The joys of spring soon come round each year. The Bowling Green fraternity will soon be seen out practicing and playing on their bowling greens up and down the country. This article gives us an overview of spring maintenance.
The first operation is to firm up the greens, particularly after a period of frosts when the ground has been lifted. This is carried out by rolling the green using your mower in the disengaged mode (no cylinder blades working), walking slowly in several directions over the surface of your green.
Subsequent rolling can be carried out using a 50 kilo weight roller, better still a Sisis Trulevel hand roller, again in many directions. Think of a clock face; the first run starting at 12 o'clock and finishing at 6 o'clock, then starting at 3 o'clock and finishing at 9 o'clock. Work around the clock to firm evenly when conditions allow, not when the soil is saturated or frosted. Ideally, perform this operation when the surface is drying out and the sub surface is moist. This will help firm the playing surface. Turf Irons and specially designed turf rolling machines help to improve the speed of playing surfaces and allow the woods to roll smoothly across the green with less effort from the bowler.
A programme of surface aeration is beneficial, particularly to help drain away any surface water or address any surface compaction resulting from recent rolling activities. This can be achieved using a Sarel roller or a set of micro tines attached to a pedestrian mechanical spiker. Most of your deeper aeration works should have been completed during the winter months, i.e. November to February. Try to avoid the use of slit tines during the spring and summer as these types of aerators can lead to surface disruption, thus affecting surface playability. If you need to aerate during the playing season, use solid tines.
Daily brushing and switching of greens should continue to keep the greens clean and remove any early morning dew. Keeping the sward dry, particularly in the spring, helps prevent the likelihood and disease attacks. However, if you do get an outbreak of disease, there are a number of professional fungicide products now available to help control or reduce the damaging effects of disease pathogens. Worm activity will increase as the soil temperatures begin to rise and the soils remain moist.
Ideally, you should have carried out a soil analysis to establish the soil nutrient status and soil pH of your green. The results of this test will help you determine an effective fertiliser programme for the coming year.
Mowing is one of the most important practices and should be carried out on a regular basis. Cutting frequencies will depend on the weather and ground conditions. During the playing season, March to October, the greens should be cut at least three times a week, if not daily. Mowing machines should be at least 7 to 9 bladed cylinder mowers that are kept well maintained and sharp. Height of cut will range from 3.5mm to 5mm during the playing season.
Macro pores generally allow movement of air and the drainage of water and are large enough to accommodate plant roots and micro-organisms found in the soil. The ability to retain a good balance of macro pores in the soil structure is essential for maintaining grass plant health. It is when these macro pores are either reduced in size by compaction or filled with water that we see deterioration in pitch playability and resistance to wear.
However, the main contributing factor that reduces and damages pore spaces in soil is compaction caused by compression forces normally associated with play and use of machinery, particularly during wet weather periods. Over time, these compression forces reduce the pore spaces so that air, water and nutrient flow through the soil profile is restricted, thus leading to many problems associated with compaction.
To maintain optimum growing conditions for the grass plant, a planned fertiliser programme should be implemented. Ideally, a soil analysis should have been carried out to ascertain the nutrient status of your soil. Once known, an effective NPK fertiliser programme can be applied to maximise plant growth.
Fertilisers now come in many forms, both granular and liquid. It is important that you understand how these products work and how to apply them. If in, doubt leave it to a professional company to do it for you. Many greens are damaged and affected by poor fertiliser applications, using the wrong product or over or under dosing. This often leads to visual and physical problems on the surface.
All grass plants are a continuum of water movement. Over 90% of the plant's water requirements are transported through the plant from the soil profile, via the roots and stem tissues, into the leaves and out into the atmosphere. Knowledge of these relationships is important when designing and operating irrigation systems. The main aim is to achieve a water balance within the soil profile ensuring that the grass plant is able to access available water from the soil.
Other than the main core activities mentioned above, there are often several other tasks or activities that can be implemented during the playing season. These will include keeping the surface clean and free of debris and other extraneous materials, possible use of wetting agents to prevent dry patch forming and help improve soil moisture contents.
- Keeping drainage ditches clean and safe
- Maintaining hedges and boundary fence lines
- Maintaining floodlight columns and lights
- Maintaining shelters and seating features around club house
- Servicing mowers and machinery