Key Tasks for July
Mowing frequencies should remain high, with mowers set at their summer heights. As levels of competitions and societies increase, 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.
Greens - Mowing height should be maintained at around 3.5-6mm.
Tees - Mowing height should be maintained at around 10-15mm.
Fairways - Mowing height should be maintained at around 15-20mm.
Rough and Semi rough - Mow and tidy up these areas.
Horizontal growth should be controlled through the use of regular brushing and verti-cutting, with the latter occurring between 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 horizontal growth up 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 - 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.
As we move deeper into the month, soil temperatures will reach very high levels in places, and the propensity for surfaces to dry out will increase under a warm sunny sky (doubly so if it is windy). Watering the greens will become a major consideration, but do not become reliant on this practice to reduce drought stress. Where possible, hand watering should be employed, especially on high spots, to help reduce the chance of dry spot.
Carry this out in a manner as close to nature as possible, soaking the surface at irregular intervals, rather than using a little and often approach as with topdressing etc. The use of modern wetting agent technology such as Qualibra, with a penetrant/polymer mix will allow soils to hold water at depth, thereby reducing irrigation costs and requirements whilst encouraging deeper rooting.
Water management will be key this month. Most courses will be looking to utilise wetting agents where possible, especially in well draining situations in the south, to save money and a valuable resource. Making the correct decision with regards to which product to purchase will be key. As with everything else, try not to rely solely on price, unless you are severely restricted in your budget.
Where possible, try to find one that suits your own situation, aims and application ability. Monitoring the effect they have on your own course’s soil will provide you with a great idea of when the next application would be prudent, and how long the product lasts in your situation. This can be done with a moisture probe. There are a number of products to be browsed in the PItchcare shop at pitchcare.ie/shop. Upon application, remember to water the products in well to avoid scorch.
Top dressing and aeration
Utilising the little and often approach with topdressing and aeration practices should help ensure a smooth putting surface, whilst increasing the general health of the root system. Try not to apply more than 0.5 tonnes per green of top dressing and, where possible, try to use pencil tines or similar when aerating. Deep aeration should not be required during this month, due to the dry soil conditions, but regular spiking will allow more oxygen into the rootzone, aid root development and drainage potential during periods of heavy rainfall.
Other General Work
Bunkers / Daily:- Inspect, weed and rake bunkers.
Course Inspection / Daily:- Inspect greens, tees, flags and hole positions for damage or vandalism.
Ponds, lakes and streams /Weekly:- Inspect all water features on course, cleaning out any unwanted debris and litter.
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.
Tee boxes, pegs / As required:- All tee boxes, tee pegs and competition markers should be inspected daily, cleaned and moved to new positions as required.
Wetting agents / As required:- If wetting agents are being used, they are generally applied monthly throughout the season.
Woodland and conservation areas / As required:- High and strong winds can damage trees on golf courses. Inspect and repair or remove damaged trees. It is important to inspect trees regularly (heath & safety) to reduce the likelihood of a golfer being struck by tree debris.
Marking out / Weekly:- Mark out trolley areas, out of bound site areas and range markings.
Materials/ Monthly:- Estimate and order seed, loams and fertilisers, fuels and other consumables.
June gives way to July and, as the astrological summer begins (June 21st), the meteorological summer has been in full swing since the 1st of June; a period of time which has been somewhat contrasting to the June of 2018. A wet month overall has seen consistent growth across turf surfaces and a welcome boost to soil water and reservoir levels across many areas of the country which really needed it.
From a turf management perspective then, in many respects wet weather and dry weather are two sides of the same coin. Extremes make for challenges and the overriding factor in both instances is that great master variable; water management. Rather like Goldilock’s porridge, a sweet spot of adequacy is the aim, and the challenge for turf managers is managing the soil environment and the response of the plant to the prevailing climatic conditions.
Facilitating water percolation rates, by surface organic matter management over the long term, helps water to penetrate into the surface rather than be held in the base of the plant where it reduces the ability of life-giving oxygen to enter the rootzone and waste gasses to escape. Less water in the surface of the soil profile reduces humidity in this area, which helps to mitigate the ability of fungal diseases to proliferate. Facilitating water percolation and reducing surface humidity breaks the causative disease triangle in two ways: it promotes the overall health of the plant and limits conditions suitable for pathogen development. Practically speaking, little and often aeration from a sarrel tine aerator, in combination with regular deep tine aeration through the year, works to assist waters passage down the profile, as well as helping maintain plant root health and organic matter decomposition via beneficial microbial action.
Aside from good aeration practices, useful tools in the product armoury, which will assist water management when weather conditions are wet, include penetrant wetting agents, which grab hold of water and pull it down through the soil profile faster and more effectively.
Plenty of excess moisture, combined with available warmth, are of course excellent conditions for germinating and establishing seed, so any areas requiring patching should infill quickly and easily.
The flipside of excess water is of course deficient water. Weather forecasts suggest that the trend for July is for the extremes of wet to be counteracted quickly by dry weather. With the sun high in the sky, long warm sunny days can very quickly push water levels in the opposite direction, as excessive moisture is replaced by moisture deficit. Keeping a close eye on weather forecasts and intervening with timely application of cold pressed liquid seaweeds, calcium and potassium silicate prior to challenging conditions are all inputs which assist the plant in preparing for and resisting the rigours of water deficit.
In advance of forecast hot and dry weather, ensuring irrigation systems are running optimally is sensible practice. Being able to objectively monitor the levels of water in the soil at different depths via a Thetaprobe water meter and cross referencing this against local evapotranspiration rates takes the guess work out of irrigation and facilitates applications which are appropriate for the plant, the environment and the budget. Investing in weather stations does not have to be an expensive course of action, and working with your irrigation supplier to understand the volume of water your system is supplying, in litres and millimetres, are core areas of knowledge for any sports turf manager at any level.
Allowing dry down periods in the soil following intensive irrigation is an important operation. This allows the soil to breath, encourages the grass plant to develop roots to chase water and minimises surface humidity which would otherwise lead to conditions favourable for fungal pathogens and other ailments such as cyanobacteria and algae which will colonise and clog the soil surface, impeding the passage of water and air.
Whilst conditions are wet and warm growth levels are likely to be strong, in such circumstances applications of the growth regulator trinexapac-ethyl can prove useful in checking growth, with the added benefit of increase tolerance to moisture deficit should conditions take a turn. Keep a close eye on nitrogen inputs and avoid applications if growth is strong, as promoting even softer growth will assist virulent fungal diseases to attack.
Warm and humid conditions will promote a number of diseases, but once temperatures exceed 28 degrees Celsius, anthracnose foliar blight will be become activated. Little and often applications of nitrogen have been shown to mitigate the spread of the disease as effectively as a fungicide. Understanding this management strategy is going to be even more important in years to come following the withdrawal of the active ingredient propiconazole, the authorisation for which expired as per the below:
This authorisation ends:
(a) 19 June 2019 for sale and distribution.
(b) 19 March 2020 for the disposal, storage and use of existing stocks.
For turf managers, cultural and biological controls in the form of Entomopathogenic nematodes are the only legally authorised controls available. As with the specific restrictions of application for Acelepryn, these are in line with best practice Integrated Pest Management.
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 essential tool for keeping equipment clean; it is a wise investment.