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When Beer was Cheap and the Summers Long

we’ve lost our “Feel” for the soil

When beer was cheap and the green always played at its best…ahh! the good old days!

When were theseWhen Beer was Cheap good old days of bowling? 1950’s? 1960’s?

The days in the past when the green was always fast, the summers were long and the beer was cheap are for most of us probably imagined to be at some point after the end of World War 2.

For me, although I wasn’t around then, this makes a lot of sense, because it ties in nicely with a huge change in agricultural practices in the UK.

The Ministry for Food and its successors quite rightly encouraged the UK’s farmers to produce more food, so that we would never run short again in the event of a conflict. However, this brought about a massive shift in agricultural practice, the major down side of which is only just being seen now.

In my introduction to Performance Bowling Greens, a practical guide, I go on a bit about this phenomenon, as it represents a key turning point in the condition of UK bowling greens also.

The somewhat uncomfortable truth is that as greenkeepers we are actually part of the massive worldwide agriculture industry. Very few products or technologies ever see the light of day based purely on the needs of bowling clubs or even the much larger golf segment of the fine turf and sports industry.  No, most of the things we use are direct descendants of agricultural or other industrial products or at least are supported by agriculture’s huge global enterprise. Every chemical pesticide we use is a direct copy of a product which has a use in growing crops; every fertiliser product is a result of agricultural research and manufacturing processes; even our mowers are based on a machine originally used for trimming in the massive Victorian carpet and textile industry.

The result of all of this is that bowling green maintenance has turned from an art into a science and although this has been good in some ways it has taken us in completely the wrong direction for the most part. It has almost obliterated the famous “feel” for the soil that old time greenkeepers and farmers had and introduced a reliance on reactive maintenance, where we deal with an endless stream of symptoms without ever dealing with, or even understanding the root cause of problems.

Today, however, there is another revolution in farming that is concerned mainly with nurturing the soil to ensure productivity and we would do very well to follow suit.

The Performance Greens program is based on this very thinking. It focuses on producing and maintaining a healthy living plant/soil eco system which is self sustaining and is economical to maintain and predictable to manage.

The majority of UK greens are so far off this ideal that there will inevitably be a period of renovation and recuperation required, but the benefits will be there to see and enjoy with every passing month. Benefits such as:

  • A green that performs well from the get go every year
  • A green that is consistent throughout the season
  • A green that is economical to maintain
  • A green that fights off disease, drought and cold largely on its own.
  • A green that your members will relish playing on

Over the next few weeks we will discuss some of the key components of healthy living soil and start to build a picture of where we went wrong and what we should be doing about it.

Can I give you a couple of quick hints? Yes:

For the vast majority of UK greens two actions that will help enormously (not change everything overnight, but help enormously) are to start using Bio Liquid Fertilisers throughout the season and STOP top dressing greens with sand laden top-dressing composts. There is a Nett saving of at least £1000 annually in there for most clubs too.


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