Many greens have taken a battering from the recent poor weather, especially those who suffered long periods of snow cover, after which they suffered from various degrees of disease damage.
Fusarium / snow mold has been quite rife. A preventative fungicide will have helped matters, however, the damage, if not too severe, will soon clear up once the grass starts growing and an appropriate fungicide application is made, if required.
I still see too many clubs not doing enough work on their greens during the winter months. The clubs that made the effort to keep on top of basic maintenance regimes, that is to say they carried out some forms of aeration, kept their sward mown and applied some iron to help retain colour, will have a head start on those who did nothing.
Soil and air temperatures will soon rise once we get a few hours of bright March sunshine (hopefully). Surfaces will dry out, allowing you the opportunity to get on with your planned spring work.
Early in the Month 1st - 15th March
Priority work for the start of the month is to aerate the green to help gaseous exchanges and increase water infiltration through the soil profile, an application of iron sulphate will help improve colour and kill any moss that has established during the winter months, some clubs apply a lawn sand to kill the moss.
You will need to ensure your mowers are ready for the start of the season, serviced and sharpened and ready to go. Check your height of cut, you do not want to be cutting too low; some clubs may even use pedestrian rotaries to help clean up the green and carry out their initial cuts.
Ensure you brush the dew off the green before cutting, this helps reduce the amount of water on the leaf blade, a dry leaf cuts better than a wet one. This can be done dragging a hose pipe, a drag mat or drag brush or a swishing cane.
Later in the Month 16th March - onwards
You should have planned and ordered your spring renovation materials by now, your renovations will be based around a good aeration of the green, some light verticutting / scarification to remove some side and lateral growth, coupled with a light dressing of topdressing, usually a 80/20 sand soil rootzone material, to restore levels and to provide a seed bed for some new seed which you will sow into the green.
The key is not to be too aggressive, follow this up with a good dose of spring fertiliser.
Key Tasks for March
The present condition of the green will also have a bearing on what maintenance operations you should be doing. Coming out of this unseasonal wet and mild winter weather, there will be many clubs suffering from a build up of moss and algae problems.
Mosses are primitive, non-flowering plants that have no root structure and rely on there being sufficient moisture in the environment for reproduction and survival. The majority of mosses are tolerant of acidic conditions and are stimulated by wet, humid conditions. Rapid colonisation of moss and algaes usually occur during autumn and winter months when turf surfaces are lying wet and saturated for long periods of time, particularly when little or no aeration has been undertaken.
Remember, moss is the symptom of poor grass growth and not the cause of it. If you make sure you have a tightly knit sward next year, and have maximised drainage with plenty of regular aeration, you should not have to deal with moss at all.
If you are saddled with a turf situation that has a lot of moss present, there will be a requirement to kill off the moss. The only product now available to control moss in turf is sulphate of iron (Ferrous Sulphate), it is relatively cheap and effective. It can be applied in two ways - liquid or granular (lawn sand). Apply at recommended rates.
For best results (liquids):-
• Apply when the turf is actively growing and the soil is moist
• Mow 3 days before treatment and do not mow for three days after treatment
• Water after 2 days if no rain forecast
• Rake out dead moss thoroughly 7-14 days after treatment
• Re-treatment may be necessary for heavy infestations
You can safely apply this to a bowling green all through the year - though perhaps at lower doses during the season.
Lawn sand might also be worth a try. When using lawn sand it is important you use a compatible sand product that matches your rootzone soil profile. You do not want to create a layering problem.
Any bare or sparse areas can be lightly tilthed, overseeded and topdressed with a sand/soil rootzone mix. Cover with germination sheets to promote quicker growth.
Keeping the surface clean and disease free will be the priority in readiness for the mowing and any spring renovation works required.
Soil tests should be taken, ideally once or a year, or as required. March is an ideal time to obtain a soil analysis of the green, measuring for soil Ph, nutrient levels and organic matter content, which are seen as good indicators of the condition of the soil. Once you have this information, you will be in a better position to plan your season's feeding and maintenance programmes.
Be vigilant for signs of pests or diseases in and on your turf. Worms and worm casts will affect the playing surface. Again, the wet weather will have highlighted this as a problem. A healthy sward will minimise their impact but, if the problem is there, chemical control might be the only alternative - use carbendazim.
Check those often forgotten parts of the playing arena - gutters, surround fencing, floodlights and irrigation systems. Don't wait until the players are there for the first match or session.
Useful Information for Moss control
Facts about Algae & Moss on Sports Surfaces
Moss Control For Turf
Mowing: Weekly or as required. Soil and air temperatures will begin to rise in March and this will stimulate grass growth. Begin cutting when weather conditions allow. Regular mowing will now be implemented to develop an even sward and to keep the surface uniform. It is important to lower the height of cut gradually until reaching the optimum height for match play at the start of the bowling season.
Keep at 10-12mm at the start of the month and gradually reducing to 8mm by the end of the month.
Useful Information for Mowing
Facts about mowing
Aeration and Scarifying
Aeration: When conditions allow. Do not carry out aeration when there is the likelihood of smearing or damaging the surface. Aeration is important to improve surface and subsurface drainage of the green.
Aeration also increases gaseous exchanges in the soil. Due to the warmer temperatures, grass will be sending out new roots already; creating air space through spiking will allow the plant to develop a healthy root system quickly.
Most of your deeper spiking and core aeration works should have been completed last autumn. Carrying out deep aeration practices at the start of the playing season may lead to surface disruptions and affect surface playability.
However, spring renovations will require some shallower aeration operations to rejuvenate and introduce some much needed porosity into your green, along with helping integrate any applied topdressings.
The choice of tines will be dependant on the condition and needs of the green. In most cases, the use of needle tines are better suited in spring.
Scarifying: Pre season scarifying should be carried out to remove moss, thatch and decaying matter that may have formed during the winter.
Useful Information for Aeration and Scarifying
Machinery Spares, Blades, Cylinders & Tines
Pest & Disease
Disease has been fairly prominent this year, especially after the snow. Keep an eye on fungal disease attack and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. Good cultural practices generally reduce the likelihood of disease outbreaks.
Useful Information for Pest & Disease
Fertilising / brushing
Fertilising: Ideally, you should have conducted a soil analysis of your soil profile to ascertain the nutrient status of your green. This will help you decide on what fertiliser products to buy and apply.
Ensure you apply at the recommended rates and do not overdose the green or overlap when applying the products. There are plenty of spring fertiliser products available to meet your needs.
Brushing/switching: of the playing surface keeps the green clean and removes any dew or surface water. Keeping the surface dry will aid resistance to disease.
Useful Information for Fertilising / brushing
Plant Nutrition - food for thought
Spring & Summer Fertilisers
Other Tasks for the Month
Irrigation equipment: Check and re-commission the irrigation system, making sure that it is in good working order and the 'pop-ups' are irrigating the areas uniformly.
Machinery and sundries: Keep machines overhauled and clean. Arrange the servicing of your machines ready for the new season. Keep an eye on your material stocks (seed, topdressing, petrol, oil ), remembering to replenish as required.
Perimeter fences and hedges: Most bowling green facilities are enclosed by fences or hedges. Now is a good time to complete any tidying up of these features. Hedges can be pruned and cut to maintain their shape and form.
Repairs: Carry out any repairs to ditches, paths, gates, floodlights and other building features. Ideally, you should have your floodlights serviced on a annual basis to check that they are safe and operating to the correct lux values. Also check that the lights are correctly positioned, thus preventing unwanted light pollution.
Bowls Green maintenance courses are available from Pitchcare - our next courses is taking place in Chalfont St Giles - for more information visit www.groundsmantraining.co.uk/courses