Autumn renovations are upon us and will be dependent on a number of factors:
- The current state of the sward and soil profile – planning and preparation
- Ordering materials early, ensuring they are available and arrive in time for your planned renovations. Ensure they are stored safely on site.
The objectives of end of season renovations are:
- To repair worn areas.
- To prevent a build up of thatch layers (scarification).
- To restore surface levels (top dressing).
- To alleviate compaction (aeration).
- To re-establish sward densities (overseeding).
- Application of pre seeding/autumn fertilisers to promote sward establishment.
Before you start, take a core sample from each of your greens to ascertain their current state. A visual inspection of the core will allow you to see the level of thatch/organic matter (OM) you have and to what depth.
Target OM levels:
An excess of OM will lead to poor hydraulic conductivity, soft putting surfaces, increased disease problems, loss of green speeds and poor all year round playability.
Appropriate renovation work will help reduce and control thatch / OM levels in your swards.
Greens: October is a key month for aeration. A wide range of aerators are put to use, from star tines, vertidrain tines to hollow tines; the choice or combination of tines will be dependent on the outcomes required. Hollow tines are used to remove a core of soil from the green which then allows the opportunity to topdress with some new materials, a process that offers a good soil, air and gas exchange in the soil profile.
Tees: Aeration of tees will continue with solid or hollow tines, in line with autumn maintenance. Aeration should continue throughout the winter when weather conditions allow.
Fairways: When the ground is capable of taking the tines, and before it gets too wet, aerate with solid tines to reduce the chance of surface cracking.
With air temperatures still averaging around 10-12°C in most parts of the country, seeding is still a viable option.
The recent spell of dry weather may have prompted disease attacks, with red thread, fusarium, leaf spot and fairy rings being common. Use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.
Prior to mowing, remove moisture from the grass surface. This will help to stop the spread of disease and improve the quality of cut.
Keep a daily diary of work carried out on the course as these records will be a valuable reference for future course management.
- Details of who worked and how many man-hours were spent on the task/activity
- What materials were used?
- Digital and mobile phone cameras should be used to provide reference at a later date. Also useful when explaining your work to a committee and/or members
While temperatures remain in double figures, grass growth will continue, resulting in the need to continue the regular mowing regimes on the course.
After autumn renovations, most course managers/greenkeepers will be looking to increase mowing heights on greens and tees by 1mm-2mm, with many factors dictating the height of cut – soil type, grass species and golf traffic.
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 year.
Greens. Mowing height should be maintained at around 4mm-8mm.
Tees. Mowing height should be maintained at around 10mm-15mm.
Fairways. Mowing height should be maintained at around 15mm-25mm.
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.
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.
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 judgment 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 – that is, 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.
October sees autumnal conditions set in, and thoughts of summer have all but disappeared. Most renovations will have taken place whilst conditions were favourable, whilst those who have not yet been able to carry out such work will be holding out for temperatures not to drop off too quickly to ensure there is some recovery before winter when growth potential drops to ‘low’.
Mornings and nights continue to become noticeably darker and importantly for turf managers, leaf wetness (dew) on the grass plant becomes a management priority.
Nutritional inputs will start to reduce inline with the reduction in growth potential. Applying a fertiliser with a nitrogen source suitable for the time of year is key to minimise any disease outbreaks. Following the base nitrogen figures outlines above, applications if around 2kg of nitrogen per hectare will be sufficient. Which is the equivalent of 6.0.12 conventional release granule (4-6 week longevity) applied at 20gm2. Choosing a fertiliser that is going to release nutrients as the temperatures decrease is also needed. Some slow-release technology will release extremely slowly in cooler conditions which may not provide an adequate supply of nutrition to maintain a healthy plant able to withstand pathogen attack. Therefore, it is as important to not under apply at this time of year as it is to not over apply.
Monitoring disease pressure is a main priority for October as cooler, damp conditions are experienced over longer periods during the day. Conditions in October can be ideal for Microdochium nivale outbreaks and predicting when these outbreaks may occur is challenging. Gaining an understanding of what contributes to disease pressure reaching tipping point on your own site allows better informed decisions when selecting and timing any of the applications aimed at counteracting disease pressure These may be, fungicidal, nutritional or plant response applications.
Fungicide technology is only one part of an IPM approach and increasingly it will be the other applications which will become more in focus as tools in which to reduce disease outbreaks and severity. Morning dews can lead to an increase in leaf wetness in October and this additional moisture on the surface can be the perfect vehicle for pathogens. Therefore, utilising dew dispersant technology can be a useful tool.
Expectations need to be set to a realistic level in relation to longevity of the products compared to when using them in cool months when growth potential is low. When frequent mowing is still taking place, the longevity is going to be relatively short, however this can still be long enough to reduce the level of leaf wetness long enough to get through a high disease pressure period.
- Use a programmed approach to maximise plant health, through balanced nutrition of all plant essential elements not just NPK as part of an IPM plan.
- Raise cutting heights to minimise stress with a reduction in stress invoking practices such as top dressing which weaken and damage leaf blades.
- Ensure cutting units are sharp to provide a clean cut to minimise weakened points for pathogen attack.
- Well timed aeration to maintain movement of water away from the surface and down through the profile. (Caution when tining around Leatherjacket hatch periods)
- Reduce periods of leaf blade wetness by removing dews or utilising dew dispersant technology (apply only to a dry leaf)
- Monitor disease forecasts via resources such as Syngenta’s Greencast
- Use biostimulants and plant response promoters to maximise plant health.
- Take advice on and construct a preventative fungicide application plan, using historic data, live weather forecasts and site-specific conditions, for applications ahead of when conditions favour the development of disease.
You can check reported sightings of crane fly species on the Pest Tracker (https://www.greencast.co.uk/turf-pest-tracker) on the GreenCast website. To aid effective timing of treatment, follow Syngenta guidelines (7 point plan) for application one month after peak flight is observed. Where chemical control is not authorised, entomopahogenic nematodes can be applied with warm soil temperatures and available moisture being ideal conditions to get the best out of an application. The entomopahogenic nematodes swim in the water film on soil particles in their bid to search out a larval host, useful information can be found on this link.
With the increased soil moisture content worm activity has increased. There are still no legal controls for earthworms and any product which is applied to directly affect them is done so illegally. Cultural management continues to be the only route currently available which can include a combination of practices such as localised surface acidification, removal of grass clippings to reduce their food source and sanding of surfaces to assist in the drying out and dispersal of casts, leading to less negative lasting impression on the surface from the cast.
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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.