Key Tasks for September
Mowing frequencies can 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.
Greens. Mowing height should be maintained at around 3-6mm.
Tees. Mowing height should be maintained at around 10-15mm.
Fairways. Mowing height should be maintained at around 13-25mm.
Greens mowing frequencies should remain high, with mowers set at their summer heights. There will be an emphasis on ensuring 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 up horizontal growth 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 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 - 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.
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 minimise 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 wet 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 - 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 frequent, 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.
Fertiliser programme:- if the 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.
Most groundstaff will be applying their autumn fertilisers to maintain some vigour and colour, aiming to cut back on the (N) nitrogen input and (P) phosphate elements, and apply something like a 5-0-10 +6% Fe +2% Mg +25% Nutralene or similar NPK fertilisers. Generally, USGA sand based greens tend to be more hungry for fertilisers compared to the pushed-up soil greens.
The choice of materials and how well they work can be dependant on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and air temperatures being the catalyst for growth.
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 September 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. If weed problems persist on sand faces, then these can be spot sprayed with glyphosate, but care needs to be taken to avoid any drift onto the surrounding banks.
Renovation to tees will be a priority this month, getting the work done as soon as possible to make use of favourable air and soil tempratures.
Scarify to remove unwanted thatch. Collect and dispose of debris. Depending on the severity of the thatch, you may need to scarify several times in different directions. However, in most cases, if regular verticutting/grooming has taken place during the growing season you would probably only be required to scarify in two directions. Do not scarify at right angles to the previous scarification line.
Brush to incorporate dressings and to help the grass stand back up; brushing in with a lute or drag brush/mat to restore levels.
Overseeding restores grass populations. It is important to ensure a good groove or hole is made to receive the seed, good seed soil contact is essential for seed germination. Good moisture and soil temperatures will see the seed germinate between 7-14 days.
Fertilising provides nutrients for grass growth. Apply a low N nitrogen fertiliser product, something like an Autumn Fertiliser NPK 5:5:15 to help the sward through the autumn period.
Watering/Irrigation:- it is essential to keep the sward watered after renovations to ensure your seed germinates.
After a long hot and dry summer, the end of August has proved to be somewhat text book in many areas of the country, with cooler temperatures, periods of rainfall and less intense sunshine all combining to increase soil moisture and instigate grass plant growth. Whilst this may seem like a return to normal, maximising recovery from a position behind where we would normally expect to be at this time of the year requires consideration and thought if surface quality is to be maximised ahead of oncoming reduced growth over the autumn and winter. A situation made all the more challenging due to the impact of recent legislative changes in the plant Protection Product market.
It is then, not an over exaggeration to state that September 2018, more than any other September in recent memory, is the month which will define the turf management year, with the three R’s of recovery, renovation and repair.
Soil Water Management
With increasing rainfall levels in many areas of the country, moisture is returning to the soil. However, aiding the penetration of that water away from the surface and into the soil profile via the combination of aeration and wetting agents with a high percentage of penetrant activity. This enables the perennial grasses, with their deeper root systems, to access water in good time and helps to stem the encroachment of emerging algae and moss, along with germinating weeds and Poa annua seeds closer to and at the surface. This is particularly important on surfaces which contain a greater percentage of thatch than is desirable, as these will be the most hydrophobic surfaces, actively repelling water absorption.
Once soil moisture levels have returned to optimum, then granular fertilisers will provide the optimum means of introducing nutrition into the profile by which to induce recovery. Try to avoid feeds which are heavy on ammonium as the nitrogen source, as this will produce a flush of growth which is then susceptible to fungal disease. Rather lower ammonium values, accompanied by urea and methylene urea, will provide a steady feed and consistent controllable growth.
Be aware that in optimum moisture and temperature conditions, granular fertilisers (which are made available to the roots via the soil water solution) will in the case of ammonium take between 5-7 days to induce a noticeable response in the plant, with urea coming online after 10-14 days. Methylene will then slowly become available over a period as long as 10-12 weeks dependent upon the ratio of short, medium and long chain molecules in the product.
Due to the traditional June spraying window being unsuitable for the application of herbicides, many areas will have gone untreated. Turf weeds such as Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion) are adapted to persist longer in a surface during drought conditions, in the case of this plant due to the deep tap root. Additionally, weed seeds on the surface of thin swards will germinate with the moisture provided by rainfall.
Consequently, September provides the last opportunity of 2018 for controlling weeds at a time when strong growing conditions persist, thus aiding the uptake, translocation and efficacy of selective herbicides. Undertaking this operation now will prevent weeds taking a firm foothold into next spring.
Now is the time to apply nematodes to areas for the control of leatherjackets and chafer grubs. This time of year represents the period when young juvenile larvae are hatching out and moving through the soil surface. Consequently, this is the time nature intended for the nematodes to predate upon the small juvenile grubs. Soil water levels need to be good before and for two weeks after application to allow the nematodes to swim to their prey and be effective. Facilitating their passage into the soil with a penetrant wetting agent is a useful strategy, as is sarel tine aeration immediately prior to application.
The newly approved chemical control Acelepryn is on an Emergency Authorisation which expires on the 20th September 2018. Releases of stock are dictated by strict Stewardship conditions which require each situation to have been assessed and authorised by a BASIS qualified advisor. The only authorised application areas are; airfields, race courses, golf greens and golf tees.
September heralds the arrival of worm season. There are no authorised chemical controls for worms. The only acceptable means of managing the issue are cultural ones such as brushing casts when dry or temporarily amending the surface pH via the application of substances such as sulphur. At a time of change which places new demands on turf managers to produce results and maintain standards, a raft of control options can become available, often these options are not labelled for the control of a particular issue however any substance applied with the intention of directly effecting, harming or deterring a pest is done so as a pesticide, and consequently is being done illegally if it is not registered with a MAPP number (Ministry Approved Pesticide Product) by the Chemicals Regulation Division.
Users should also consider the associated risks to the wider environment and ecosystem of any product which has not been subjected to the rigorous, scientific, independent testing standards.
Once moisture returns so does relative humidity; when humidity combines with stressed turf and warm temperatures, conditions are conducive to the growth of fungi. Consequently, a host of turf diseases can expect to be witnessed through into September.
However, 2018 is the first year without the curative activity of the fungicide iprodione, the active ingredient in Chipco and Interface. The only chemical options for turf disease are preventative systemic substances. Application prior to the observation of symptoms is vital in ensuring their success.
It is worth consulting the Turf Disease Triangle below and giving due consideration to what circumstances, conditions, maintenance practices and inputs on your site may influence each of the three factors.
Away from Plant Protection Products, such as fungicides, which directly target a virulent pathogen, thriving in a favourable environment, one of the most effective tactics available to the turf manager is to reduce the susceptibility of the host. In this regard, adequate water availability combined with appropriate and balanced base nutrition are further bolstered by the benefits of cell wall boosting and plant system enhancing calcium, phosphite and silicon.
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.
Ponds, lakes and streams - 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.
Tee boxes, tee markers and competition markers should be inspected daily, cleaned and moved to new tee positions as required.
Regularly empty litter bins/tee boxes.
Mark out trolley areas, out of bound site areas, ground under repair (GUR) and range markings.
Estimate and order seed, loams and fertilisers, fuels and other consumables.