Greens mowing frequencies should remain high, with mowers set at their summer heights. As levels of competitions and societies increase, there will be an emphasis on ensuring that the quality of the playing surface remains high, with many trying to attain good green speeds and consistency of roll as a priority. Dropping the height to reach these speeds is an obvious temptation, but should not generally be used as a tool to achieve this. Instead, look at utilising rollers within your current maintenance programme to ensure good speeds without placing undue stress on your sward.
Remember, do not bring the cutting heights down to more than a third of the total height of the plant at any one time. As the cutting units are used more regularly, the sharpness of the blade is of paramount importance to reduce the incidence of pressure from disease. If disease does occur, a judgement call will need to be made as to whether it will ‘grow out’ with good growing conditions, or the situation is not likely to improve.
Horizontal growth should be controlled through the use of regular brushing and verti-cutting, with the latter occurring between every two to four weeks depending on your own situation. This should help keep on top of thatch accumulation as we move through the growing season. Grooming and brushing the greens to stand horizontal growth up before mowing will encourage a denser and more attractive sward.
Hole changing should be done once or twice a week depending on golf traffic, wear or competition requirements. The first and most important is good judgement in deciding what will give fair results. Study the design of the hole as the architect intended it to be played. Know the length of the shot to the green and how it may be affected by the probable conditions for the day – i.e. wind and other weather elements, conditions of the turf from which the shot will be played, and holding quality of the green.
There must be enough putting green surface between the hole and the front and the sides of the green to accommodate the required shot. For example, if the hole requires a long iron or wood shot to the green, the hole should be located deeper in the green and further from its sides than should be the case if the hole requires a short pitch shot. In any case, it is recommended that generally the hole be located at least four paces from any edge of the green. If a bunker is close to the edge, or if the ground slopes away from the edge, the distance should be greater, especially if the shot is more than a pitch. Consideration should be given to fair opportunity for recovery after a reasonably good shot that just misses the green.
As we head into August, the levels of grass growth should be at a peak for the year. This means a lot of mowing for greenkeepers but, more importantly, a greater requirement for essential nutrients. Playing surfaces should be monitored closely for signs of nutrient stress and, allied with soil sample results taken in the spring, fertiliser choices can be made to suit the conditions and type of grass/soil present. The increased growth rate will lead to accelerated thatch accumulation. Utilising the various ways of reducing this is of paramount importance to reduce the occurrence of disease and other problems further down the line.
Moisture management could also potentially be a key feature of the month. Many greenkeepers have invested in weather stations to inform of potential evapotranspiration rates within their sward. Remember not to let the soil dry out too much, but keep irrigation practices as natural as possible. Soaking the playing surface every few days is better than religiously watering at set schedules. Moisture meters are available to help you have a greater understanding of the situation beneath your putting surfaces.
Tees – Mowing requirements are unlikely to be more than twice per week unless conditions are damp and growth remains strong. HOC will also remain at around 12mm for most courses but should be raised for non irrigated tees that are suffering from drought stress. Playing levels are likely to remain high, therefore daily movement of tee markers and regular divoting will be the norm to maintain good surface quality and presentation.
Any additional watering should be sufficient to aid recovery and maintain turf vigour, but largely aimed at developing a good root structure. Solid tining with no more than 13mm width tines may be an option to help with moving water quickly from the surface.
Keeping surfaces clean and free of divots and broken tees must be a daily task as well as the need to clean and maintain all course accessories.
Fairways – By August, definition between fairway and light rough can often fade due to the dry conditions. Much will depend on the amount of rain that falls unless of course the fairways are irrigated. Mowing is likely to be less frequent than in June and July but the HOC will remain the same, with most courses cutting at between 14mm and 17mm. At this time of year, divot damage may be slow to recover, therefore divoting of the worst affected areas may be required.
Roughs – Mowing frequency of many areas of rough will be less in August, unless it is a wet month and growth is continuing. As before, the main areas of rough are likely to be rotary cut at 50mm. Any areas of intermediate rough will still be cut weekly, but this is limited to just one or two ‘bands’ wide. Cutting areas of deeper rough should continue, with the aim of collecting the grass and lowering the nutrient levels to encourage the finer and slower growing grasses to thrive.
Lastly, keep tabs on playing qualities (PQS) as well as aesthetic qualities within the sward. A whole host of factors could conspire to reduce either within the putting/playing surfaces. Monitoring them closely, and on a regular basis, will provide you with a better understanding of your course. Recording findings gives an ability to compare results from previous years. Checking practical elements such as consistency and height of cut, using macroscopes and prisms, will also provide insight during a busy period.
Bunker maintenance during August is largely a continuation of regular raking either by hand or via machine. With growth slowing down, any edging and trimming will be slight but the focus needs to remain on stone and weed removal. Regular checks should be made regarding sand depth and distribution.
July was particularly challenging, with very little rainfall and an increased reliance on irrigation systems or hand watering to just keep the grass plant alive. Added to this has been the extreme temperatures we have experienced, which are uncommon for our location for such a prolonged period. This resulted in additional heat and light stress that has required careful management.
These multiple stresses on the plant, plus the daily stresses from maintenance practices, can be the tipping point for pathogen populations to increase and disease incidence to occur. The conditions have been conducive for anthracnose development, and recent rainfall has meant Microdochium incidence has increased.
Looking ahead to the August forecast, temperatures are in line with the typical average (16°C- 20°C) for the month, with most of the days on or above 18°C. Rainfall is forecast for consecutive days at the beginning of the month and then remains settled throughout August until more rain on consecutive days again at the end of the month. Average sun hours reduce from 170 in July to 150 in August. It is essential, for those who are striving for recovery of drought stressed areas, that any areas of hydrophobicity are treated first. This will allow these areas to be re-wettable, which will aid the recovery process.
Applications of biostimulants to support existing nutritional inputs will play a valuable role to mitigate the effects of stress. Seaweed will elicit important beneficial defensive and stress responses. Amino acids also play an important role in abiotic stress tolerance, helping plants to prepare for and cope with additional stresses such as varying changes in temperature and moisture. They are also excellent at ensuring nutrients get into the plant, therefore through dry periods where every part of the product counts, they can be a useful addition to tank mixes to ensure efficient uptake. Fulvic and Humic acids are a kind of plant growth regulator, which can promote growth and play an important role in fighting against drought, improve plant stress resistance and improve turf quality. Where possible, adjustments to maintenance practices, such as raising the height of cut and reducing cutting frequency can also play a major role in reducing stress and maintaining good overall plant health.
August, for some sports, can be a key time for carrying out renovations or for planning upcoming renovation work. Weather conditions can be ideal, with good temperatures and soil moisture available for getting recovery and establishment of seed. Different sports will have varying maintenance practices, however having set objectives planned out will increase the probability of a successful renovation. Ensuring the right seed cultivars are selected for the intended usage will increase the probability for success. If removing organic matter to improve playing conditions and rootzone characteristics, carefully selecting the most suitable method of removal is important to ensure the desired outcome is achieved efficiently, whilst removing the maximum amount with minimal disruption to playing conditions.
As we gradually transition from summer into autumn, where conditions can be cooler with more surface moisture present, conditions become suitable for the development of turf diseases. At a time when growth is still strong, utilising products to aid in the reduction of disease outbreaks can be challenging, particularly in terms of getting longevity out of product applications. However, making applications at the right time, although potentially not long lasting, can make a big difference in reducing disease. Moisture management is key, and reducing leaf wetness, when morning dews start to appear, will have a significant impact on the potential development of disease. Key diseases to be mindful of at this time of year are Microdochium patch, Anthracnose and Leaf spot.
Worm activity may increase with soil moisture levels. There is still no legally registered product for the control of worms, therefore management practices must rely upon cultural methods.
Cultural and biological controls in the form of Entomopathogenic nematodes are the only legally authorised controls available. This biological control method requires warmth and moisture in the soil to be most effective and, as such, this time of year provides an ideal window. Targeting larvae when they are small and susceptible gives the nematodes the best chance of success. Useful information can be found on this link Sportnem T Leatherjacket Killer (5000 m2)
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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 essential tool for keeping equipment clean; it is a wise investment.