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Pre Season Bowls Green Fertilising

Pre season bowling green fertilising is a key component of the Performance Bowling Green program.

Spring and autumn are the ideal times to make nutritional corrections using granular fertilisers.

During the playing season I recommend that you rely on bio liquid fertilisers applied on a spoon fed basis approximately every 14 days. There is a large range of suitable products available from a variety of manufacturers.

The bio liquid approach to fertilising the green delivers a more consistent growth pattern and the “bio” or carbohydrate component encourages natural decomposition of thatch and release of soil borne nutrients to the plants as and when they need them.

However, the rigours of winter can leave imbalances in the soil due to luxury uptake by the plants of Potassium and the natural leaching processes inherent in the soil.

Due to this it is a good idea to top up the soil with a corrective application of granular fertiliser at this time.

The soil temperature will still be fairly low so the product you use should contain a little quickly available nitrogen (ammonia), as well as a slow release N component. Plants also need a little Phosphorous at this time to aid strong root development, especially if you over-seeded the green in autumn.

More articles on nutrition here.


  1. paul neale says:

    hi john
    being new to bowling green keeping i find your web site very useful but i would be greatful if you could tell the best way of checking the ph level in our bowling green. i think we may have many problems with our green but like i said i am new to this and many people give different advice on what we should be doing and if i lisend
    to all this advice much time and money would be wasted.i have been doing basic maintainence since our green keeper quit last october. work carried out has been slit tineing twice a month in december/january/february,granular winter furtiliser applied in december,pencil tineing twice a month in february/march /april.
    any advice would be greatful
    many thanks

    • John says:

      Hi Paul

      Thank you for using the site.

      First of all, don’t worry about the pH too much at this stage. Depending on your area, soil type and probably more importantly, the previous maintenance the green has had the pH can vary widely.
      Ideally it would be somewhere between 5.5 and 6.5 to encourage the finer “bent” grasses. Having said all of that, unless you are in a chalky soil area, its likely that your soil will be on the acid side of ideal as this is where most greens end up when treated in the “traditional” way.

      If you are concerend that the pH is wildly out and is causing major problems you can usually get a free test done as part of a soil analysis by your local fertiliser rep or you can go DIY with a pH testing kit from the garden centre. Mostly, though, I advise clients to work with the pH they have already for two reasons:

      1. low pH is usually a symptom of other issues such as thatch, compaction and anaerobic soil, which will all be reduced by what you are doing already. High pH is rarely a problem, but if it is for you come back to me.
      2. the sward you have, will have adapted itself to your curent pH and will be thrown off course by any dramatic changes such as through the application of lime which is not recomemnded.

      The work you are already doing is fantastic and you should continue with this as your main winter program every year. You simply can’t overdo this kind of work, as long as the ground isn’t too wet or frosted.

      It would be good to know a bit more about the current condition of the green with regard to thatch levels, compacted areas, grass density, weeds, disease occurence, moss, bare patches and any other pointers you think would be useful.

      In addition to this it would be good to know what your current annual maintenance regime is with regard to mowing height & frequency, in-season aeration, scarification, verti-cutting, fertiliser application, irrigation and pesticicde usage.

      A really good starting point for getting your head round what is best for your green is this article

      Please keep asking questions here and concentrate on forming your own opinions on what is best for your green as you are the man on the ground and nobody else can get a feel for your green like you can.

      Cheers for now


  2. paul neale says:

    hi john
    thanks for your reply we have many bare patches on our green, i have just read about ldp and this may be what it is but i dont know what i am looking at also we had a lot of moss on the green over the winter months ,this was treated in february and most was killed off but there is still some present.we did some overseeding in late oct early nov some took but most didnt but i think this was done to late. the green had many patches on it last year but i dont know what was done, all i know our last green keeper just kept on putting top dressing on the green.many old bowlers have told me our green was always good at draining water when it rained but over the last couple of years especially last year seemed to hold water when ever it rained not only in the dips but all over.we have an older green keeper giving advice but sometimes his advice is conflicting to things that i have been reading.
    we harvest rain water from our pavillion roof and we hold about 2100 ltrs of water which we can use but this is not linked to a irrigation system yet.
    any advice would be a great help
    many thanks

    • John says:

      Hi Paul

      It sounds like you have localised dry patch (ldp) and there is plenty of reading for you on the site about that.

      Its also likely that you have excessive thatch; again just type thatch into the search box on any page and it will bring up lots of articles on thatch.

      The way you desribe the relatively recent deterioration in drainage, the winter moss (which will probably be invading the ldp affected areas most) and the bare patches, points to ldp as the main cause of your woes at present.

      The article here that I pointed you to before explains the web of relationships that make up the green eco system and that is the best way to approach the improvement of your green. Everything that is going wrong is merely a symptom of incorrect maintenance over many years and knocking individual symptoms off a list won’t help in the long run.

      A few pointers for moving on from here:

      1. if the green isn’t too dry at present, give it a fairly severe scarification in 2 directions

      2. mini-tine and apply a granular wetting agent such as ultraflo

      3. apply a liquid wetting agent on a monthly basis or as directed by manufacturer.

      4. the one you will have most difficulty persuading the members of is that you should stop top dressing the green with immediate effect.

      There isn’t a quick fix, but please try to get the members on side by explaining about the Circle of Decline; its much better if everyone is pulling in the same direction.

      If you have any photos of the issues you are facing by all means email them to me and I will try to be of further assistance.

      Also if you have any questions at any time, just drop me a line.



  3. paul neale says:

    hi john
    can you answer me a question,just recently we have had plenty of rain many members are not happy that i have called a couple of games off due to there being standing water on the green.due to there being many patches with no grass the water seams to just lie on these areas. with the water on the green many still think the green is playable but i dont.can you tell me what if any damage can be caused to the grass when played on in these conditions.

  4. John says:

    Sorry for the delay coming back to you on this.

    As you already know its not a good idea.
    The water is remaining on these areas due to the hydrophobic nature of the soil within the areas affected by ldp.
    These areas are likely to have thick thatch and severe compaction already and trudging through standing water can only exacerbate this by squeezing even more air out of the soil.
    The grass plants can also be skinned off at the roots as the wet surface moves against the dry soil underneath.
    Reverse psychology might work; tell them that its perfectly ok to play in these conditions and that no damage can be caused and they will probably rebel en masse!



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