July Maintenance

Maintenance Regimes

You might be seeing play on your greens on a daily basis at this time of year and because daylight hours are long and it is warm, grass growth will be prolific, especially if there is moisture about.

Your maintenance regime may well have been affected by recent unpredictable weather and you may even have been prevented from getting matches on. We are all optimistic that there will be enough dry, warm weather between the rain showers that are forecast to help get the grass growing consistently.

Continue with routine maintenance tasks - mow, verticut, fertilise, and water to keep the green playable. How often you mow will depend on how fast the grass is growing but in most cases, clubs will mow every day or three to four times per week.

You only need to apply fertilisers if there is a lot of moisture on the green. If your club is struggling to water then don't apply feeds to dry greens. Diarise what work has been undertaken on the green and record how it has performed. You can also take pictures and note any issues or problems.

Take a number of coil sore samples so you can keep an eye on what is happening underground. By getting analysis of your soil profile you can monitor thatch content, moisture levels and root depth.

Mowing: Make sure to keep your mower blades sharp and set the mower at the correct height. No two greens are identical so height of cut (HOC) will vary from green to green. HOC will be affected by several factors - what type of mower is used, the condition of the green, sward composition and surface levels. As a general rule, your HOC will range between 3-8mm during the growing season and most clubs will cut at around 5mm.

It is an option to reduce HOC to 3mm to increase speed for club competitions. Mowing for any length of time at this sort of reduced height can stress the plant. Alternatively, instead of reducing HOC do a double cut (in different directions) to speed up the greens without reducing the height of the grass. Speed can also depend on other things. Too much thatch is the primary cause of slow greens while another cause can be not enough topdressing which maintains levels.

Irrigation: Irrigation is vital to the turf management industry especially as demand increases for better quality playing surfaces. Consider carefully which watering system to invest in. Most professional sporting facilities will have some sort of irrigation systems and withou them they would be unable to prepare or maintain their surfaces.

Why is irrigation essential? It is needed for plant survival and growth, soil formation, soil strength, chemical transport, managing playability, and for presentation.

Put simply, water is key to all chemical, physiological and biological plant growth processes. The relationship between plant and water has a critical impact on the grass plant's sustainability. You must understand these relationships.

All grass plants are a continuum of water movement. More than 90 per cent 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 then out into the atmosphere. An understanding of these relationships when designing and oprating systems of irrigation is very important. What yo are chiefly looking for is a water balance within the soil profile that guarantees the grass plant can access the water that is available within the soil.

Scheduling irrigation by the water balance approach is built on foundations of estimating the soil water content. In the field, daily evapotranspiration (ET) amounts are withdrawn from storage in the soil profile. Rainfall or irrigation is also added to storage. If the projections of the water balance project soil water will drop below a minimum level, then irrigation is required and indicated. Weather forecasts can help with prediction of ET and projection of soil water balance which indicates whether irrigation is needed soon.

Remember that overwatering can be equally harmful to your surface. If your surface is waterlogged air porosity will be reduced and plant growth will suffer while constant shallow watering will increase Poa annua populations. You are ideally looking for a sufficient amount of water to flood up the green and to drain for two to three days. This way, water can get deeper into the soil profile.

Fertilising: Most groundstaff will now be applying a summer N P K fertiliser by now which could be something like a 8:0:6 which reduces the N and P inputs and aims to maintain a stable balanced growth during July. What you choose and how well it works depends on factors such as soil type and weather, remembering that moisture and air temperature are catalysts for growth.

If you can access water for the greens, you can continue fertiliser treatment and turf tonics in line with your annual programme. If you don't have a fertiliser programme, get your soil tested. An independent soil analysis company is a good bet as they should provide an impartial set of results.

Aeration: This remains a key activity as it ensures there is a good exhange of air and gas happening below the surface in the soil profile. If the green is sufficiently irrigated, use a sarrel roller (depth 5mm) to help keep the surface open while not disturbing the playing surface. You should only aerate any deeper using micro tines when conditions allow to avoid any risk of damaging the playing surface as play goes on.

Topdressing: This is usually done in spring and automn as part of renovation programmes. Some bowling clubs, however, will apply topdressing materials during the season. Make sure an appropriate material is sourced and that is fully compatible with the existing rootzone material. You do not under any circumstances want to encourage rootbreaks in the green.

RINK ENDS


Rink ends can be a point of contention between players and groundsmen. Players and committees will often insist on keeping the ends in the same position, sometimes claiming that it's a lucky rink, even!

However, playing in the same direction with the rink ends in the same position will lead to uneven wear on what should be a flat, even green. You will get ruts and depressions and that will stop bowls from running truly.

You should move rink settings laterally and directionally every three days or so playing across as well as up and down the green. Using the same principle, all rinks should be used in rotation so any wear is evenly spread across the green - if you just use the central rinks this will adversely affect the level of the green.

Agronomy

All groundstaff and greenkeepers should by now have adopted the key skill of monitoring the performance of their playing surfaces. Modern technologies, tools and cameras now assist this monitoring process, including monitoring both performance and condition of your sward.

The use Performance Quality Standards (PQS) have been promoted by the turf industry for some years now to ascertain the standard of sport pitch maintenance.

It is crucial to survey and measure the performance of your facilities and harness technology to help you do this - you can now measure all aspects of your green so that it meets any stated guidelines laid down by the sport's governing bodies.

These aspects can include measuring sward height, composition of grass species, soil temperature, weed content, levels over a 3m level, hardness and infiltration rates (porosity) of the soil rootzone.

Recently, the development of GPS mapping devices has progressed to the point where they can now measure chlorophyll, moisture content, and deviation in levels. Get soil tests done to determine soil type, nutrient status, organic matter content, CEC capacity and pH.

If you keep a record of these parameters you will improve your understanding of what is happening within your playing surface and therefore put you in position to make better decisions on what maintenance inputs you require to keep your surface playable.

Weeds, pests and diseases

Keep your surface open, clean and dry by brushing and sweeping regularly because a dry surface will be less vulnerable against disease. Watch out for any attack of fungal disease and use approved fungicides to treat any areas that become infected.

Selective weedkillers will contain any broadleaf weeds but when you apply is crucial - apply when the growth of the weed is vigorous.

Greens have recently been affected by turf diseases like Microdochium nivale (Fusarium), Fairy Rings and Red Thread. Such diseases can be expected to remain prevalent as summer go, so look to prevent its onset with a systematic fungicide like Heritage Maxx. Apply before symptoms appear but when you know the threat is imminent.

Fairy Rings will most likely have been experienced by most greenkeepers and are unfortunately quite a common sight. It is an unsightly and annoying blight to any surface and what sort of damage they cause depends on their type, location, biological environment and abundance.

They are generally caused by fungi of the basidiomycetes genus. However, more than 50 known fungi cause similar reactions. When the disease appears in the first instance, it is crucial to identify the symptoms because there are three types:

  • TYPE I - Marasmius oreades
  • TYPE II - Scleroderma & Lycoperdon spp
  • TYPE III - Hygrophorous & Psilocybe spp

If they have already taken hold, you can still control them. You must make sure you identify what type of fairy ring is causing the problem. As Type III Fairy Rings are mainly aesthetic, you can proceed by mainly removing the mushrooms/toadstools. For Type I and Type II, however, other methods need to be employed but there are several options out there.

Machinery

Look after your equipment and store it safely and securely - get in to the habit of washing down and cleaning following use. Keep your mower clean and well serviced and keep blades and cylinders sharp and in good working order.

 
 
Dennis Mowers