SUMMER AND EARLY AUTUMN TURFCARE FAQ's
By Simon Barnaby
Simon is the Technical Manager for The Scotts Company - here he answers some of the common questions asked at this time of year.
The condition of our wickets is starting to draw criticism from visiting teams. What do we have to do to try and turn things around?
After every match, ensure that all damage caused by the batsman, bowler and wicket keeper is thoroughly repaired before the next match. Block holes should be gently eased up using a border fork, thoroughly watered, allowed to dry and then filled with a heavy binding cricket loam and levelled off.
The used wicket should be thoroughly swept of debris, particularly loose cricket studs, which can cause severe mower damage.
Water the surface thoroughly, providing the pitch is not required for at least three days, lightly aerate with a spike roller and irrigate again. Remember to only aerate the immediate surface to allow fresh air and moisture to penetrate and not to deep aerate because the degree of soil consolidation must not be compromised until the end of the playing season - otherwise pitch pace and quality will suffer.
Over seeding of the repaired pitches should realistically only be carried out when that pitch is no longer required for the rest of the season, as any applied seed will not have sufficient time to develop and knit together into a hard wearing sward. If over seeding is essential during the playing season, we have found that pre-germinating sufficient seed to repair the pitch can accelerate germination to less than seven days for perennial rye grass species. Soak the seed in a small cotton or muslin bag, allow it to drain then keep the seed damp for three days before applying it to any damaged patches.
Light fertilizer applications using either mini granule products such as Scotts Greenmaster 12.0.12 applied at 30 grams /m2 or Scotts Greenmaster Liquid 11.0.11 applied at 4-8 litres per 1000/m2 can be applied as & when required. The liquid products offer the advantage of greater flexibility and do not have the possible problems of granule pickup particularly on closely mown pitches.
With the limited time we have available to look after the bowling green, what operations should we be prioritising at this time of year?
Apart from daily brushing /switching to remove dew, regular mowing at least three times per week at 5-6 mm and irrigation during dry periods, other maintenance operations ideally need to carried out on a regular basis.
Aerate the surface at least once per week if you can with solid tines fitted that penetrate about 2.5 cm into the surface allowing entry of water, air and applied fertilizers and wetting agents. Aerate in opposite diagonal directions and not in the direction of play.
Selective weed control can still be carried out if required during suitable growing conditions but do not apply during drought periods. Scotts Tritox is particularly effective against broad-leaved species & clovers with the added bonus that the sward can be cut 24 hours either side of spraying and therefore does not disrupt intensive mowing regimes.
Regular liquid feeding using the Scotts Greenmaster Liquid 6:0:6 option can be applied or alternatively a Greenmaster granule product such as 12.0.12 can be used every six weeks if necessary. The balanced N:K ratio can improve drought tolerance in the award.
Daily movement of rink markers is very important to spread wear across the whole of the greens playing surface. Also, aim to turn the direction of play once per week during busy periods.
We are somewhat prone to disease infestations here. What fungicide should we be considering for the autumn/early winter?
This can be a difficult one to call, because sudden changes in weather can influence the turf growth patterns, rendering any treatment less effective. For example, you might think that a systemic fungicide, based, for example, on carbendazim, might give more thorough control. However, if the weather turns and grass growth stops, this may not be particularly effective. On the other hand, a vigorous period of growth can mean that you quickly mow out any benefit from a contact acting treatment.
If Fusarium is a problem, take a look at the new Heritage fungicide from Scotts. Heritage has a unique mode of action and works by disrupting the mitochondrial respiration of target fungi, blocking the pathogens ability to form energy. In practice, this means that Heritage works against turf disease on two levels. Not only is spore production, germination and infection blocked, but existing infection can also be tackled, providing a vital curative action.
Heritage is best applied early in the season as a preventative and early cure for turf disease. Once it has been taken up it diffuses through the plant into the xylem vessels and is thus translocated throughout - even entering and protecting new leaves developing after application.
Regular mowing of sports and amenity turf (and associated clippings removal) poses less of a threat to the control offered by Heritage compared to conventional products, as the active ingredient lost as sap exudes through the cut blade can be reabsorbed again through the roots.
In order to overcome existing disease resistance, or prevent the development of resistance, on a site, the best advice is to establish a resistance management programme where different fungicides with different chemical groups are alternated. Daconil is an ideal partner for Heritage in such a programme, reducing consecutive applications of the same treatment to a maximum of two, before switching to the other.
We are trying to schedule our maintenance work and will struggle this autumn - how much can we put off until spring?
Frankly, as little as possible. Autumn is traditionally thought of as the start of the Greenkeeper's year for good reason - the soil is warm and therefore the sward more likely to respond positively to any treatments. Conversely, it is much more difficult to renovate surfaces in early spring due to cold soil and air conditions.
The sooner you can carry out the work the longer over sown seed has to establish before the onset of winter, although it is sometimes possible to get some germination into November and even December. It is certainly good advice to get your top-dressing completed early - leave it any later than the end of September and you run the risk of encouraging turf disease.
We've seen a lot of discussion recently as to whether autumn fertilizer treatments are necessary - what is your view?
In truth, there are a lot of factors to consider before deciding whether to apply an autumn fertilizer - as soil type, type of turf surface (football, golf etc), soil nutrient levels and so on. To be fair, many old soil based golf greens do not need much nutrient after the final summer fertilizer application. More sandy root zones, however, and heavy wear situations such as soccer pitches etc will certainly benefit from an autumn feeding.
It is worth noting, however, that recent years have seen mild early winters with a lot of heavy rainfall. As a consequence, the sward can continue growing well into the winter - and if it is growing and being mown, it is using and losing nutrients that need to be replaced if it is to perform to its best. It is perhaps due to this that we are seeing more incidences of anthracnose disease in the autumn, winter and spring.In addition to contributing factors such as compaction it is possible that low nutrient levels are also responsible for this problem.