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Over-seeding Fact and Fiction

Another very popular subject on this site is over-seeding of greens in Autumn.

Over-seeding is commonly carried out as part of the autumn bowling green maintenance and renovation program and is very often a disappointment.

You would expect this work to quickly fill in the bare patches and spaces in the sward left by  disease, localised dry patch and a host of other green problems, but this is very often not the case…why?

The answer to most disappointing results from over-seeding is “competition”. Competition from the mature, indigenous grasses whether fine or weed grasses like annual meadow grass usually reduces the success or survival rate from over-seeding to a very small percentage.

This quite often comes as a surprise to greenkeepers who have observed a very good “take” shortly after seeding (7-14 days). At this early stage it is not uncommon to see vigorous lines of dense new seedlings bursting forth from the green. This however, is usually a false reading.

At this very 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.

My Bowls Green is a Disaster what can be done?

Get back to the basics of thatch and compaction control

Here we go with our next web search term that resulted in someone finding this site.

I picked this one today, because it sounds like this search was instigated by someone who really needs help quickly.

This kind of situation calls for a level headed approach. At times like this, when it appears that all is lost and you feel like digging up the green and starting again, it’s easy to Read more

Why do greenkeepers spike a bowls green?

We spike to alleviate compaction and introduce more air into the soil.

Ok, our first web search term question. I’ll try to follow this format for all questions, i.e. the question will be the title of the post, there will be a concise, one sentence answer in block quotes for those in a hurry and then we’ll look a bit more in-depth for those who want more detail.

Comments of course will be welcome as always, so feel free to ask questions, or throw in your contribution.

OK, so the first one is a common one:

First of all let’s explain what the term “spike” means.

Spiking is a generic term used to describe Read more

Greenkeeping Advice Leads to Disaster

Someone searched by this term on the web and was directed to the site.

Now I normally pick out the most popular search terms to try to answer the underlying question, but this was a single and very different search term and I thought it was very interesting.

The title tells the full story; someone is of the opinion that the greenkeeping advice they received caused the opposite result from the one they expected.

This is probably due to one of two common problems; both of which I tease out and put a bit of detail on in the opening section of my eBook Performance Bowling Greens, a practical guide:

Problem Number 1. A lot of the advice that is available is non-committal, playing it safe or just wrong; for example a lot of “advisers” still peddle the same old advice which usually includes some of the most damaging practices you can inflict on a bowling green like top-dressing with high sand content top-dressing.

Problem Number 2. Bowling clubs have a high degree of impatience when it comes to waiting for improvements to materialise on their green. Even when following the correct regime there is usually a period of renovation required to get things moving in the right direction and this is why many greens never improve to any great degree; clubs don’t stick to a plan.

Now this is understandable to a degree because most club members quite rightly want a good green…now; they are paying their membership now, so now is when thy want results. This leads to desperation mode, another factor that creeps into clubs from time to time and again detailed in Performance Bowling Greens.

This is so common that many of you who have read the eBook have written to say that they recognised their own club in the examples I gave.

So when someone says that the advice they have received has caused a disaster its usually due to one of these problems.

Traditional Bowls Green Aeration

Rob emailed with an interesting question about using the old fashioned forking method of aeration during periods when the green is excessively wet, like now probably in many parts. Here is Rob’s full question and my reply to him earlier. If anybody has views on this subject please feel free to share:

Do you know anything about the traditional ‘raise forking’ or ‘graip’ aeration methods that were used? What kind of forks were used? (straight? curved? how thick were the prongs?) and how deep did the go down ? etc.

I am interested in such traditional techniques and yet cannot find out any information about it?

After the snow the greens are absolutely soaked through and I wondered if trying this traditional technique might dry them out with minimum disturbance?

Well, although I have used the method (under duress) in the past, I didn’t have all of the answers I would have liked for Rob:

Hi Rob and Happy New Year

I am not aware of any special equipment for this, but I have done it.

Usually this was with a normal garden fork; the technique was to work backwards and push the fork in as far as possible at intervals equivalent to the space between the tines on the fork so as to create a square hole pattern.

After pushing the fork in to full depth (6 to 8 inches) you wiggled it about and heaved it backwards slightly before removing and moving on to the next.

Back-breaking and very labour intensive mind you.

Before going to extreme measures it might be worth checking that the ground isn’t still frozen at some point below as this might be causing the slow down in drainage.

During the winter I recommend using a deep slit tiner as often as possible, which automates this procedure to some extent and has a very good effect on compaction related problems like this.

You can find articles on this here:

Last week I shared some links to resources including the most suitable machinery for this work; you can see that article here:

If any reader has some light to shed on this subject then I would be very interested to hear it.


Bowls Digest

With all of this snow I’ve been looking for excuses to sit close to the fire, but I was feeling guilty about not producing any benefit for my readers, so here is a short selection of resources and information I’ve found useful and interesting lately

Bowls World Blog

Although not brimming with content and not updated very regularly this blog has a couple of in depth articles that might be of interest; including a look at the bowls manufacturing process and some guidance on learning to bowl and improving your game. http://bowlsworldblog.blogspot.com/

Bowls World

The main site relating to the above blog has a wealth of products of interest to the bowler. http://www.bowlsworld.co.uk/

World Bowler

Good site with a quite a lively forum with bowlers contributing form all corners of the globe. http://www.worldbowler.com/

Julian Haines

A popular site with a very active forum with lots of interesting debate and opinion on all things bowls; check out the greenkeepers corner section. http://www.julianhainesbowls.co.uk/forum/

Bowls Club Info

This site claims to be the biggest list of lawn bowls links on the internet.
You’ll find links to bowls web sites from around the globe – from the smallest English country green to the largest aussie mega-club!
The site owner’s aims are to help promote all bowls club web sites by offering free inclusion in the links lists and to provide low-cost but professional looking web page hosting for bowls clubs. http://www.bowlsclub.info/

Irrigation Running Costs and Bowls Club Success

A funny time of year to be talking about irrigation but it is a surprisingly popular search term for the site.

So what are the costs of running irrigation on your green?

Well as you would imagine this can easily turn into a “how long is a piece of string?” type of debate. That’s due of course to the plethora of different irrigation systems around the country and of course the weather.

However, what we can do is look at some basic irrigation facts and then, armed with some key information from your irrigation hardware and utility bills; we can make a good estimate of the costs of running the system.

First let’s look at fixed costs:

These are primarily the cost of maintaining the system after its in place. On newer systems this will probably take the form of the cost of a maintenance contract with a qualified irrigation engineer; as the system gets older this will also have to have an element of contingency planning for new parts etc.

Then we look at the variable costs such as electricity and water:

Where most of your irrigation is carried out on automatic (recommended) the variable cost of labour is negligible. So we need to know how much a unit of electricity costs us and we can get that information from the bill, same with the water costs.

Armed with the cost of water per m3 and the cost of electricity per kw/h we can then work out the actual true cost of running irrigation on our greens.

Pump Outputs are typically expressed in litres per minute.

However, for the majority of systems that are configured as Read more

Statistical Analysis; to give you the Bowls Green Maintenance answers you need

Don’t worry, we’re not going all mathematical on you.

Over the past 2 years the traffic to this site has steadily grown and now provides help and advice to a big proportion of the UK Bowling Club Scene.

I know this, because like every website; in the background we have what are known as Web Stats or statistics.

The web stats provide a lot of good information and allow us to mould the content of the site to provide the kind of advice we think you want.

One of the really great parts of these web stats is the section that allows us to see what terms people type into search engines before being directed to the site.

For this month alone, the list extends to over 4 full A4 pages of search topics, many of them in the form of questions like for example “will too much water harm our green?” or “what are the favourable conditions for fusarium?”

So what I thought I’d do is start to answer some of these questions at the rate of perhaps 1 a day and see how we get on with that.

Keep your eyes peeled for our new “web search” Tag

Speak to you soon John