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Protection of Bowls Greens during “Real” Winters

Winter Protection Could be Critical

Thanks to everyone who downloaded the free winter maintenance report at the start of the winter.

Now here we are approaching the Christmas holidays and I don’t think many of you will have been able to implement much of the work that I recommend both in the Winter Maintenance Guide and in Performance Bowling Greens, a practical guide.

This is of course due to it being too wintry!

Well the good news is that if you made even a start to the recommended autumn/ winter compaction relief work by getting one or maybe two passes made with the deep slit tiner, then the frost will be doing a lot of good by getting into the soil and heaving it into fissures in the compacted zone.

However, the bad news is two-fold:

  1. it is going to prove difficult to do any work on greens throughout most of the UK this winter due to excessive frost and snow cover on greens; The winter program is essential and if your particular corner of the nation is free of frost and snow you should bash on with the winter work as much as you possibly can.
  2. The worst effect of this excessive cold weather is that the soil temperature is being forced down to levels that we don’t usually have to put up with very often.

This second point is very important and will become increasingly so in the months and years to come.

What’s the problem?

Well, my old Mum has a saying: “We’ve never died a winter yet”, which of course means that we are resilient and can adapt our approach to life to cope with whatever it throws at us.

Is it time to apply this thinking to our bowling greens; do they need further protection from the winter than we currently afford them?

Although I am not advocating a panic buying type situation I do think it is time for us to look at Read more

How to Cure Localised Dry Patch in Bowls Greens

Create a healthy living green environment.

This question is an amalgamation of upwards of 50 similar search queries on the site this month.

Essentially what these readers are looking for is a cure for Localised Dry Patch.

As regular readers will know, using the word “cure” in Bowling Green Maintenance is an example of “Symptoms Thinking”

Most problems that occur on bowling greens are symptoms of more fundamental problems and Localised Dry Patch is a case in point.

This is a relatively recent addition to the list of difficulties greenkeepers have to deal with in maintaining bowling greens.

I won’t go into a long description of the problem as that is well documented on the site elsewhere (just click on the LDP tag on the right of the page to go to articles about Localised Dry Patch).

The main thing is to get away from thinking of LDP as something that can be cured; it isn’t a disease; the answer is to change your maintenance practices overall to make sure it doesn’t occur.

This means creating a healthy living soil environment by:

  1. Increasing air within the soil
  2. Minimising thatch
  3. Minimising compaction
  4. STOP using sand-top-dressings
  5. Increase microbial activity in the soil
    1. Firstly by doing 1-4 above
    2. Then helping to improve conditions through use of bio-fertilisers
  6. Use wetting agents in the meantime to help with soil re-wetting
  7. Keep the green surface open throughout the season by using a sarrell roller.

A complete explanation and detailed step by step guidance is included in Performance Bowling Greens, a practical guide

Problems with Bowls Greens

Yes there are, but they are actually few in number and most of them are symptoms of the big 2.

Fusarium, Localised Dry Patch, Thatch Fungus, Compaction, Spongy Surface, Slow Green, Bumpy Surface, Anthracnose Disease, Dollar Spot, Thatch, Slime, Algae, Fairy Ring, Moss, Leatherjackets, Poor grass growth, Annual Meadow Grass, Weeds, Pearlwort, Angry members, Excessive water costs, etc etc…blah blah blah.

I could go on for a long time with that list.

This is another composite question from the search results on the site this month. About 40 people so far have typed in something like “I’ve got problems on my bowling green”

As regulars know there are only 2 problems on bowling greens; thatch and compaction and everything else is simply a symptom of these two.

So the question should maybe be:

How do bowling greens succumb to thatch and compaction?

Answer: Inappropriate Maintenance Practices.

The Circle of Decline explains this fully.

Performance Bowls Greens and Money Saving

The autumn is traditionally a busy time for bowling green contractors, greenkeepers and club officials as they decide, plan and carry out the autumn renovation works on the green before putting it to bed for the winter.

Now have a look back over that last paragraph; if you didn’t wince at least twice, then it’s possible that you are about to embark on a program of work that will actually harm your green.

It probably won’t be dramatic like the sudden death of your green for ever, but it will probably have a negative impact on the future of your green’s ability to be presented for play consistently well, and maybe even on your club’s chance of survival in these harsh economic conditions.

The points I am referring to are Read more

Performance Bowls Greens the key to Bowls Club Survival

The quality and consistency of the playing surface on your green and your club’s chances of long term survival are inextricably linked, why?

Well if we consider the sport of bowls as a business for a minute it is clear, at least in the UK , that there is a vast over supply in the bowling marketplace. There simply isn’t enough demand for bowling to sustain the sheer volume of clubs that currently exist. The reasons for this are manifold and include some really “deep” factors which economists and sociologists might describe as, well… socio-economic, but the most important thing for bowling clubs to consider is that there simply aren’t enough bowlers around to make every UK bowling club economically sustainable. In other words some, maybe many, clubs will perish  in the years to come.

Of course, there are big picture issues that can be addressed and might help to improve the uptake of the game, like for instance the way bowls is marketed, and the general image of the game, perhaps more TV coverage of tournaments would help. All of that is big stuff, that can and will take a long time to bear fruit.

Meantime, if we come back to the close up view, the view out of your clubhouse window in fact, we can all start to do something this year to give our own club the greatest chance of survival; and that is tocommit to providing our members, visitors and prospective members with the best green possible to play on. This one thing is, in my opinion,  the key to growing the game again from the ground up in the years to come.

The 2 greatest barriers to the average bowling club making such a commitment are :

  1. the perceived cost and…
  2. the perceived difficulty associated with such a plan.

The key word here is “perceived” and there is good reason for that as we saw yesterday when we looked at inconsistency, traditions, desperation mode and greenkeeping myths all of which add to the perception of great expense.

If you’ve been reading my posts this week you will know that my new book Performance Bowling Greens is due to be released on this site on Monday 15th February and my major impetus for sitting down to write the book in the first place was to banish the notion that Performance Bowling Greens are prohibitively expensive and/or difficult to produce consistently.

In Performance Bowling Greens I detail a no-nonsense blueprint that you can follow to get the ultimate Performance from your Bowling Green. This really is a break with tradition (and if you read my post yesterday you will know the truth behind tradition) and a re-evaluation of how Performance Bowling Greens actually work. The book dispels all of the commonly accepted Greenkeeping Myths and moves straight to the program you must follow to achieve the highest level of performance and consistency from your green. Above all I have written the book in a way that will give you the confidence to just get on and do it.

Yesterday I shared with you my thoughts on the main reasons that clubs fall into the cycle of inconsistency and therefore perpetual disappointment with their greens. Today I would like to re-stress just how important it is that your club starts to follow a structured improvement plan aimed at producing a high performance green consistently over the long term.

When you pick up your copy of Performance Bowling Greens next Monday you will have a step by step blueprint that you can follow to turn your green around for good and start to enjoy the extra security such a green will provide for your club. The most important aspect of the book is that it details an approach that any club can take and in almost every case, it won’t only improve the green’s performance dramatically but will also return a significant financial saving to the club.

I will share a typical bowling club story with you and if you don’t recognise your own club within the story its possible that you already have a high performance bowling green.

Remember you can get your copy of Performance Bowling Greens in the shop

For a Performance Bowls Green, start a new tradition!

In less than a week my new book, Performance Bowling Greens will be launched on this site; 15th of February to be precise. In the lead up to the launch we have been looking into some of the obstacles that stand in the way of the average bowling club achieving the performance they desire from their green. Today I want to look at one of those obstacles more closely and that is the obstacle that Tradition puts in our way. The trouble is that many of these “traditions” are really not that old. One of the most damaging of these is the “tradition” of top-dressing our greens with high sand content dressings every year.

Now I should warn you at the outset that this is a long one and you might want to grab a coffee before we get started. The reason for the length of this article is that I don’t just want to discuss the process of top-dressing; I also want to show you how damaging it can be to your green and how damaging it can be to your wallet. To do that I am going to re-present to you 3 of the most clicked on articles we’ve ever published on this site (which shows, I think, that many clubs already understand the problem). So here we go:

At most bowling clubs the end of September is when thoughts will start to turn to the autumn renovation program or the “closing of the green” as many clubs call it. Bowling clubs throughout the UK will take delivery of between 3 and 10 tonnes of very expensive top-dressing compost, which will be applied to the green after hollow tining or some other aeration operation, in the belief that Read more

Resourcefulness and Club Survival

Eric, Syd and Doug have demonstrated admirably the trait of resourcefulness and innovation that exists throughout the bowling scene.

A common theme running through all of these stories is the determination to do the job correctly, regardless of the financial barriers in the way.

I spelled out this need for clear and innovative thinking in my Manifesto for a Successful Bowling Club late last year. The Manifesto is still available Free here.

Although these readers have demonstrated the common theme of resourcefulness and innovation, the stories are also clear illustration of the main issue in bowling today; lack of funds!

When Eric emailed the details of his machine, he went on to say that he had often thought of trying to get a group of clubs together in his local area to share the cost and benefit of new machinery…another example of innovative thinking.

Almost every email or query I receive from readers of this site starts with or includes a sentence about how they are working under very difficult financial conditions.

Club Management Committees must start to embrace the Read more

Barriers to Club Survival and Turnaround

When thinking about turning your club’s fortunes around it is easy to get sidetracked by barriers; and even easier to think that all barriers are the same.

However, if you look closely at the barriers to starting the process of recovery, there are different varieties; on a basic level some of these barriers are “problems” and some are “constraints”.

Here are a few Problems:

  1. We don’t have any money to spend on marketing
  2. Our facilities are a bit tired looking
  3. The heating doesn’t work very well
  4. Our bar license doesn’t allow for that type of business

and here are a few Constraints:

  1. There is a lack of interest in bowling
  2. Its winter and nobody wants to know about bowling
  3. We can’t get enough junior members
  4. Our bowling membership is declining year on year

Have a look over them; you will notice that you normally can’t do much about constraints, but you can usually resolve problems.

So…stop worrying about the constraints; work around them.

Start dealing with the top 3 problems which are holding you back today. Going back to our problems above:

We don’t have any money to spend on marketing

Your target market is known to you: get out and talk to them…its FREE

Our facilities are a bit tired looking

Hold a paint and barbeque afternoon next Sunday for members

The heating doesn’t work very well

Find a local engineer (member) and do a deal…or use the warmer rooms to start with.

Our bar license doesn’t allow for that type of business

Create a new category of membership for your new target markets or re-negotiate the license.

Above all get working on something…decide what the top 3 barriers (problems) are and get working on them.

Bowling Club Survival and Turnaround
Bowling Club Survival and Turnaround
In this ebook we take you through a groundbreaking, step by step blueprint to save your struggling bowling club and reveal the 7 key steps that you can start taking immediately to start making a serious go of your club. more details
Price: £9.97

Dealing with Snow and Ice on Your Green

A couple of years ago we were hit by severe snow and ice in some parts of the country and it raised a few questions about how best to deal with severe winter weather on bowling greens. I am re-visiting this today as a timely reminder now that we are in the winter season. Hopefully this will be a good omen and we wont get any snow this year!

The unusually early onset of winter in 2009 and 2010 created a few problems for most of us and seriously curtailed many winter maintenance programs.

We received a lot of enquiries asking for advice on dealing with the snow and ice on bowling greens and the aftermath of deep snow cover.

The main concern during and after snow cover is the potential for the outbreak of fungal diseases such as fusarium patch; and indeed, fusarium might well be encountered after the snow has melted. Although many clubs will have applied a preventative fungicide in the Autumn, this might not have provided total protection, but should have minimised the risk of attack.

When the snow has gone you might well find active areas of Fusarium and this should be treated with a curative fungicide containing the active ingredients iprodione  or chlorothalonil applied as per the manufacturer’s advice.

Many of the enquiries we have received have been related to the actual snow cover and clubs have been worried about the prolonged cover of snow and ice on their turf and have asked if they should be pro-active and do something to remove the ice cover. My advice would be to leave it and allow it to melt naturally.

Attempting to remove ice could result in damage to the turf, soil structure and grass plants.

Please also remember that even after the snow and ice has gone the underlying soil could still be frozen and any activity on the green could result in damage to the root system of the green.

Please make sure that the green has completely thawed by probing the soil before commencing (and catching up) with your winter maintenance program.

Any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Why is Thatch the single biggest problem in Bowls Green Maintenance?

We have had a few queries asking about thatch; actually a few readers asking for a definitive description of thatch and its associated problems, so here it is:

What is it?

Thatch is the name given to the mat of dead roots and shoots that accumulates on the surface of the green. Where moisture, nutrition and cultural practices are optimised for the desired grasses, thatch rarely becomes a problem. However, when soil air content is low, or if drainage is poor and the fertiliser program is not optimised for the prevailing conditions, thatch can become a problem. In severe cases the major root mass might only exist within this layer and this leaves the green susceptible to drying out in summer and to the heads “skinning” (loss of turf cover) in wet weather. Thatch is also a major contributor in the Read more