Key Tasks for May
With spring renovations well underway, most courses will be looking to aerate the 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. Vert-draining using solid tines to a good depth (preferably >8 inches) should help the roots to start chasing the moisture down the soil profile, providing the sward with a stronger root system, which is the foundation of plant growth success.
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 can be finer, differ in shape, colour, lime content and be more interpacking than the sands specified for sports turf.
For golf courses, 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 - see Agronomy Section.
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. 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.
Once these spring renovations are completed, you can then get on with the daily routines of maintenance.
Now, mowing operations are in full swing, with 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 - height should be maintained at around 4-6mm.
* Tees - height should be maintained at around 10-15mm.
* Fairways - 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 should be carried out regularly, at least three time s per week as a general rule; however, frequency will be dependant on a number of factors - green size, greens construction, tournaments, amount of play and condition of the green. During any 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.
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.
Spring 2019 has thus far been more favourable for the turf manager than the spring of 2018. Disease pressure had been relatively low and, whilst April has seen the cool nights and warmer days which are typical of this month, there has been good growth windows to get surfaces moving and recovering across much of the country. Concerningly for turf managers, water reserves both in reservoirs and within the soil profile remain low across much of the country. This provides potential for drought stress on grass plants much sooner than in the spring and summer of 2018.
The weather forecast for May currently suggests there may be some periods of rainfall. Taking opportunity of these precipitation events by maximising the penetration of water into the soil, via aeration events such as sarel tine and star tine rolling, combined with the use of penetrant wetting agents, will enhance the passage of water down into the soil profile. Such action applies to fairways, outfield areas and pitches as much as it does fine turf surfaces such as greens. The application of surfactants to larger areas of land is often perceived as being expensive, but modern product formulations mean wetting agents can be applied to larger areas of land cost effectively.
Combining the advantages of a penetrant with the water retention properties of a block co-polymer surfactant will help to hold water which has soaked into the ground and keep it available for roots.
Seaweed is well proven to mitigate plant stress response as well as promote post drought recovery; again, cost effective applications of a cold pressed seaweed to larger areas are sensible and achievable for many.
As winter sport seasons reach their conclusion, the pitch renovation season begins.
When overseeding, opting for the best cultivars you can afford is a wise investment in the base foundation of your surface.
Taking a broad spectrum soil analysis prior to renovation allows the identification of deficient secondary macronutrients and micronutrients. All nutrients share equal importance and, by identifying the weakest link in the chain, you can maximise health and performance throughout a growing-in period and beyond.
One trap which can occur is to apply vast quantities of phosphorous to drive establishment, regardless of the soil sample result. This is questionable wisdom because a soil sample result details plant available nutrient. Where phosphorous is high, it will inhibit the availability of copper, calcium, potassium, iron, and zinc, and adding more P in to the system will not encourage the plant to uptake a greater quantity. The plant will take what it needs and no more, something which is true of all nutrients.
The same can be said of nitrogen; young seedlings cannot absorb large quantities of nitrogen, a base foundation of granular fertiliser is essential as a reserve once roots develop but, wherever possible, little and often foliar applications accompanied by biostimulants will support their needs much more responsibly.
Biostimulants are vital ingredients for turf health and offer many benefits during renovation. Apply liquid seaweed over seed to enhance germination before adding humates and carbon into the mix at the first feed, 5 days post germination. The aim being to driving and accelerating growth thanks to better response from fertilisers driven by increased availability and energy in the system.
Seaweed: Contains hormones (Gibberellic acids) which accelerate germination of seed and seedling maturity. Also acts as a chelate and growth promotor and elicitor of plant protection mechanisms in response to heat, drought and cold (abiotic) stress.
Humates: Chelation and enhanced root absorption of nutrients, improved nutrient retention in soils and bacterial habitat, as well as stable carbon source. Enhances germination and establishment.
Sugar: Provides carbon energy which is the base foundation of energy processing in all plants and soil life. Consequently, supports greater soil biodiversity and efficiency of fertiliser use.
With soil temperatures exceeding 10 degrees Celsius on a consistent basis through May, organic fertilisers can be applied with confidence; particularly moss suppression products, now that the warmer temperatures enable the bacteria within to degrade the moss.
Weeds, Pests and Diseases
Disease pressure is likely to be low throughout May with the plant being able to outgrow any pathogen attacks which do occur.
Following widespread die-off from last year’s drought. weeds have made the most of the opportunity and colonised areas of bare ground. Strong active growth in May is the perfect time to achieve maximum uptake of applied herbicides, whether it be total weed killers to paths and paving, or selective herbicides to turf areas. In the case of the latter, consult label recommendations with regards to timing this around any seeding operations. 2019 may also be a good time to consider opting for rotation of Active Substances as part of an integrated weed management plan. Areas where substances such as 2,4-D, MCPA, mecoprop-P and dicamba have been used for a number of years would benefit from being rotated with alternative active substances, such as clopyralid, florasulam and fluroxypyr.
Also consider that not all active substances are equally effective against all weeds. 2,4-D for example is useless against yarrow (Achillea millefolium) because the plant is able to metabolise it. Similarly, weeds such as Slender speedwell (Veronica filliformis) or Field Woodrush (Luzula campestris) are best controlled with fluroxypyr. Consideration of such issues and accurate identification of weeds present represents responsible management, both from a financial, environmental and resistance perspective. If in doubt, contact a BASIS qualified advisor for advice on how to manage such considerations effectively.
There is no effective spring control for chafer grubs; however, chafer grub pheromone traps deployed in May will collect adult males on the wing and form the basis of an integrated management plan of monitoring and recording the pest life cycle, so you can better time nematode applications later in the year.
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.