At this time of the year, most course managers and greenkeepers will be looking to increase mowing heights on greens and tees by 1-2mm.
Other tasks that complement this work involve the use of grooming and verticutting units to remove unwanted thatch and side shoot growth. The frequency of grooming is fortnightly and verticutting monthly.
Mowing frequencies will vary from daily to twice weekly operations, dependant on the growth of the grass and the standards set by the course manager. 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- Mowing height should be maintained at around 4-6mm.
- Tees- Mowing height should be maintained at around 10-15mm.
- Banks- Mowing height should be maintained at 22-30mm
- Fairways- Mowing height should be maintained at around 15-25mm.
- Rough, Semi rough grass areas- Mow and tidy up these areas. Reduce build up of clippings by cutting little and often with a rotary or flail. Mowing height will depend on type of course and the standard of play required. Mowing height of cut during the winter between 50-100mm.
Fertiliser programmes are not generally carried out after November due to the change in air and soil temperatures, as most turf grasses usually start to become dormant, slower growing.
Overseeding of sparse or bare areas can be continued in November, particularly when using rye grasses. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for diseases.
Aeration is the key to keeping the golf course open throughout the winter periods, especially on heavy soil courses. Various aeration programmes will continue when conditions allow, using a whole range of tines, solid, slit and hollow tines. A wide range of solid or slit aerators are put to use on the greens. It is essential to keep the greens aerated to maintain air and gas exchange in the soil profile, thus improving the drainage capabilities of the greens.
Aeration of tees will continue throughout the winter when weather conditions allow.
When the ground conditions are favourable, aerate fairways with solid tines to increase air and gas exchanges in the soil profile. Encouraging deeper rooting of fairway grasses is important. Deeper rooted grasses are more likely to overcome stresses in the following year.
Inspect, weed and rake bunkers. Repair any damage from rabbits or other animals, maintain sand up the face of the bunkers to prevent erosion and sand loss. Bunker construction works may start in November to make use of the good ground conditions for transporting materials around.
Changing of holes should be carried out regularly. You may be looking to change the hole positions more than three time per week during wet periods.
The works are generally centred on drainage work, bunkers / tees refurbishments, ditch clearance, pathway construction and tree work.
November is late Autumn in the northern hemisphere and the time when our annual voyage around the sun determines that the shortening of the day length really starts to have noticeable impact. To illustrate this, November 1st graces us with a sunrise of 06:53 and a sunset of 16:34 with a day length of 9 hours 40 minutes. On the final day of the month, those numbers have altered to 07:41 sunrise, 15:55 sunset and a day length of 8 hours 13 minutes. So it is then that, over the course of the next few weeks, we will lose 1 hour and 27 minutes of day length. The consequences of this march towards winter for turf grass surfaces are:
- less available sunlight for photosynthesis
- less available warmth to promote growth
- less time for wet leaf blades to dry out during the day
All of these environmental factors drive environmental conditions away from favouring the grass plant and towards undesirable factors, the ones which benefit from a reduction in photosynthesis, temperature and day length, including:
- Mosses and algae.
- Fungal diseases, in particular Microdochium nivale
Managing those undesirable factors requires an understanding of the conditions which promote them, for example excessive thatch, poor surface drainage and little and often deposits of nutrients onto a surface – all lead to a proliferation of moss and algae, which being simpler forms of life than grasses, are able to rapidly colonise in areas where the grass plant is on the back foot; for example, because light levels are low, soil temperatures are low and relative humidity is consistently elevated.
Disease incidence can be correlated with the factors in the disease triangle. All three factors are required to coincide for an outbreak of disease. The major pathogen on turf surfaces throughout November will be Microdochium nivale.
Consideration of the contributing factors
- Susceptible host – excess leaf growth and stress will lead to the grass plant (host) becoming more susceptible to fungal pathogens. The key factor here is appropriate nutrition. In practice this means the Goldilocks zone of nitrogen, just enough to keep the plant healthy but not too much to cause a flush of soft growth which allows the disease to attack more successfully.
Providing the plant with calcium, silicon and phosphite strengthens the cell walls and helps the plant to resist attack without resorting to chemicals. Applying plant beneficial biostimulants, such as seaweed and carbon energy when conditions favour the plant, primes its metabolic defence responses and assists beneficial microorganisms to help repel the disease.
- Virulent pathogen – Is the pathogen being provided with the resources it needs to thrive? In the case of fungal pathogens, this would be prolonged periods of leaf blade wetness and nutrition. Manage this situation by removing dews, reducing humidity within the thatch layer via aeration and the application of penetrant wetting agents. Also avoid applying biostimulants such as seaweed and carbon energy at times when the pathogenic activity is actively on the rise.
- Favourable Environment – prolonged humidity as a result of overcast days and nights, rainfall, cool temperatures which slow grass growth and low wind speeds which extend drying times are the factors which, when they align, drive the race between host and pathogen away from the grass plant and towards the disease. Monitoring forecasts and historic patterns facilitate prediction of high disease pressure, allowing turf managers to act appropriately.
Nutritional requirements will be aligned with growth; put simply, the more growth the more nutrition required. Typically, fertilisers applied during renovation operations should see the majority of surfaces through November and into December. As a result, NPK applications will be
Limited; however, targeted application of secondary macronutrients and micronutrients with calcium to elicit plant responses, such as those outlined above, will bring tangible benefits.
Maintaining appropriate water/air ratio is a key factor in reducing turf stress during periods of the year when rainfall increases and drying opportunities are reduced. Little and often aeration, via methods such as star tining and sarel rolling, facilitate diffusion of oxygen into the profile and carbon dioxide out. This allows the plant roots and beneficial soil microorganisms to breathe, which reduces plant stress and sustains their population numbers respectively.
Maintaining water percolation into deeper aeration channels and drainage systems, via the application of penetrant wetting agents, reduces the tendency of water to be held at the surface where it acts as a barrier to gas exchange and increases localised relative humidity; something which helps fungal diseases to grow and spread.
Regular applications of products containing sulphur will acidify the local soil surface environment and discourage worms from casting. Avoid regular products containing iron which is not in a liquid chelated form, as this will quickly oxidize and build up in the soil chemistry causing numerous problems such as reduced pH, iron panning, nutrient lock up and inhibition of microorganisms.
It is important to maintain machines by carrying out regular servicing and repairs.
As grass growth slows down, use the time to take some machines out of operation for an overhaul.
- Inspect and clean machinery after use.
- Maintain a stock of consumables for your machinery, replace worn and damaged parts as necessary.
- Secure machinery nightly with good storage facilities and strong locks
- Record makes and models and take pictures of your equipment as additional referencebetter still, take pictures of your equipment.