Expected weather for this month:

A Siberian start to the month, and generally cold conditions throughout

Key Tasks for February

When the frost has lifted, continue to brush/switch greens and tees to remove moisture from the grass surface, stopping the spread of disease and facilitating an improved quality of cut on the dry grass. 

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 coming season.

Greens. Mowing height should be maintained at around 6-8mm. 
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.

Aeration of greens, tees and fairways is ongoing when conditions allow. A wide range of solid, hollow or slit aerators are put to use on the playing surfaces. It is essential to keep the greens aerated to maintain air and gas exchange and alleviate compaction.

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. Some golf courses experience flash floods during heavy rain, leaving many bunkers in a poor state (washing out sand from bunker faces). Repair works may be necessary. Continue or undertake bunker construction works, subject to ground conditions allowing for transport of materials. 

Inspect greens, tees, flags and hole positions for damage or vandalism. Vandalism often increases during the winter months.

Changing of holes should be carried out regularly, however frequency will be dependant on a number of factors, green size, green construction, tournaments, amount of play and condition of the green. 

During winter, 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 times per week during wet periods.

As the last month of the norther hemisphere winter season, February heralds lighter evenings and brighter mornings, and as we head towards the end of the month the well-worn seasonal phrase - ‘it’s warm behind glass’.

From an agronomic perspective, February also represents the last opportunity for turf managers to sit and contemplate how they are going to maintain their surfaces during the growing season ahead.

This contemplation can result in one of three main outcomes;

Continuation – defined as the continuation of an habitual or time proven approach.

Alteration – defined as the refinement of established practices or the addition of new process into an established system.

Revolutionary – defined as a through change in direction and approach.

All of the above are equally valid depending on circumstance and, to some degree, turf managers will be preparing to embark upon various iterations of each of these outcomes to a greater or lesser degree across all practices within their remit.

There are no correct across the board answers with respect to how or why these outcomes are chosen to be implemented as each facility and each category of maintenance requirement is distinct to its own set of unique circumstances. Circumstances such as climate, soil type, construction type, previous maintenance, financial resources, labour resources, sport type and fixture pressure.

The current climate within the industry is one of change. Solutions which were previously effective are either being removed or superseded by enhanced understanding and refinement of existing methods.

Actively engaging with education via the attendance at seminars, talks and training is an incredibly valuable thing for each and every one of us to make the time to commit to at some point in the coming year.

In respects to the current climate and how that effects turf managers actions over the coming month, this overriding advice could be summed up as follows.

Make the most of windows.

If the weather conditions are favourable due to increasing warmth, sunlight and low humidity driving growth, introduce a small quantity of fertiliser on areas which are showing signs of sclerosis (yellowing); nitrogen in the form of nitrate or ammonium will be taken up by the plant the fastest. Be careful not to apply too much nitrogen and force lush growth, as cold winds will desiccate soft leaves, and fungal pathogens, fuelled by low temperatures and high humidity, will quickly take advantage.

Maintain applications of calcium to harden cell wall structure and provide a line of defence to both these challenges.

Moss is likely to be prevalent on surfaces at this time of the year. This is due to climatological conditions which favour it over grass. The end of February into early March is a good time to apply sulphate of iron to tackle moss, however try to time an application once the general trend in the weather is leaning towards the grass rather than the moss.

Soil sampling - now is the perfect time to undertake a broad spectrum soil analysis from which to make informed and cost effective decisions for the fertiliser programme ahead.

Speaking of programmes, surfactant, disease management and insect pest management plans and protocols are all necessities of sports turf management at all levels in 2019. Put together, they work towards an integrated approach with all the benefits that infers.

It’s important to maintain aeration when ground conditions allow. Helping the soil to expel carbon dioxide and drain water is absolutely vital when it comes to maintaining a healthy plant and soil. In water logged areas, be wary of anoxia which is when the plant starts to yellow due to a lack of oxygen around the roots.

Speaking of water, what is your soil reserve like? Dig a hole to check if the soil is dry more than 100-200 mm beneath the surface. If it is, then aeration combined with a penetrant wetting agent is critical to maximise rainfall ahead of the summer. If soil water reserves are low, then we won’t need a summer anywhere near as dry as 2018 to severely effect the quality of surfaces this coming year.

Servicing, repair and overhaul of mowing equipment should nearly be complete. Sharpening of reels and replacement of bottom blades are a key requirement, therefore it is important that all such replacement parts are in stock and readily available.

Now is also a good time to have an early spring clean, conducting a thorough clean up of mess rooms, toilets and garages. It is good Health & Safety practice to keep garages and working areas clean and tidy.

Inspect drainage outfalls, channels and ditches. Ensure that they are working. It is during the winter months that most golf course managers/greenkeepers can evaluate the condition and performance of their drainage systems.

Inspect, check and empty all litter bins

Time to organise winter servicing of machinery

Keep stock of all materials

Tidy mess rooms and sheds

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