank volume) will significantly aid herbicide uptake and efficacy.

Spring 2017 has seen many areas effected by chafer grub and leatherjacket infestations, leading to both primary damage from the grubs themselves and secondary damage from birds and mammals. There are no legal chemical treatments; with entomopathogenic nematodes providing the only authorised cure. This situation is not going to change, but nematodes can be utilised successfully when applied correctly as part of a multi-faceted integrated approach. In the face of upcoming and projected further restrictions in other similar areas of the industry, there are a number of lessons to be learned from the withdrawal of insecticides within the sports turf industry. Now is a good time to reflect and prepare by seeking out avenues to embark on facing the upcoming challenges from the position of enhanced knowledge, understanding and proactive preparation.

Microdochium patch may also pop up as temperatures increase, particularly if the warmth occurs in conjunction with humidity and moisture on the leaf for prolonged periods. Systemic fungicides can be considered but only as a last option. IF grass is growing well and then the disease may well just bubble under the surface and the grass will outgrow it.

Please note: More information on these and many others can be found here: https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php

At this time of the year, keeping machinery up and running is the priority. Having a good wash down facility is an essential tool for keeping equipment clean, and to comply with current legislation.

Golf clubs with their own mechanic are at a distinct advantage, and with the cost of machinery nowadays, it surprises me that more clubs don't invest in on-site maintenance and repairs to keep downtime to a minimum.

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 Chris Johnson for information.

Articles and Forum discussions which may be of interest:

Building a soil-based green
Fairways wetness issue