Ideally, most clubs will be mowing daily or at least three times a week, however, this will dependent on resources available to the club.
Regular mowing will be required to maintain sward height at around 4-8mm, although some clubs will reduce their mowing heights further, perhaps down to 3mm to help speed up the greens for club competitions.
Too much thatch, or the fact that greens have not had enough topdressing to maintain levels can both be reasons for slow greens.
Many bowlers complain about slow, inconsistent greens, often resulting in many clubs trying to speed them up by shaving off more grass. In the short term, this may increase speed but, in the long term, it will be very damaging to the green.
Regular grooming and verticutting operations will remove and control the rate of unwanted thatch and side growth. Mowing in several directions to reduce nap layering will also increase green speed. Double cutting for matches will increase green speed. Controlling soil moisture will help influence green speed.
Brushing/switching of the playing surface keeps the green clean and removes any dew or surface water. Keeping the surface dry will improve resistance to disease.
Through influence of the club members too many bowls clubs choose to cut their greens far too low during the summer months. Do no cut below 4mm unless you have the expertise, resources and knowledge to support this type of regime.
The green will suffer in many ways; with the grass cover beginning to thin out, bare areas develop which allow weeds and moss to establish. The constant rolling will have compacted the soil profile leading to poorer root growth and less movement of water.
Aeration is a key activity to ensure that there is a good air/gas exchange in the soil profile, sarrel rolling helps keep the surface open without disturbing it. Deeper aeration should only be done with micro tines when moist conditions allow penetration.
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. Water is influential in all chemical, physiological and biological processes of plant growth. The soil/plant water relationships is critical to the sustainability of any grass plant. Having an understanding of these relationships is critical. All grass plants are a continuum of water movement.
When designing and operating irrigation systems this knowledge of the relationships is important, with the main aim of achieving water balance within the soil profile ensuring the grass plant is able to access available water from the soil.
Irrigation scheduling by the water balance approach is based on estimating the soil water content. In the field, daily evapotranspiration (ET) amounts are withdrawn from storage in the soil profile. Any rainfall or irrigation are added to storage. Should the water balance calculations project soil water to drop below some minimum level, irrigation is indicated. Weather forecasts enable prediction of ET rates and projection of soil water balance to indicate whether irrigation is needed in the near future.
The soil water balance will be affected by a number of factors:
Soil type and condition; the water holding capacity of soils will vary depending on their classification. Clay soils can hold more water than loamy or sandy soils, therefore soil type will effect and contribute to the amount of water required. Soils are continually going through phases of wetting and drying caused by local weather conditions.
Turf type and condition; healthy vigorous turf will transpire more water than an unhealthy turf plant.
Time of the year; there is likely to be more soil water present during the spring, autumn and winter months when temperatures are cooler coupled with higher levels of rainfall.
Weather; air temperature, daylight hours, solar energy inputs, wind speed and shading are factors that will affect evapotranspiration rates.
Maintenance regimes; keeping the soil open and aerated will increase the drainage capacity of the soil. On the other hand compacted soils will prevent the movement of water through soils, often creating an environment that prevents water getting down into the soil profile. By carrying out effective regular maintenance regimes that include aeration, scarifying, harrowing, brushing, top dressing all help to keep the soil in good condition.
Irrigation system; type, capacity, running time, calibration and efficiency.
Water resources; quantity and quality. The quantity of water available, and the amount licensed for use in any one year, will determine the performance of any system and irrigation capabilities.
Facility type; design and construction. USGA greens perform differently to pushed up soil greens, each having different water and management requirements. Modern drainage systems also effect soil water conditions. Extensive drainage systems will freely drain water from the soil.
Groundsman knowledge; it is important that there is someone who understands all of the above parameters and can access the water requirements of the turf and correctly implement the right irrigation schedule for the facility.
It’s vitally important you water your bowling green and ensure the plant does not become stressed, on the other hand you do not want to be over watering, as soil water relationships are key drivers in maintaining plant health.
Fertiliser treatment and turf tonics can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested; try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results.
A regular feeding programme is essential to maintain vigour, colour and well-being of the sward. A combination of a slow release granular based fertiliser, topped up with some organics/liquid feeds, are becoming a popular method of feeding bowling greens. The slow release will generally last around three months, whilst the liquids can be applied every 4-6 weeks depending on the plant's needs.
A good preventative cure for dry patch is the use of wetting agents, many groundsmen are now using these products regularly on fine turf situations and are applied on a monthly basis.
Wetting agents are available in three forms - Residual, Penetrant and Curative. Residuals keep working over a given stated period, depending on the amount of time you require it to work they hold water near the surface.
Penetrants help remove standing water as well as move water through the profile. Many turf managers use penetrants in a tank mix, when using other chemicals to get the product through the profile immediately.
Curatives combat the problem of dry patch by stripping off the waxy organic coating on the soil particle which renders the soil profile water repellent, but never totally alleviates the problem as, every time you topdress with sand, you add a further layer of water repellent organic coating to your soil profile.
To achieve the best from wetting agents any factors contributing to the dry patch should be addressed. Such as alleviation of compaction, removal of thatch and preventing the rootzone from reaching the critical moisture content by ensuring even and timely irrigation.
Best results are achieved by applying wetting agents in a programmed approach, starting early in the season before symptoms are observed. Blanket applications are also more effective than spot treatments.
Scarify in several directions to remove unwanted thatch and dead matter, aerating with some deep solid tines to break up compaction and topdressing with some 7-30 to restore levels, then oversees with some new grass seed.
Generally, you should be looking at a programme of scarifying in several directions to remove unwanted thatch layers and dead matter, aerating with some deep solid tines to break up compaction, topdressing with some 70-30 topdressing to restore levels, and overseeding with some new grass seed.
Unfortunately, one of the deciding factors that often reduces the effectiveness of these planned works is the amount of money (budget ) the club has available. It can cost anywhere between £1200-£1500 for a contractor to come in and do all the work.
Savings can be made if the club undertake the work themselves, however, the effectiveness of the work carried out will be determined by the equipment they have at their disposal.
Applying another organic fertiliser application will see you through to October, which is perfect time for an autumn winter feed. Maxwell Turf Food Myco2 4-6-12+4%MgO provides a nice kick of phosphorous, potassium and magnesium for plant resilience and colour but without too much nitrogen so as not to encourage excessive soft lush growth. The mycorrhizal fungi combined with the phosphorus content means it is also especially good as a fertiliser when sowing seed.
The combination of warmth and humidity is going to place stress on the plant which means aeration is vital to keep the soil oxygen ratio balanced, 8mm needle or 12mm standard tines down to a depth of 200-300mm with a vertical aerator will be particularly beneficial in allowing the soil to breath. Combining this Sarell rolling or Star Tine aerator will provide a large volume of aeration into the sward and thatch layer to provide a rounded approach to aeration.
Polymer and penetrant wetting agents will help manage soil water percolation and retention more effectively by moving rain fall away from the surface.
You may have noticed disease pressure has been high during July and is only likely to continue into August. Heritage Maxx fungicide is great as a preventative and early curative. In humid conditions Red thread will also thrive, although switching and brushing is the first line of defence when aiming to minimise disease activity.
Weeds, Pests & Diseases
Keep the surface clean, open and dry by brushing and sweeping regularly. A dry surface will aid resistance to disease. Keep an eye on fungal disease attack and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.
A selective weedkiller will help control any broadleaf weeds; the timing of application is key, apply when weed growth is vigorous. With the renovations due to start in September, it would be a good practice to eradicate any weeds using a selective weed killer, invest in a professional product and choose the right active chemical ingredient to deal with the weed problem you have.
Machinery & Materials
Keep your machinery clean and well serviced, check bottom blades and cylinders for sharpness. Ensure it’s store safely and securely as well as washed down after use.