A few readers have asked for guidance on what work they should be carrying out on the green on a month to month basis.
Now of course conditions across the UK are widely varied at the moment; some areas in the south are free from frost, whilst here in Perthshire we can have very hard ground and many days of minus temperatures, in the southern parts of the country things can be and often are a lot milder.
When there is frost or snow cover its simply a waiting game; it really is best not to try to remove snow or ice from the green for two reasons:
- the damage that could be caused to the turf and soil by actually doing this work.
- the snow is affording the turf some protection from the worst of the cold weather; see my article on winter green protection here.
However, after the snow has gone and you start to see a prolonged period of thaw there are a few things you need to look out for as follows:
- Avoid walking on the green whilst it is thawing; this is the most dangerous time to work or walk on the green as it can cause a problem known as “root shear” which as the name implies results in the grass plants being sheared away from their roots. This is fatal to the plants and can cause the green to completely bare come the spring.
- When the snow and ice have gone you might see a sudden out break of fusarium; this is due to the conditions suddenly becoming ideal for the disease to take hold. Mild and damp conditions combined with other factors such as thatch and compaction can result in devastating outbreaks of fungal disease.
- Snow mould is another if very similar problem to fusarium and is actually the same disease. The problem is that snow acts as an insulator ( a very efficient one; see article here) and creates a micro-climate at the green surface which is ideal for fungal outbreaks. However, in the early part of 2010 when greens were covered with ice and snow for prolonged periods, snow-mould wasn’t a big problem and this was solely due to the very low temperatures before the snow accumulated. I think we might be lucky enough this time around to avoid this also.
- However, the absence of snow mould might highlight yet another, potentially more serious problem and that is very low soil temperature (again highlighted in the article here) and it might be that we have to consider more formal green protection measures in the future to ensure that we have any chance of producing an acceptable bowling surface in the early part of the season.
My recent article on Canadian research into winter green protection can be viewed here.
In milder winters, maintenance should keep going at pace as normal and this should include:
- Regular deep slit tining at least once but preferably twice per month (more of the ground is firm and not too wet). I get a lot of emails asking about the ideal machinery for this and you can re-read my previous post on this here. If the heads are still looking a bit yellow and compact you can try a bit of warming hand forking as discussed by Rob in an earlier post here:
- Keep a watchful eye for fusarium disease and spot-spray with a contact fungicide as required. As you work your way through the Performance Bowling Greens program, you will see less and less of this problem due to the soil and turf becoming increasingly healthy and alive.
- Keep brushing the green to remove dew every day.
- Switch or brush away worm casts.
- Keep the green clear of leaves and other debris
- Keep the grass topped at around 8mm to avoid lush spots and long grass that can encourage disease.
- Carry out any turf repairs that are necessary.
I’ll keep adding to this as time goes on, but meantime if you have any questions please keep them coming and of course feel free to comment on any post.