Key Tasks for May
During spring renovations, most courses will be looking to aerate the greens and get some new topdressing materials back into the surface to restore levels and maintain surface porosity.
Choice of aeration varies between solid tine and hollow tine spiking depending on your goals, with the aim of getting some air back into the soil profile. Vert-draining using solid tines to a good depth (preferably >8 inches) should help the roots to start chasing the moisture down the soil profile, providing the sward with a stronger root system, which is the foundation of plant growth success.
This will be followed by topdressing with a compatible rootzone material. Do not over-do the topdressing rates; you do not want to smother your sward. The type of sand used in topdressings is vitally important, and you should be aware that most sand sales in the UK are for other uses. The sports turf market is small in comparison, so be careful if you are offered cheap materials, as these can be finer, differ in shape, colour, lime content and be more interpacking than the sands specified for sports turf.
For golf courses, the dominant particle range in the sand should be medium sand (0.250mm to 0.5mm).
The amount of topdressing will vary dependant on your needs. However, at this time you would be looking to spread between half to one and half tonnes of material per green (2 to 3mm of material per m2). Many Greenkeepers are now topdressing on a monthly basis, a little and often approach.
Feeding programmes should be determined by soil analysis. Obtaining nutrient levels for greens, tees and fairways will provide essential information that can be used to help choose the appropriate fertiliser product for your given turf surface. There are a wide range of fertiliser products now available and tailored to stimulate healthy grass growth.
It is important that your mowing machines are serviced regularly and are set up accurately, ensuring that both the height of cut and blade sharpness are correct. Damaged blades affect sward quality.
Irrigation systems should have been tested and calibrated by now, there is a need to ensure that all sprinkler heads are working and delivering the appropriate amount of water to the turf. You should calibrate your sprinklers at least once a year to ensure the spray pattern and coverage is sufficient for your needs. This can be done by placing out a number of catch cans on your green and measuring the amount of water collected. You may be surprised to find how much your sprinklers are actually delivering. There may be a need to irrigate during spring renovation programmes, as air temperatures and daylight hours are getting longer, increasing the likelihood of the ground and surfaces drying out.
Once these spring renovations are completed, you can then get on with the daily routines of maintenance, albeit they are likely to be reined back somewhat because there is no play.
Mowing operations are generally in full swing, with frequencies varying from daily to weekly operations dependant on the growth of the grass and the standards set by the course managers.
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 - height should be maintained at around 4-6mm.
* Tees - height should be maintained at around 10-15mm.
* Fairways - height should be maintained at around 15-20mm.
* Rough, semi rough grass areas - mow and tidy up these areas.
Ensure you clean your mowers after use (wash down or blow off ), ensure you apply some WD 40 or similar oil based lubricant on the cutting cylinder after washing down. Keeping them clean makes the job of checking cutting heights and maintaining the bottom blades easier.
Hole changing should be carried out regularly, at least three times per week as a general rule; however, frequency will be dependant on a number of factors - green size, greens construction, tournaments, amount of play and condition of the green. During any 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 the golfers' feet.
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.
One of the benefits of doing this monthly agronomy diary is that you get to build up an excellent picture of what the conditions have been like over a period of time.
As we head into May, I can’t clearly recall what conditions were like at this time last year, but reading back through my notes, it is apparent it was very similar to what we have experienced this year. Very challenging in terms of producing growth that will either bring together a surface or give sufficient recovery from play. Relatively mild day temperatures, with periods of sunshine coupled with low night-time temperatures, have put the grass plant under considerable stress; especially when you also factor in the lack of rainfall we have had. Irrigation can and has had to be used, but in doing so, you are acutely aware that the irrigation water is cold after a long winter and isn’t helping to encourage soil temperatures to rise. This has pushed progress a bit further back for some in terms of where they predicted their surfaces would be heading into May. It is not ideal to unrealistically manufacture growth in these conditions, therefore it is advised to work with nature, where possible, rather than try to force growth.
The forecasted month ahead for May looks more encouraging, as night- time temperatures appear more favourable, with good day-time temperatures in the mid-teens. 26 days of the month are forecast at 15°C or above during the day and 26 days with night-time temperatures of 7°C or above, which will help to start generating some consistent growth, putting more control back in the hands of the turf manager. There appears to be a spell of rainfall early in the month, which I imagine will be welcomed by most, and then as the month progresses the forecast looks set to keep improving with a period of dry weather. This combination of moisture and temperature increase should stimulate growth and assist in giving surfaces adequate levels of recovery or grow-in from renovation work; allowing for refinements of surfaces and consistency in performance.
Plant nutrition will now be well under way for many, whether granular or liquid, and depending on the site etc… applications will be different across the country. Given the recent weather challenges from the extremely low temperatures, many may well be waiting to see a response from the latest applications, depending on when it was timed. The recent stress that the plant has been under is not to be underestimated, whether it be from the extremely low amounts of rainfall we have had, or the stress from cold irrigation water, or the dramatic change from day to night temperatures. It is important to try and mitigate or alleviate these stresses. There are already signs of Poa annua seedheads appearing, due to these underlying stresses on the plant. Grooming can be utilised to physically remove seedheads, although this should be weighed up against the action of creating a new seedbed for any seeds which don’t make it into the grass box. Another important factor is current growth conditions and how well the plant will be able to recover from such actions.
Nutritional inputs may need to be adjusted to meet the demands of the weather. Dry conditions may affect the performance of granular fertilisers, where there is less nutrient available in solution due to dry conditions. Therefore, until rainfall is expected, utilising liquid applications of a readily available nitrogen source, such as ammonium sulphate, will encourage gradual growth and recovery.
Using surfactants where possible will assist in even moisture distribution through the soil which, in turn, improves plant health via improved rooting and nutrient uptake. Whilst applications of wetting agents are being made, it is a good opportunity to include biostimulants in the tank, which can be targeted to reach the rootzone area of the profile. These biostimulants will help mitigate any plant stress that is present.
Recently, there have been the first sightings of Crane fly emergence, and brings to the fore one of the major issues currently for turf managers. There is still no registered chemical control for this pest to be applied at this time of year, however if damage is significant, there is the option to consider a spring application of nematodes to try combat the problem. Steinernema feltiae can be used at soil temperatures above 8°C and Steinernema carpocapsae above 13°C, therefore it’s important to choose the right treatment for your site at this time of year. We will wait to see if emergency approval is granted for the use of Acelepryn on chafer grubs in 2022. Installing pheromone traps allows you to monitor which species you have on your site and to plan accordingly; it also means you can track the peak flight period to time your product application for best results.
The forecast looks good for May, so let’s hope it brings consistent growth which will allow the best surfaces to be produced.
B.Sc (Hons) | BASIS | FACTS
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.
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