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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

Investing in Irrigation-can you afford not to?

Irrigation: cost or investment?

Previously we talked about some of the reasons commonly put forward for not watering bowling greens. I also shared with you, my amusement that so many clubs fail to mention irrigation or lack of it when looking for an explanation for the poor quality or condition of their greens; even though it’s very obvious. They will use just about every other aspect of bowling green maintenance as a reason for poor performance.

Now we come to the cost of irrigation; and I am not talking about the cost of installing a system, but merely the cost of the water being applied on any given night.

This is another big reason or excuse that I hear a lot about:

“we can’t water any more because it costs a fortune”

Now of course there will be variations (slight) around the country and also from system to system, but here is my 10 second rundown on the cost of water for irrigation:

  • As we saw previously a typical system will put out 1mm of irrigation water for every 2 minutes of system run time.
  • A typical system will also put out 150 litres per minute; so to calculate the cost per mm of irrigation we do this:
  • 2 (minutes) X 150 (litres) X 4 (sprinkler heads) = 1200 litres/mm

That’s to achieve 1mm over the whole green.

As 1200 litres is 1.2 m3 you simply have to multiply the irrigation requirement in millimetres by your cost per m3 and then by 1.2


  • Water balance sheet shows we need to replace 15mm of moisture loss.
  • Multiply 15 (mm) X 1.2 (m3) X £/m3
  • 1.2 (m3) X £0.90 = £1.08/mm of irrigation over entire green.

I’ve used 90p as an average cost, but you can find your own local charge on your water bill or by phoning the water company.

The question is whether you see irrigation as a cost or an investment in the future of your green.

Bowls Green Maintenance and elephants

In the early part of the season no growth means no recovery from last winter’s damage, bare areas not filling in with new grass, bumps, hollows and all sorts of other problems mostly related to surface smoothness and consistency.

I’ve heard more than my fair share of strange reasons in bowling green maintenance circles when there is a lack of growth. These mostly centre on almost every bowling green maintenance practice except the one that matters…why?

Well the one that matters is “Irrigation” and it’s still a big taboo in a lot of clubs and in bowling green maintenance circles; it’s “the elephant in the room” to use one of the most annoying buzz phrases in recent times! However the elephant in the room description is a good one in this case; it’s this big, obvious thing in the room or in the conversation, but nobody mentions it!

One club I met with told me they have an “anti-watering brigade” in their club! Can you believe that, a group of members who are actively against watering the green regardless of how much it needs it?

On a well known bowling forum which shall remain nameless here, a contributor added his tuppence to the discussion on irrigation by “boasting” that they never water their green, as if it was some impressive badge to be worn. Another says that watering 3 times a day is crazy (as suggested by another contributor), even though he has no information to tell him the quantity of water being applied or thinking behind the plan.

We really must get over this folks or there will be a lot of very poor bowling green surfaces next year.

for effective Bowls Green Maintenance water Deeply not Daily!

Bowling green irrigation or watering is often mis-understood and as a result is often managed insufficiently to ensure that the green performs to its highest standards.

The first thing is to make sure of, is that you are applying enough water every week and that means trying as best you can to keep a record of any rainfall and irrigation that is going onto the green.

Making irrigation management a priority in your bowling green maintenance program is crucial because in a typical dry week your green will lose the equivalent of 25mm of moisture through evaporation from the soil and transpiration from the grass plants ; please remember that this varies considerably around the country and will depend on things like temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, precipitation and of course your bowling green maintenance program.

This means that you should be aiming to get at least that amount back on.

In Performance Bowling Greens, a practical guide I go into detail about Soil Moisture Deficit and how to keep a water balance sheet for the most accurate and efficient way to manage irrigation and that is a really good method to use to get this right.

However, bowling green maintenance at the height of the summer relies a lot on feel for the soil as well and although I would always try to maintain a manageable Soil Moisture Deficit to encourage deeper rooting etc, it is more important right now to get on sufficient water to ensure your green plays consistently and to keep localised dry patch under control or hopefully at bay.

This means you should be aiming to get 25mm of water on in any dry week, making allowances for any rainfall you have had by reducing that amount accordingly.

The most common pump and sprinkler set ups for bowling green maintenance from most of the major irrigation manufacturers will put out approximately 1mm of water for each 2 minutes of system run time.

This means that you need to run the system for 2 minutes per head to replace 1mm of water lost. Remember that is “per head”.

So for a 25mm watering you need to run the system for 50 minutes per head during a 7 day period.

The most effective way to do this is to get this water on in as few applications as possible. Try to aim for 25mm over 3 nights. This is much more effective and makes much better use of precious water than 7 light applications where much of the water is lost to evaporation in the morning.

In my Bowling Green Maintenance book: Performance Greens, a practical guide I go into this subject in quite a bit of detail and lay out a plan that you can use to manage irrigation more effectively.