After such a cold and dull March, and the fact that most of the country was caught out by heavy snow storms, leaving behind large snow drifts that have been slow to thaw, many golf courses see themselves well behind in terms of where they should be at this time of the year.

Soil temperatures have been very low and, in many northern parts of the country, have remained below freezing point. Grass growth has been poor and slow to recover, leaving very little time for the greens to respond prior to the new season that gets underway in mid/late April.

With reference to worm control, you will be wasting your time applying carbendazim during these cold spells, it is best to wait until the soil warms up significantly to encourage worm activity. The same can be said for applying fertilisers, they are not going to become active untill we get soil and air tempretures into double figures.

You should be near to completing or completed all your winter works (tees and green constructions, bunker refurbs, tree pruning/planting and any ditch and drainage works).

Your cutting and feeding programme should have been well under way by now, however, it will now be a case of waiting for the better weather to promote some much needed growth.

Key Tasks for April
Spring renovations

Spring renovations will be underway, the intensity of renovations will be governed by the condition of the greens and how well they have come through the winter period. In the main, most courses will be looking to aerate their 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. 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 are often finer, differ in shape, colour, lime content and are more interpacking than the sands specified for sports turf.

Cheap topdressings are often composed of sands with a wide range of particle sizes, when compressed they have a smaller total pore space than uniform sands. For golf, winter pitches and bowling greens, 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.

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Aeration, harrowing and topdressing

* Greens. All greens to be aerated using mechanical vertidrain / multi-core type aerators.

* Tees. All tees to be aerated using mechanical vertidrain / multi-core type aerators.

* Fairways, including aprons. Ongoing aeration works will continue on fairways using various types of aerators (varying depths of penetration to prevent the development of a soil pan).

Harrowing / raking / When conditions allow:- Fairways. Harrowing / raking helps restore levels and keep surfaces open.

Topdressing / As required:- Greens and Tees. Ensure you have enough topdressing material for the spring renovation works that may still be carried out in April. More and more golf clubs are now applying dressings on a little but often approach rather than smothering the sward, often applying dressings every two weeks.

Wetting agents / As required:- April is still a good time to apply any wetting agents onto grass areas, it's better to apply these products before the soil begins to dry out.

Growth Regulators / As required:- In recent years many clubs are resorting to using Growth Regulators to help improve the condition of their courses while at the same time perhaps being able to reduce the cutting frequencies on some areas.

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Mowing / hole changing / irrigation

Mowing / As required:- April sees the mowing operations in full swing, with mowing 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. Mowing height should be maintained at around 4-6mm.

* Tees. Mowing height should be maintained at around 10-15mm.

* Fairways. Mowing 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 / As required:- Changing of holes should be carried out regularly, however frequency will be dependant on a number of factors - green size, greens construction, tournaments, amount of play and condition of the green. During 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. You may be looking to change the hole positions more than three time per week during wet periods. Most golf courses are changing their hole positions at least three times a week.

Irrigation Irrigation:- Ensure that automatic watering systems have been serviced and repaired ready for the new season, check and monitor all sprinkler head controls/valves to see if they are working, and check the spray patterns and timing of each and every sprinkler head. Also check any manual systems, hose pipes, sprinklers and pumps.

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.

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Soil tests and Fertiliser

April is a good time to take soil samples, especially prior to end of season renovations and get them sent off for analysis, thus enabling you to get them back in time to start your new season's maintenance

Ideally, if you have not had one done before, you should have a full (PSD) Particle Size Distribution soil analysis done to tell you the actual make up of your soil profile. SoilTexturetriangle

Soil is made up of percentages of clay, silt and sand. The PSD Analysis will identify the ratio of these and confirm soil type, thus giving you a better understanding of what soil you are dealing with. Also, you can establish the amount of organic matter (OM) content as well as soil nutrient status and soil Ph. With this information, you will be able to identify the needs of your soil.

Pitchcare have recently launched a new independent Soil Anaylsis service that enables you to get specific results for the soils you manage,Soil analysis is a means to discover what levels of nutrients are available to plants. There is an optimum for each plant nutrient and, when coupled with other properties such as soil structure and particle sizes, determine how vigorous your plants are. Different nutrients undertake different tasks within the plant.

Fertiliser programme:- If grass shows signs of stress (weak growth, discoloured). Fertiliser treatment and turf tonic can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested; try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results. fertiliser

Most greenstaff will be applying a spring/summer N P K fertiliser, perhaps something like a 12/0/9 or 9/7/7 will effectively get the grass moving during April, then towards the end of April/early May applying a slow release fertiliser to see you through June/July. However, the choice of material and how well it works can be dependant on many factors - soil type, weather, with moisture and and air temperature being the catalyst for growth.

Take care when applying fertilisers, you do not want to be over dosing or over lapping which will cause you problems. Calibrate your spreaders and sprayers before use and choose the correct nozzles/aperture settings for the product being used.

Pest and Disease

Fusarium-1.jpgPest control / As required:- Worm treatments can be carried out if needed, but please remember to ask yourself why worms are present. Ph level, organic matter and your cultural practices on the turf surfaces need to be assessed. Moles and rabbit damage, repairs as required.

Diseases including Moss and Algae / Daily:- Greens, Tees, Fairways. Keep an eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.

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Other Tasks for the Month
  • Ponds, lakes and streams / Weekly:- Inspect all water features on course, cleaning out any unwanted debris and litter. Some clubs arrange for their ponds to be dredged to clean them out while at the same time recovering any stray golf balls.

  • Scarification / As required:- Greens and Tees. April is still a very busy period for scarifying. Removing horizontally growing grasses and surface organic matter plays an important part in the spring renovation programme.

  • Seed bare and worn areas / When conditions allow:- Greens, Tees and Fairways. Over seeding of sparse or bare areas can be continued, the rise in temperature will help germination. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for diseases. Remember that without good seed to soil contact the operation is useless.

  • Ensure you use new seed as old material may not give you the required germination rates. Remember, bents and fescue grasses require higher soil temperatures for successful germination, you may need to wait for favourable temperatures later in the year.

  • Tee boxes, pegs / As required:- All Tee boxes, tee pegs and competition markers should inspected daily, cleaned and moved to new tee positions as required.

  • Litter / debris Daily:- Greens, Tees and Fairways. Inspect and remove debris from playing surfaces - litter, twigs and leaves. Regularly empty litter bins/tee boxes.

  • Machinery (Repairs & Maintenance) / Daily:- Inspect and clean machinery after use; service and repair damaged machinery, prepare machinery ready for new mowing season.

  • Marking out / Weekly:- Mark out trolley areas, out of bound site areas, ground under repair (GUR) and range markings.

  • Materials / Monthly:- Estimate and order seed, loams and fertilisers, fuels and other consumables.