The weather this year has been quite challenging, the dry spring set the scene for what was going to be a tough year for greens maintenance. There has been a lot of dry patch on many greens, especially crown greens where water runoff is more prevalent.
Clubs with adequate watering facilities will not have suffered too badly; however, clubs with limited water resources will have struggled to control the problem and may be faced with having large areas of dead grass on their greens.
End of season renovations will give clubs ample opportunity to rectify the problems and repair these areas.
With this season's match play now coming to an end, many clubs should be organising and sourcing materials and products for their end of season renovations. Most clubs will be looking to begin their renovations towards the end of September, making good use of the warm soil temperatures to initiate seed germination.
September is also be an ideal time to undertake any major or minor repair jobs on the green, such as improvements to drainage systems or addressing levels or redefining crown heights on crown greens.
Before you arrange any work, it is best to examine the condition of your turf and soil profiles. Do not be afraid to take a couple of core samples from your green, allowing you the opportunity to see what lies below the surface. On examination, you should be able to see how much thatch you have and the condition of the soil.
It is important to topdress with compatible materials; traditional topdressing ratios range from 70/30, 60/40 and 50/50 soil/sand mixes.
Early in the Month1st - 15th September
Continue with the weekly maintenance regimes to keep the green in a playable condition, dew brushing, mowing.
Complete other tasks such as verticutting, feeding and spiking to fit in with your mowing programme.
Later in the Month 16th September - onwards
Get prepared for your end of season renovations, ensure you have ordered enough seed, topdressings and fertiliser materials to undertake your renovation needs.
Also ensure the equipment you use is fit for purpose and in good working order. If you are using external contractors to undertake the work, confirm start dates and times of working.
Key Tasks for September
The following activities are generally implemented during autumn renovations and usually carried out in the following order, when conditions allow. The sequence of operations and their intensity will vary from green to green according to the condition at the end of the season.
Mowing the sward, preparing surfaces for renovation. Lower cutting height to about 3-4mm to clean and prepare green for renovation operations. The mower can then be used to clean up the green after scarifying has been completed.
Scarification, removal of unwanted debris. Collect and disposal of arisings. Depending on the severity of the thatch, you may need to scarify several times in different directions. However, in most cases, if regular verticutting/grooming has taken place during the growing season, you would probably only be required to scarify in two directions. Do not scarify at right angles to the previous scarification line.
Depth of scarification between 4-15mm depending on depth of thatch to remove.
Aeration is the decompaction of soil, improving air and gas exchange in the soil profile. Depending on the turf's condition, you can choose to carry out hollow or solid tine spiking. Hollow tines are generally used on a bi annual basis or when you have a severe thatch problem. Depth of aeration will be determined by the depth of your soil profile and what problems you want to rectify. Hollow tining is best achieved to a depth of between 75-100mm. Solid or slit tines can be set to penetrate deeper, ideally between 150-200mm.
Topdressing restores levels and improves surface drainage. Ensure you use compatible topdressing materials, sands, sand/soil mixes. Spreading can be achieved by several methods, utilising pedestrian or ride-on disc or drop action top spreaders, or by hand using a shovel and a barrow. Best carried out in dry weather. It is important that the topdressings are spread uniformly.
Overseeding restores grass populations. Important to ensure a good groove or hole is made to receive the seed; good seed to soil contact is essential for seed germination. Good moisture and soil temperatures will see the seed germinate between 7-14 days.
Fertilising, provides nutrients for grass growth. Apply a low N nitrogen fertiliser product something like an NPK 5:5:15 to help the sward through the autumn period.
Brush to incorporate dressings and to help the grass stand back up. Brush in with a lute or drag brush/mat to restore levels.
Watering/Irrigation. It is essential to keep the sward watered after renovations to ensure your seed germinates.
Useful Information for Renovations
Autumn Renovations as summer ends
General maintenance regimes will continue - brushing, mowing and watering as and when required.
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.
Keep an eye on fungal disease attack and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. Red thread can be very prevalent at this time of the season. Other diseases are also active at this time of the year, namely fairy ring and fusarium.
Inspect and clean drainage outfalls and gullies. Replace and level up drainage ditch materials.
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.
With the development of mowing technology, most fine turf mowers have cassette fitting attachments that offer additional maintenance operations such as grooming and verticutting. Both are operations that effectively remove thatch and side shoot growth enabling the promotion of an upright plant and denser turf growth.
September weather can be quite unpredictable. Often we can experience warm, hot dry spells which will require groundstaff to address the irrigation needs of the greens. This will be an important factor, especially during the end of season renovation works. Scarifying dry grass surfaces will result in very little debris being removed. There needs to some moisture in the surface to promote effective
scarification works. Also, after overseeding, adequate soil moisture is required to stimulate germination.
Useful Information for General Maintenance
Helping Hands at Woodford...
Pitchcare run Lantra Awards accredited courses for groundsmen on the maintenance of Bowling Greens. To find out more, visit the Pitchcare training website - Pitchcare Training
Other Tasks for the Month
Keep machines overhauled and clean.
It is important that the rinks on flat bowling greens are moved on a regular basis to prevent wear.
The sward will be actively growing due to the amount of moisture in the ground, coupled with the stimulation of fertiliser applications. Regular mowing will be required to maintain sward height at around 4-8mm.
Carry out any repairs to ditches, paths, gates, floodlights and other building features.
It is important that you use a compatible rootzone material for any repairs. These may come in different combinations; a 70/30 sand soil mix is the one commonly used by most groundstaff who mix their grass seed into this rootzone medium prior to spreading and integrating it into the worn areas.
Seeding sparse or bare areas can be continued. Any rise in soil or air temperatures will help germination. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for diseases. Remember that without good seed to soil contact the operation is useless.
Ensure you use new seed as old material may not give you the required germination rates.
Soil sampling is an important part of groundmanship. The results will enable the manager to have a better understanding of the current status of his soil and turf. There are many tests that can be undertaken, but usually the main three tests to consider are:
Particle Size Distribution (PSD) this will give you accurate information on the soil type and it's particle make up, enabling you to match up with appropriate top dressing materials and ensuring you are able to maintain a consistent hydraulic conductivity (drainage rate) of your soil profile.
Soil pH, it is important to keep the soil at a pH of 5.5-6.5, a suitable level for most grass plants. Organic matter content, it is important to keep a balanced level of organic matter content in the soil profile.
Nutrient Levels. Keeping a balance of N P K nutrients within the soil profile is essential for healthy plant growth.