Over 37 years of greenkeeping and teaching greenkeepers I have come to notice that bowling green performance comes down to just 3 major characteristics. Sounds easy then, doesn't it? Well it actually gets even easier when you identify the one key problem that contributes more to poor bowling green performance than any other.
Compost Tea is a home made spray that is applied to fine turf to increase the micro life in the soil. It reintroduces missing microbes and boosts the populations of all of the main beneficial microbe groups such as bacteria, protozoa and the all important Fungi. Some of these help to degrade thatch, turning it into valuable humus, giving life and body to the depleted and often excessively sandy soil in many bowling greens.
By far the best selling of my eBooks available on this site is Performance Bowling Greens; it out sells all of the others by 10-1. Bowling green performance can seem a bit sketchy and hard to tie down to any sort of measurable parameter, but that's more to do with the lack of a joined up approach to the subject in the industry than it is a lack of measurable components. This article introduces the subject of the Performance Evaluation of the Bowling Green.
The Sweet Spot in greenkeeping is when your green's Physical, Chemical and Biological components come into line to deliver results you couldn't previously have imagined were possible. Hitting that sweet spot is a lot simpler than you might imagine too, as focus on the soil's biology will naturally correct some of the worst Chemical problems and compensate for some of the worst Physical ones. There should be no problem "selling" this idea to your club either as first of all it saves money and secondly it massively improves green performance and consistency.
It's hard to believe that a bowling club could easily save £1800 in greenkeeping costs every year whilst actually improving the green. Do nothing greenkeeping is my name for this phenomenon and I estimate that 98% of UK bowling clubs could benefit from it, starting this year.
Localised Dry Patch typically rears its ugly head in June in the UK, but by then it is way too late to do anything about it. Once your green is displaying the large brown patches of desiccated grass and powder dry soil beneath, no amount of watering or wetting agent will bring it back fully this year. Now is the time to inspect your green and deal with it permanently.
Greenkeepers are bombarded with turf problems in the form of disease, weeds, pests and disorders. Now, with many pesticides being banned and unavailable it's time for us to take back control of our turf. The good news is that it is actually easier without chemicals, because we are forced to learn more about the underlying causes of problems and become more familiar with the ecology of our greens.
Grass identification is a key skill for the greenkeeper and over at the Bowls Central Academy the students have been spending a fair bit of time recently finding out about that and all of the things that can go wrong on and under the green. They have then applied this learning to their own greens to enable them to develop a sound maintenance and renovation program for their greens.
With the new bowling season bearing down on us fast, I’ve received a good few emails and calls asking me whether or not it’s worth trying to start the Performance Greenkeeping Program from scratch so close to the new season?
Several of these contacts had the feeling that there was no point starting at this late stage and that it might be better to wait until the autumn, but all that would guarantee is yet another season of conventional greenkeeping and mediocre green performance.
The truth is that of course it would be great if every club could get in touch well in advance of the season opening day and request a full soil analysis and greenkeeping plan to work from, but all is not lost if you haven’t done that yet and there is a way you can usefully get started now.
If you’ve been a reader of Bowls Central and/or Performance Bowling Greens for any length of time, you will know that the conditions that make greens perform badly, on the whole originate from decades of conventional greenkeeping.
This has featured excessive use of high salt mineral fertilisers, lawn sand, sulphates of iron and ammonia and in many cases the over use of sand top-dressings. To top it off, there has been a frequent need for fungicides to combat outbreaks of turf disease.
All of these problems combine to form what I’ve termed the Circle of Decline.
Therefore changing this condition around is the answer and you can do that by starting to liven up your soil’s biology now.
Spring Kick Start
I’ve put together a package of materials you can use to get started on improving the soil in your green this spring.
If you look after the soil, it will serve you well by encouraging the finer, perennial grasses and start to reduce the percentage of annual meadow grass and it’s associated problems.
I had a nice email from a Bowls Central reader yesterday with before and after photos related to him starting to follow the advice on the site here.