Sometimes we over complicate things in greenkeeping. Checking off the points on this short list of things to change in your programme will help a great deal to simplify your life.
When were the good old days of bowling? 1950’s? 1960’s?
For me, although I wasn’t around then, this makes a lot of sense, because it ties in nicely with a huge change in agricultural practices in the UK. This led to big changes for greenkeeping too.
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.
At its most basic, the answer is that excessive use of sand on bowling greens causes the under lying soil to become inert; lacking life or the complex web of interactions that go to make healthy, high performance turf. The natural balance of the soil/turf ecosystem is upset and the green will never be capable of consistent high performance for as long as the folly of top dressing is allowed to continue.
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.
Compost tea is a specially home brewed spray that will boost the microbe population in your bowling green, allowing you to encourage the finer grasses and combat dry patch, disease and thatch, naturally and effectively.
After studying this subject I can say that compost tea is an essential addition to the Performance Bowling Greens Program. Regular use of compost tea can significantly boost soil microbial activity and helps to make better use of fertiliser inputs. Correct formulation of the mixture during brewing will increase the dominance of the fine perennial grasses in the green sward.
By using compost teas, greenkeepers can reverse decades of damage caused by inorganic fertilisers, pesticides and excessive sand top-dressing.
I genuinely believe that it's possible to come up with a formula to fix your bowling green, regardless of it's current condition. This is due to one over-riding fact that I've discovered after looking at literally hundreds of greens. They are all at some stage of what I've termed the Circle of Decline. The critical factor in making this possible is simple. You must know what you are dealing with and there is no way to find that out without carrying out some hand dirtying investigative work. So let's get dirty!
Mycorrhizal fungi and turf health go hand in hand. The symbiotic relationships that exist between our turf grass plants and soil fungi are critical to producing a high performance, perennial grass dominated sward. Here we look at the benefits of mycorrhizal relationships in turf and the techniques greenkeepers can employ to encourage them.
The Role of Microorganisms in Soil Health is vast and in many cases misunderstood. For decades we have been obsessed with the potential harm that just a few pathogenic microbes can cause, instead of learning to think of the soil as an eco-system. We've learned the hard way about that approach and now that pesticide availability is being reduced we need to start taking this seriously. Excellent article here from Christopher Johns, Research Manager, Northern Australia and Land Care Research Programme
In parts 1 and 2 of this series on how to fix your bowling green, we discussed the process and importance of taking regular soil profile samples and discovered what the soil sample can actually tell us about the condition of the green. In part 3 John links this to demonstrate why each of the visual signals from the soil sample point clearly to one or more of the multitude of issues we experience on poorly performing greens. From disease outbreaks to skinning of heads and bad runs on rinks, the humble soil profile sample can tell us a lot about where we're going wrong and point to the answers that will help us create a performance bowling green in the near future.