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!
Moving on from yesterday’s post which detailed the structure of grass plants, today I want to go into more detail about the processes and factors related to the growth of turf grass.
When we think of turf it’s easy to imagine that each individual blade of grass is a plant. However, each of the blades we see in the turf is a single leaf of a plant that might have many other leaves. All growth occurs from the base of the leaf so that the bit we cut off is always the oldest part of the living plant tissue and it is this feature that allows the grass to be mown frequently without undue injury. Although the main function of the leaf is to manufacture food for the plant through photosynthesis and increase the biomass of the plant the leaf can also take in water and nutrients to some degree.
Factors which affect leaf growth
As we observed in the post introducing warm and cold season grasses there are certain environmental factors that affect the growth of the turf grass leaf.
Temperature is one of the most critical factors in leaf growth.
- Cool season (C3) grasses have an optimum temperature range of 160 to 240C
- Warm season grasses (C4) have an optimum range of 270 to 350 C
Sunlight is the main energy source in photosynthesis which the plant must do to produce food in the form of carbohydrates. In shade the density of turf will decline significantly which is a sign that there is much less biomass (plant tissue) being created by the plants.
For successful growth the plants need a favourible soil environment that allows for unhindered root growth. When rooting is curtailed so is leaf growth.
When the grass is allowed to grow higher this results in more leaf tissue and therefore a greater leaf area for photosynthesis which in turn results in a greater production of carbohydrates for plant food.
- Nitrogen (N) – an increase in available Nitrogen will typically result in increased leaf growth.
- Iron (Fe) – the availability of Iron helps to ensure that the plant has the correct level of chlorophyll synthesis which is needed for the photosynthetic process to work efficiently.
- Water – a very high percentage of plant tissue is water and this makes it critical to plant survival and healthy growth.
- Diseases – the control or discouragement of disease pathogens is essential to strong and vigorous plant growth.
Next time we’ll look at some of the different growth habits you will encounter in turf grass management.
Meantime, why not share your views in the comments? or drop me a line.
Photo thanks to Kevin Dooley
Since I did a little bit of an introduction to turf grass botany yesterday by talking about cool and warm season grasses, there has been further interest from readers in exploring turf grass botany.
There’s no better place to start than at the beginning, so today we will look at the basic shoot structure of the grass plant. Of course there is a lot of variation between species in how these structures appear but the following is a broad overview of turf grass plant shoot structures.
This is the basic functional unit of the plant and consists of a short stem with leaves appearing alternately from nodes along the stem.
The stem is the main trunk of the plant that can take the form of a crown, which is a kind of bunched up stem where all of the leaf producing nodes are stacked one on top of the other or of an elongated stem (stolon or rhizome) that grows laterally either on or below the soil surface with widely spaced internodes from which new shoots and roots can appear. Lastly it can appear as a long upright stalk with widely spaced internodes (leaf producing points) ending in an infloresence/flower which is called a culm; more commonly called a seed head. The main functions of the stem are:
- sites of buds where new shoots or roots can be initiated.
- the movement of water, nutrients and food (carbohydrates) between the roots and the leaves.
- storage of food for emergencies such as drought or injury.
These are the bulbous points on the stem where leaves, roots or branches of the stem are initiated. These nodes are key to the recovery of turf grass from wear and tear and other natural stresses such as heat and drought, insect and disease injury. They are key structures in determining the recuperative potential of the turf grass plant.
The internodes are the sections of the stem between nodes and these sections rather than just being the bits between the all important nodes, are key areas of activity in the plant. This is where the translocation (transport) of water, nutrients and already photosynthesised food (carbohydrate) occurs.
A key point to note here is that if you cut through the stem, new growth will be stimulated from the immediately adjacent nodes on each side of the plant to form new shoots or roots depending on their position on the plant. This is why frequent mowing is so important in producing a dense turf.
The grass leaf is the part we think of as the blade (although that has a more specific meaning in botany) and grows laterally out of the stem at a node. The leaf consists of an upper blade which is flattened and a basal sheath which encircles the stem at the node from which it arises. The leaf is the key food producing structure of the plant as it contains chlorophyll, the green pigment responsible for the capture of light energy from the sun. The leaf is a hive of food producing activity, being the main site of photosynthesis in the grass plant. It is the leaf that when combined with many thousands of others, forms the turf that we need for bowling.
Rather than referring to the whole leaf, the blade is actually the flattened portion of the leaf furthest from the stem, although in species such as Festuca (Fescues) the flattening is barely perceptible.
This is the tubular portion of the leaf surrounding or wrapping around the stem at a node. Usually referred to as the basal sheath, it contains some chlorophyll which gives it a green colour.
So that’s the basic structure of the turf grass plant in very brief terms. Next time I will dig a little deeper and look at how grass plants actually grow.
As always, if you have anything to add, observations or questions just add a comment below or drop me a line.
Grass plant image thanks to Wackymacs
The new bowling season is, or will soon be under-way and there still seems like so much to do to get the green ready for play.
Today, I am going to give an overview of the work that should be going on at the green and over the coming weeks I will fill this out by looking a bit more in-depth at each of the recommended tasks individually.
For the time being I have dropped the price of Performance Bowling Greens to encourage as many clubs as possible to get hold of a copy of what has become a very popular manual for achieving a high performance bowling green.
Today’s post and the subsequent articles and links I will share with you this month assume that you are working from the Performance Greens Manual.
As usual of course, if there are any questions, please feel free to get in touch. The best way to do this is by leaving a comment on any post, signing in to use the forums or by dropping me an email.
So what should we be doing on the green in the lead up to the new bowling season?
To start, I should point out that the programs detailed in the Performance Greens Manual are spilt into 3 distinct categories as follows:
- Baseline: this program consists of maintenance tasks that should be carried out as detailed in the Performance Greens Manual regardless of green condition. Whether your green is in a dire state of repair or is already a high performance surface, these tasks are essential.
- Renovation: this program, again detailed in the Performance Greens Manual, is aimed at greens that are in the renovation or recovery phase. These tasks should be carried out in addition to the baseline program.
- Performance: this program is for greens that have already been through the renovation phase and are starting to perform at a high level. Again, these tasks should be carried out in addition to the baseline program.
Based on the above, you will be carrying out some or all of the following tasks in early spring:
- Worm cast/dew removal
- Trimming green edges
- Mini-solid tining
- Slit tining
- Applying wetting agent
- Applying corrective granular fertiliser
- Applying organic growth stimulants
- Possibly applying pesticides but only if absolutely essential.
Tomorrow we will get started by looking more closely at the correct mowing regime and some of the technicalities of this.
Meantime, I encourage you to get hold of your copy of the Performance Bowling Greens. This will help you to follow the advice from the site and apply it to your own situation more accurately.
Change Tack is an old Sailors phrase that has passed into everyday conversation to describe a change of approach.
Sometimes when we are working on a project, its easy to feel we aren’t making progress and that a “change of tack” might help.
However, the literal meaning of the phrase as used by sailors describes the actions required to effect a change of direction.
So when the latest greenkeeping fad doesn’t seem to be working as described, its quite common for bowls clubs to change tack.
Unfortunately, whereas the sailors change of tack usually helps to take him to a predetermined destination, in bowling clubs it very often means simply jumping on to the next fad and then waiting to see where they end up!
In Performance Bowls Greens I started off by explaining how this will always be the case for many clubs as the industry must keep re-inventing the wheel to keep up sales and it is actually in the trade’s best interest for your bowls green to be sub-standard so that you feel the urge to keep trying new things to correct it!
The biggest of these fads in recent times is routine top dressing. This has now stuck fast for more than 3 decades and as a result has become a “tradition” and traditions as we know are pretty hard to unhook from.
There are of course many other fads that abound in the shape of products, advice and operations we can carry out on our greens, but top-dressing has been the most damaging.
This is because it has the capacity over a number of years to alter the soil composition and with it the natural ecosystem of the soil in our greens. A few years of this is bad enough, but the decades of it we have now had, has been very detrimental to the condition of bowls greens.
The knock on effect of this is adequately described here.
The ultimate guide to breaking away from this and staying on a path to success is Performance Bowls Greens which is available here. If you are quick you can use this coupon code to get it for half price: “green50”
Just use the coupon code at the checkout to get our best selling eBook for half price.
Photo: A bloke called Jerm
In Performance Bowls Greens, a practical guide there is a simple but detailed procedure for getting back to natural greenkeeping, reducing maintenance costs and ensuring predictable and affordable long term bowls green performance.
In it John Quinn explains what has gone wrong in UK bowls green maintenance, why we rely on industry norms at our peril and more importantly what we can do about it.
This best selling eBook, breaks down all of the myths and fairy tales about bowls green maintenance including why you shouldn’t be top-dressing your green or following many of the green keeping practices currently deemed essential.
No bowls club can afford to be without this eBook.