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What causes compaction on a bowls green?

Compaction is of course one of the big issues in bowling green maintenance and people are always looking for ways to prevent or minimise its occurrence.

Compaction happens to a greater or lesser extent depending on soil type. At the two extremes of this are Clay and Sand.

Think of a potter wetting some powdered clay to throw a pot and you can immediately picture the compaction and drainage properties of this soil type; it compacts very well when wet and clay pots don’t allow drainage at all; and when clay soil is wet this is pretty much the case under your green too. Clay is a very good moisture and nutrient retainer.

Now imagine running on to the upper reaches of the beach, up near the dunes and it’s hard to imagine how this highly mobile sand could ever be compacted. Due to the particle shapes which are round, there is a huge amount of air space between particles which doesn’t allow for any level of compaction.

The above examples are, I think, the reasons that clubs have been all too eager to jump on the sand band wagon over the last few decades; more sand seems to equal better drainage and lower compaction.

The best bowling green soil lies somewhere between the two and is a sandy loam as discussed here.

So although individual actions like foot and maintenance traffic can be said to cause compaction, the underlying soil holds the real answer.

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2 comments

  1. Paul says:

    Hi,

    With regards to limiting compaction and the FACT that bowlers do not like to bowl after spiking, what are your views on products such as Symbio Liquid Aeration? I do know some golf greenkeepers who are sold on this product, especially now it has come down in price!

    • admin says:

      Hi Paul
      Thanks for your comment.
      These products come in two forms usually; some of them claim to add (the missing) microbes to the soil and others aim to feed the existing microbes and boost their numbers.
      The fact remains, however, that if you create the correct soil conditions the indigenous microbes will be present in abundance and thatch will be well under control.
      I don’t have any experience with this specific product. Would be good to hear what other readers have to say on the subject.

      Thanks

      John

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