July Maintenance

General Maintenance

Keep mowing the course regularly and keep the mower set at summer heights. You will be expected to keep the quality of the playing surfaces high as levels of competitions and tournaments increase. Aim for good green speeds and roll consistency.

Dropping the height of cut is one way of doing this, but don't always be tempted to take this approach. Look at using rollers as part of your current maintenance programme to ensure good speed without stressing the sward.

A guide to mowing heights:

Greens: 3.5-6mm; Tees: 10-15mm; Fairways: 15-20mm, Rough & Semi-Rough: mow and tidy up areas

Control horizontal growth by regularly brushing and verticutting. Verticut between every two and four weeks depending on your situation. This will help you keep on top of any thatch accumulation as the growing season continues. Before you mow, groom and brush the greens to stand any horizontal growth up as this will encourage a sward that is denser and more attractive.

Change your holes once or twice a week - depending on how much golf is being played, how much wear there is and specific competition or tournament requirements. Try to be fair. Look at the design of the hole and how it was imagined to be played. Consider the length of shot to the green and how it may be affected by conditions such as wind and other elements, the condition of the turf from which the approach shot may be taken, and the holding quality of the green.

Make sure to allow enough putting surface between the hole and the front and sides of the green to facilitate the required shot. If the hole calls for a long iron or wood shot to the green, then locate the hole deeper in the green and well away from its sides. As a general rule, any hole should be located at least four paces from any edge of the green.

If there is a bunker close to the edge of the green, or if the ground slopes away from the edge, that distance will need to be increased. Keep in mind the need for a fair recovery shot if a reasonably good approach just misses the green.

You will still need to keep fertiliser requirements in mind and these may be high, particularly on USGA specification greens. Drought can occur at this time of year so increase the ratio of nitrogen to potassium. Potassium will be vital for the plant at this time as it affects chemical and moisture transfer through the root system, plus assisting the plant to have better stomatal control.

If the potassium is inadequate metabolic activity will decrease because the enzyme structure will change markedly and this is just what you don't want during a period of stress. Try to find a product with an NPK ratio of around 9-7-7 or 12-0-8.

Irrigation

As the month goes on, soil temperatures will reach high levels in places and this can lead to surfaces drying out, especially if the sun is out and air temperature is warm - if it is windy, there is even more propensity for this. Watering the greens is hugely important but don't rely on this to reduce drought stress. Hand water where possible, in particular on high spots, to reduce the chance of dry spot appearing.

Try to replicate nature in your watering practises, soaking the surface regularly instead of watering little and often as you would when topdressing. Modern wetting agent technology such as Qualibra, which has a mix of penetrant and polymer mix allows soils to hold water at depth which can reduce the cost of irrigation and encourage deeper rooting.

How you manage your water will also be of paramount importance this month. Most courses will use wetting agents where they can especially where water drains well in the south as this saves money and resources. Research well and make the correct decision about what product to buy. Don't just rely on price unless your budget dictates it.

If you can, look for one that is suitable for your own situation, aims and ability to apply. Monitor the effect they have on your soil and this will give you a great insight of when it is the right time to next apply and how long the product lasts.

Growth Regulators

One more key tool this month will be growth regulators. Why use them? They can lead to a healthier root system, reduced top growth and that can help reduce the drought stress the plant will suffer. By reducing vegetative growth the energy required for growth is reduced, as is the amount of water needed for high rates of photosynthesis.

Using just one application of growth regulator Primo Maxx has been shown to increase density, colour and root mass even when it is hot and dry, while at the same time reducing mowing requirements and wear on machinery.

Top dressing and aeration

Use the little and often approach with topdressing and aeration this month to keep the putting surface smooth and help give the health of the root system a boost. Aim to not apply more than half a tonne of topdressing per green and look to use pencil tines if you can when aerating.

You shouldn't need to deep aerate this month as the soil is dry but spike regular to let oxygen into the rootzone, help develop the roots and drainage if it should rain heavily.

Products like Oxy rush and Primo Maxx will enhance the health of the root zone and system even more. We are expecting it to be hot and dry so the plant will be using its root system as its 'fridge' so do all you can to support it. Apply these products on a monthly basis to provide good aerobic conditions for soil micro-organisms and divert the supply of nutrients from vegetative to root growth to ensure everything is at hand for a healthy sward.

Agronomy

All groundsmen and greenkeepers should be used by now to monitoring the performance of your surfaces. Use modern technologies and a camera to monitor your sward in many different ways. The turf industry's long-standing Performance Quality Standards exist to ascertain the standard of sports pitch maintenance.

Make sure you survey and measure the performance of your facilities using the tools outlined above so it meets those guidelines: from measuring sward height to composition of grass species, soil temperature, weed content, levels over a 3m level, hardness and infiltration rates (porosity) of the soil rootzone, to more complex measurements which the advent of GPS mapping devices have helped with like chlorophyll, moisture content and deviation in levels.

Conduct soil tests so you know your soil type, its nutrient status, organic matter content, CEC capacity and pH. Record these parameters so you have the best understanding you can get when it comes to making decisions about your surface maintenance.

Weeds, pests and disease

Turf diseases such as Microdochium nivale (fusarium) have recently been a problem on golf greens, as have Fairy Rings and Red Thread.

With these diseases so prevalent now in mid-summer, it can be expected that they will continue to cause problems over the coming months as well, so look to prevent that happening now with a systematic fungicide such as Heritage Maxx. Applying before symptoms appear but when the threat is imminent is the way to approach it.

Weed growth will be very active this month so you may need selective herbicides to control them. They are more effective when the plant is actively promoting growth and always remember to follow the guidelines laid out by the manufacturer.

Repair any damage caused by moles and/or rabbits as required.

Machinery

Regular servicing and maintenance of equipment - of which golf courses generally have a large fleet - is always required. A good washdown facility is also an excellent option to keep machinery and tools clean and many companies specialise in the installation of these.

Clubs have also recently been investing in grinding machines which keep mower blades sharp as running mowers with the blades as sharp as possible enhances the quality of cut and keeps the plant free from stress.

 
 
Dennis Mowers