Grass, greenkeepers and the soil food web

Greenkeeper's nous and bowls green performance

The soil food web has become an increasingly popular term in greenkeeping and bowling green management. The problem-solution-problem, or symptoms approach to greenkeeping has been exposed as fundamentally flawed by the diminishing list of available pesticides now available to turf managers. Is there a better way to manage greens...yes. And the extraordinary discovery is that a greenkeeping program that focusses on the green as an eco-system is fully compatible with producing tight, natural turf dominated by the fine perennial Fescue and Bent grasses.

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Winter Greenkeeping Strategies

damage to frosted turf

Winter Greenkeeping Strategies have to a large extent been based on preventative fungicide, putting the green to bed and hoping for the best. This overlooks the huge opportunity greenkeepers have to make a real difference through applying some sound Winter Greenkeeping Strategies right through the closed months.

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Academy Membership

Bowls Central Academy

Online training and many other benefits

Academy Membership offers a series of new benefits to members, most importantly a growing range of online educational courses in Greenkeeping and related subjects.

Academy Membership Benefits

Of course I’ve given a great deal of the focus of Academy Membership over to education and the online study courses, but there will be a long list of other benefits for members.

The available courses, levels of study and other member benefits will be added to on a monthly basis.

  • Online educational courses in Greenkeeping and related subjects, starting with Level 1 Introduction to Greenkeeping.
  • Free Study Materials related to each course
  • Links to further recommended reading materials you will find useful
  • Free eBooks
  • Club Website Offer and free access to Web School Membership
  • Permanent Discount on Bowls Central Publications
  • Permanent Greenkeeping Materials Discounts
  • Communication Tools like Infographics, slides and presentations
  • Permanent Soil Analysis Discounts
  • Access to in-depth articles and studies

 

Academy Membership
Academy Membership
Academy Membership brings a long list of benefits to members of Bowls Central, including online training courses, discounts, offers and free resources to help you with your greenkeeping and club management. Join today for only £10 per month.

Successfully dealing with fairy ring in fine turf

dealing with fairy ring in fine turf

Successfully dealing with fairy ring in fine turf is a challenge facing many greenkeepers, but one that can be broken down into easily taken key steps. The conventional remedies that feature the use of fungicides are simply dealing with symptoms and can guarantee only one outcome; temporary relief followed by a worsening of the problem over the longer term. In this article you'll find a pesticide free, long term solution that also alleviates the short term symptoms.

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Managing turf disease effectively, cheaply and permanently

managing turf disease

Managing turf disease effectively, cheaply and permanently is well within the grasp of every greenkeeper. The soil in our greens already holds all of the answers to this, or at least it should do. Some of the routine work we do on greens is more damaging than beneficial. The need to manage turf disease more effectively gives us the perfect excuse to start returning our soils and grass plants to their natural disease resistant selves, much to the benefit of our members and clubs. John explains how to manage turf disease outbreaks simply and with reference to vegetarian sausages :-)...may contain nuts!

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Greens Soil Analysis Reports and how to read them

greens soil analysis

Understanding your greens soil analysis report isn't always at the forefront of thought of those who instigate the soil test. Too often it is merely a fertiliser sales tool with the advice given taking very little notice of the results received.
Greens soil analysis results are often confusing and use terms that are not easily understood in relation to greenkeeping practice. In this article, John sets out to change that by taking apart a typical greens soil analysis report and explaining it in terms we can all understand. More importantly it relates the results to maintenance.

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Sand Top Dressing – Friend or Foe? Soil Texture 5.

sand top dressing

Sand Top Dressing - that ubiquitous and apparently simple greenkeeping operation indulged in by most clubs annually is actually a much more complex operation than most give it credit for. In this article John Quinn explains the mechanics of top-dressing. He explains what it can and can't do and why you must understand some soil science before top-dressing is considered.

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Soil Texture part 4, the Soil Texture Triangle.

So far on our investigation into soil texture we’ve discussed the problems of building sand castles, why you shouldn’t let the Treasurer buy sand for you and a few other less important details like the complexity of sand, soil formation, particle size distribution, macro and micro soil porosity and we finished last time by looking at the famous Soil Texture Triangle. Here it is again:

Soil Texture Triangle

The Soil Texture Triangle can look a bit off putting at first, but if you stick with me for a minute I’ll try to explain it.

The Soil Texture Triangle is a tool we can use to help define what type of soil we have. The ideal bowling green soil (rootzone) I described in part 1 of this series falls into the category Sandy Loam. Let’s see how that would look on the Texture Triangle.

The triangle gives names to various combinations of clay, sand, and silt. First of all, look at each of the 3 sides of the triangle. There’s one side to represent Sand (base of the triangle) and one side each for Silt and Clay, so we’ve covered the 3 mineral components of all soils. Now look at the numbers that are arranged symmetrically around the perimeter of the triangle. These correspond with the percentages of Clay (left), Silt (right) and Sand (base).

Now look for the arrow beside each mineral element. You will notice that each arrow points in a particular direction and that there are hatched lines within the triangle which run in the direction of the arrow.

When you have the percentages (by weight) of each mineral component of your soil sample, you can find the percentage for each component on the relevant side of the triangle and trace these into the interior following the direction of each of the arrows. To classify a soil sample, you find the intersection of the three lines that correspond with the proportions of your soil components. The triangle is divided up into eleven soil texture types by thick blue lines, making it easy to define your soil type.

Surprises

The Soil Texture Triangle throws up a few surprises. Firstly, a soil with just 21% Clay is basically still classified as a Sandy Clay Loam indicating that it is very clayey. Even if it contains upwards of 50% sand.

A soil with just 75% sand and 15% clay is a Loamy Sand, meaning that it is predominantly sandy in nature.

Regardless of the final 10%, a soil with 90% sand is considered just Sand. Many bowling clubs have added so much sand over the years through top-dressing that they are now trying to manage a rootzone that is classified as sand

PSD Testing

These surprises crop up for one main reason; samples are classified by percentage in terms of weight and not volume. In a later article I will go into a bit more detail on this…it’s important!

Particle Size Distribution tests are carried out in a soil lab using expensive, but really quite simple equipment. I have often set up make shift soil labs on golf course construction projects in order to monitor the quality of sands and rootzone materials being delivered to the site before they are used in the construction process.

PSD testing involves taking a small sample of a soil, drying it out completely and then shaking it through a series of graduate sieves before weighing the results from each sieve. The results can be easily converted to a percentage by weight which can then be translated into a PSD chart and the soil located on the Triangle we looked at above.

Here’s a video that shows the process:

The Sand Craze

In relatively recent times, say from the 1970’s onwards, greenkeepers, bowls clubs and golf clubs have become more than a little obsessed with sand. It’s true that some of the best greens are very sandy in their construction, but their success is due to more than just sandy-ness. As mentioned, the ideal rootzone of a bowling green is a Sandy Loam and the Triangle reminds us that the sand content of this could be anywhere between 55 and 85%.  A suitable smooth, fast and consistent green can certainly be achieved with a maximum of 70% sand in the original mix. Please remember that we are only talking about the Mineral component of the soil at this stage and that sand varies widely.

The trouble with the promotion of high sand rootzones comes when people get it into their heads that if sand is good, then more sand must be better. A very high proportion of the greens built in the UK over the last 200 years would have started with 150-200mm (6-8inch) deep rootzones made up of local soil, rocks n all. The approach to improving these greens would quite rightly have included regular top-dressing with a sandy top-dressing. In recent times (1970’s onwards) we have seen a huge increase in the sand applied to greens in an attempt to improve them. Once a workable rootzone has been achieved, the relentless adding of sand every year must stop and for a very large number of clubs in the UK and further afield that time passed many years ago. Every ounce of sand added now is taking these greens further towards the extreme left side of the Soil Texture Triangle and is making greens unmanageable. They are inert, lacking soil microlife and stuffed full of hydrophobic sand that restricts moisture and nutrient availability.

The end of the 4 part trilogy?

This was supposed to be a trilogy, but now that it’s reached 4 parts, why not go the whole hog and add a 5th? In this series we’ve  looked at a subject that is at the very core of good greenkeeping and the key to a Performance Bowling Green; Soil Texture. In the 5th and final part of this trilogy we’ll look at Sand Top Dressing.

Soil Texture 5

Soil Texture 3

Soil Texture 2

Soil Texture 1

Particle Size Distribution (PSD) Soil analysis
Particle Size Distribution (PSD) Soil analysis
Full textural Particle Size Distribution analysis of your green's soil (rootzone) by Sieve and Pipette by Sedimentation method. You will receive a soil sampling kit with instructions for taking and returning (freepost) to the lab for testing. Your results will come back from Bowls Central by email and will include a comprehensive report explaining the test results and what this means for the maintenance of your green. Further advice will be provided as required. This test can determine whether or not your green is too sandy and help with green-keeping programming in terms of fertilisation, aeration and top-dressing.
Price: £75.00
Name, Club name and address please::

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Bowls Green Soil Texture part 3

In the first part of this series we discovered that the ideal bowling green soil (or rootzone) will be 50% space, 5% organic matter, with the remainder (45%) being made up of mineral matter, namely Sand, Silt and Clay. These are the 3 universal mineral components of soil.  Part 1 finished with an explanation of the soil fractions, 5 of which were sands of varying sizes.

In part 2 we found out a little bit more about sand and it’s behaviour as a drainage medium and we discovered a little more about how soils are formed. We finished by looking at the importance of sand particle shape and size in bowling green rootzones.

Clay

We are all familiar with clay as a substance in many different aspects of our lives. It’s used to make bricks, pottery and for modelling. If you’ve ever moved to a newly built house you will doubtless have encountered the problem of trying to make a decent garden out of the heavy clay soil that builders seem to carry around for the purpose of making your life difficult; or is it that all new houses are built in areas where there is heavy clay soil? Regardless of the solution to that conundrum, we often think of clay as big, chunky, unmanageable clods of red earth. The fact is though, that those whopping clods are actually made up of the Read more

Soil Texture part 2

Last time we saw how the perfect bowling green’s soil volume will be 50% space called porosity. We discovered that half of that pore space (25% of the soil volume) should ideally be filled with air (macro pores) and that the other half (again 25% of the soil volume) is for water (micro pores). We finished last time by discovering that the mineral part of the soil is actually made up of a lot of different sized soil particles called the Soil Fractions.

Today we’ll try to get a better handle on Soil Texture and discover how some of the soil fractions come about. In particular we will look at the complexity of sand, before getting a better understanding of how soils are formed in the first place. This will help us to understand the importance of sand in bowling green maintenance, but hopefully also to understand more fully, its limitations.

Soil Texture; the Mineral Fractions

In bowling green Nirvana, out of the remaining 50% of the soil volume, 45% would be Mineral and 5% would be Organic Matter. Today I want to concentrate on the 45% Mineral matter as this is where we can really influence the performance of our greens.

Now, if fast drainage was our only concern, then this would be a no brainer; it would seem logical to use just sand wouldn’t it? Well, that is the deeply rutted road that much of the fine turf industry has been heading down for a few decades now and I can tell you it is fundamentally wrong. Wrong because Read more