With spring renovations well underway, most courses will be looking to aerate the greens and get some new topdressing materials back into the surface to restore levels and maintain surface porosity.
Choice of aeration varies between solid tine and hollow tine spiking depending on your goals, with the aim of getting some air back into the soil profile. Vert-draining using solid tines to a good depth (preferably >8 inches) should help the roots to start chasing the moisture down the soil profile, providing the sward with a stronger root system, which is the foundation of plant growth success.
This will be followed by topdressing with a compatible rootzone material. Do not over-do the topdressing rates; you do not want to smother your sward. The type of sand used in topdressings is vitally important, and you should be aware that most sand sales in the UK are for other uses. The sports turf market is small in comparison, so be careful if you are offered cheap materials, as these can be finer, differ in shape, colour, lime content and be more interpacking than the sands specified for sports turf.
For golf courses, the dominant particle range in the sand should be medium sand (0.250mm to 0.5mm).
The amount of topdressing will vary dependant on your needs. However, in the spring you would be looking to spread between half to one and half tonnes of material per green (2 to 3mm of material per m2). Many Greenkeepers are now topdressing on a monthly basis, a little and often approach.
Feeding programmes should be determined by soil analysis. Obtaining nutrient levels for greens, tees and fairways will provide essential information that can be used to help choose the appropriate fertiliser product for your given turf surface. There are a wide range of fertiliser products now available and tailored to stimulate healthy grass growth.
It is important that your mowing machines are serviced regularly and are set up accurately, ensuring that both the height of cut and blade sharpness are correct. Damaged blades affect sward quality.
Irrigation systems should have been tested and calibrated by now, there is a need to ensure that all sprinkler heads are working and delivering the appropriate amount of water to the turf. You should calibrate your sprinklers at least once a year to ensure the spray pattern and coverage is sufficient for your needs. This can be done by placing out a number of catch cans on your green and measuring the amount of water collected. You may be surprised to find how much your sprinklers are actually delivering. There may be a need to irrigate during spring renovation programmes, as air temperatures and daylight hours are getting longer, increasing the likelihood of the ground and surfaces drying out.
Once these spring renovations are completed, you can then get on with the daily routines of maintenance.
Now, mowing operations are in full swing, with frequencies varying from daily to weekly operations dependant on the growth of the grass and the standards set by the course managers.
Mowing heights may vary depending on local conditions, type of course, course expectations, sward type and mower type. The mowing heights are a guide, and will be subject to local weather conditions, but remember not to remove more than 1/3 of total grass height in each cut. The less stress that is placed on the grass at this vital time the better the results further on into the season.
* Greens – height should be maintained at around 4-6mm.
* Tees – height should be maintained at around 10-15mm.
* Fairways – height should be maintained at around 15-20mm.
* Rough, semi rough grass areas – mow and tidy up these areas.
Ensure you clean your mowers after use (wash down or blow off ), ensure you apply some WD 40 or similar oil based lubricant on the cutting cylinder after washing down. Keeping them clean makes the job of checking cutting heights and maintaining the bottom blades easier.
Hole changing should be carried out regularly, at least three time s per week as a general rule; however, frequency will be dependant on a number of factors – green size, greens construction, tournaments, amount of play and condition of the green. During any wet periods, it is likely the hole will wear more quickly, resulting in a crowning affect and surface wear. This wear is more apparent if the green has thatch problems. The hole will tend to wear quickly and form a depression, caused by the placement of the golfers’ feet.
April is already upon us and, although it only seems like yesterday that it was the start of the year, it seems like a distant memory back to last April. However, it is only then that we were opening venues for the return to sport at many places. It seems an age ago, as we have come so far from that point up to where we are now, and there have been hours of dedication from turf professionals and volunteers up and down the country poured into their sites for preparation of matches and activities. This month brings the ‘real feel’ of spring, with longer nights and increasing temperatures, which has now started to provide some essential turf growth and recovery; although there has been snow in April in the past, so we must not get too carried away.
The weather in March turned out to be a stark contrast to what we had experienced in February, which was a very wet month, that brought localised flooding to many areas. March on the other hand turned out to be a dry month for many with some high day temperatures for the time of year. The issue here for many was that because February had been so wet, there was an element of having to wait until the ground conditions were suitable for carrying out maintenance. Then, as the month progressed, conditions got too dry and watering was having to take place just to keep some moisture in the ground.
Temperatures look set to be more moderate over the course of April, but with some cold night-time temperatures at the start of the month. Rainfall is forecast for much of the start of the month, with conditions looking more settled towards the latter parts of the month. The rainfall will be welcomed from many who are waiting to make applications for encouraging some early season growth to achieve some recovery. With day temperatures still moderate and night-time temperatures still relatively low, applications of nutrition need to be made understanding how the environmental conditions will affect the efficacy of said applications. Growth can’t be rushed at this point of the season. Trying to do so will only result in unnecessary applications or spending, and potential issues further down the line.
These can be a useful tool throughout the season to ensure that moisture is distributed evenly throughout the profile. When using this technology, there is a benefit of ensuring applications are made early. This helps ensure the product is in the profile before issues can arise. Recent years have seen dry conditions early in the season, they can lead to playing catch up in terms of having consistent moisture within the profile. Managing moisture in this way allows the turf manager to have better control over the conditions. This can encourage rooting deeper in the profile, allow less water to be applied via irrigation systems and allow better uptake of nutrients by the plant, and therefore better efficacy of any product applications that have been made. Each site will be different and there are technologies within the market which will suit individual sites with individual needs.
Irish Summer Time (IST) started on the 27th March which brings an increase in daylight hours. This gives the plant more opportunity to carry out photosynthesis, more photosynthesis means more growth. Applications of simple sugars and carbohydrates can provide the plant with a readily available supply of energy, which can be much needed at a time when growth is commencing and can assist in reducing any additional stress. As temperatures begin to increase, so does the opportunity to use a wider range of fertiliser technologies. Again, each site will have its own specific requirements and it is important to find a solution which works best for you as it is not a case of one cap fits all. For those that want a slow release of nitrogen over a longer period of time, the conditions will become more suitable for this type of fertiliser technology as the month progresses. These come in many forms such as coated granules, organic based, Methylene Urea and Isodor and Crotudur to name a few.
Plant Growth Regulator
April can bring the first signs of annual meadow grass seeding, which can have an impact on playing quality, performance and overall aesthetics. Although grooming can be deployed to physically remove the seed, in some instances, depending on the surface you manage, this can provide the perfect seed bed for more annual meadow grass to develop. When growth becomes consistent, it is key to manage this to ensure even growth is achieved. An even sward increases the playing quality of the surface being managed and, in-line with this, plant growth regulators can be used to great effect to help regulate the flowering capacity of the Poa annua plant. Prohexadione- calcium (Class A late gibberellin inhibitor) can be used at cool temperatures and is active when sprayed onto the plant, therefore its regulatory effect is fast acting. Early applications, when seedheads are still in the root stage of development, ahead of stem dissection and flowering, will promote regulation through inhibition of the biosynthesis of the plant hormone gibberellin. A key benefit of this active ingredient is that it regulates Poa annua, closely aligned with the desirable perennial grasses in the sward. This restricts the ability of the Poa annua to pioneer the sward, by not giving it the advantage of being out of regulation whilst the perennial species are still being regulated.
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At this time of the year, it is important that all machinery is in good condition and well maintained. Machinery downtime, due to lack of maintenance or poor set-up, can be costly. As the weather continues to improve, you will be all-out to keep your course in tip top condition.
Courses with their own workshop and mechanics will be at an advantage. Those without such luxuries need to be ahead of the game – all machinery should have been serviced and back in action by now.
Having a good wash down facility is an essentail tool for keeping equipment clean; it is a wise investment.