Key Tasks for October
Autumn renovations are upon us and will be dependent on a number of factors:
- The current state of the sward and soil profile - planning and preparation
- Ordering materials early, ensuring they are available and arrive in time for your planned renovations. Ensure they are stored safely on site.
The objectives of end of season renovations are:
- To repair worn areas.
- To prevent a build up of thatch layers (scarification).
- To restore surface levels (top dressing).
- To alleviate compaction (aeration).
- To re-establish sward densities (overseeding).
- Application of pre seeding/autumn fertilisers to promote sward establishment.
Before you start, take a core sample from each of your greens to ascertain their current state. A visual inspection of the core will allow you to see the level of thatch/organic matter (OM) you have and to what depth.
Target OM levels:
An excess of OM will lead to poor hydraulic conductivity, soft putting surfaces, increased disease problems, loss of green speeds and poor all year round playability.
Appropriate renovation work will help reduce and control thatch / OM levels in your swards.
Greens: October is a key month for aeration. A wide range of aerators are put to use, from star tines, vertidrain tines to hollow tines; the choice or combination of tines will be dependent on the outcomes required. Hollow tines are used to remove a core of soil from the green which then allows the opportunity to topdress with some new materials, a process that offers a good soil, air and gas exchange in the soil profile.
Tees: Aeration of tees will continue with solid or hollow tines, in line with autumn maintenance. Aeration should continue throughout the winter when weather conditions allow.
Fairways: When the ground is capable of taking the tines, and before it gets too wet, aerate with solid tines to reduce the chance of surface cracking.
With air temperatures still averaging around 10-12°C in most parts of the country, seeding is still a viable option.
The recent spell of dry weather may have prompted disease attacks, with red thread, fusarium, leaf spot and fairy rings being common. Use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.
Prior to mowing, remove moisture from the grass surface. This will help to stop the spread of disease and improve the quality of cut.
Keep a daily diary of work carried out on the course as these records will be a valuable reference for future course management.
- Details of who worked and how many man-hours were spent on the task/activity
- What materials were used?
- Digital and mobile phone cameras should be used to provide reference at a later date. Also useful when explaining your work to a committee and/or members
While temperatures remain in double figures, grass growth will continue, resulting in the need to continue the regular mowing regimes on the course.
After autumn renovations, most course managers/greenkeepers will be looking to increase mowing heights on greens and tees by 1mm-2mm, with many factors dictating the height of cut - soil type, grass species and golf traffic.
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 year.
Greens. Mowing height should be maintained at around 4mm-8mm.
Tees. Mowing height should be maintained at around 10mm-15mm.
Fairways. Mowing height should be maintained at around 15mm-25mm.
Other tasks that complement this work involve the use of grooming and verticutting units to remove unwanted thatch and side shoot growth. The frequency of grooming is fortnightly and verticutting monthly.
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.
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 come to the end of September and start looking ahead towards October, it appears from the forecast that it will be an unsettled start to the month. This could be an unwanted disruption for those who still have renovation work to carry out. The average rainfall for September was 70mm (region depending), with highs of 20oC or above. This allowed many to make the most of the good ground temperatures and moisture available, with only a steep drop in temperatures towards the end of the month causing some challenges.
The middle of the coming month looks to be more settled and it will be important to monitor the local environmental conditions with a view of the site’s previous history and patterns in disease outbreaks. As conditions become more conducive for disease development, checking historic information against current conditions and also factoring in what is expected ahead is key to increasing the probability of successful turf grass pathogen management in autumn 2020. Principles and actions which collectively form part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach.
At this juncture in the calendar year, Microdochium nivale (microdochium patch) control is key for many turf managers. Predicting the likelihood of disease expression can seem about as easy as predicting the winning lottery numbers, however, knowing what has happened, what is happening now and what could be about to happen is essential when attempting to determine the likelihood of disease expression. Understanding these elements then allows better informed decisions when selecting and timing any inputs aimed at counteracting any outbreaks of disease, whether they be fungicidal, nutritional or plant response applications. As we adapt to the newer chemistry and modes of action available, the more information gathered to make accurate well-versed decisions on what, when and how to apply, the increased likelihood of success there will be. Success will look different for each turf manager, with varying budgets, resources and club expectations. For some, it will be blemish free surfaces, for others it will better control than the previous year and different again for others. There is no fixed target, however, having a target and planning around it increases the chances of success.
As temperatures and available sunlight changes, so must the approach to the applications of nutrition, mainly nitrogen. The aim being to promote steady, hardy shoot and leaf growth, with any lush, flushes of growth being more susceptible to attack by fungal pathogens. Fertilisers with a slow release nitrogen source, such as methylene urea or polymer coated urea, perhaps used in combination with straight urea, will give longevity through the autumn and into winter. If slow release fertilisers are not suitable for a specific site, when using a conventional fertiliser (to avoid the aforementioned flushes of growth), ensure the ammonium value is not above 4 or 5 percent.
Nitrogen is not the only important nutrient to be applied this month; micronutrients and biostimulants are a good idea to ensure the plant has a full suite of essential nutrition available.
Iron, calcium and magnesium – the traditional go to options for hardening the plant and providing colour through the winter. A fully chelated iron with a pH more towards neutral will be far less antagonistic towards cell wall integrity and beneficial leaf dwelling microorganisms than Sulphate of Iron. Required Magnesium and Calcium can be applied as part of a nutritional application when factored into a well-balanced fertiliser programme.
Biostimulants applied at the right time will be beneficial to the plant and soil over winter. As the rate of photosynthesis changes in line with the seasons, applications of carbon energy in the form of sugar can assist the plant in being more resilient and well-developed in the early spring.
Applications of seaweed will elicit important beneficial defensive and stress responses in the plant and associated microorganisms when applied ahead of disease activity, before conditions favour the development of disease.
Consideration should also be given to amino acids and humates, with the former playing an important role in abiotic stress tolerance, helping plants to prepare for and cope with autumnal and winter stress events, such as varying changes in temperature and volumetric water content. Humates assist in maximising nutrient availability as well as stimulating and providing habitable zones for beneficial bacteria.
- Use a programmed approach to maximise plant health, through balanced nutrition of all plant essential elements not just NPK as part of an IPM plan.
- Raise cutting heights to minimise stress with a reduction in stress invoking practices such as top dressing which weaken and damage leaf blades.
- Ensure cutting units are sharp to provide a clean cut to minimise weakened points for pathogen attack.
- Well timed aeration to maintain movement of water away from the surface and down through the profile.
- Reduce periods of leaf blade wetness by removing dews or utilising dew dispersant technology (apply only to a dry leaf)
- Monitor disease forecasts via resources such as Syngenta’s Greencast
- Use biostimulants and plant response promoters to maximise plant health.
- Take advice on and construct a preventative fungicide application plan, using historic data, live weather forecasts and site-specific conditions, for applications ahead of when conditions favour the development of disease.
Worms have been a focus for turf managers throughout the last month with the increase in soil moisture levels. There are no legal controls for earthworms and any product which is applied to directly affect them is done so illegally.
Cultural management continues to be the only route currently available. This can include a combination of practices such as, localised surface acidification, removal of grass clippings to reduce their food source and sanding of surfaces to assist in the drying out and dispersal of casts. The above does not completely eradicate the problem, but it will lead to less negative lasting impressions on the surface from the casts. Sulphate of iron is often used as a surface acidifying agent but it is worth considering that over application may lead to an accumulation in the soil causing long term imbalances and negative effects to plant health throughout the rest of the year.
B.Sc (Hons) BASIS FACTS
It is important to maintain machines by carrying out regular servicing and repairs.
As grass growth slows down, use the time to take some machines out of operation for an overhaul.
- Inspect and clean machinery after use.
- Maintain a stock of consumables for your machinery, replace worn and damaged parts as necessary.
- Secure machinery nightly with good storage facilities and strong locks
- Record makes and models and take pictures of your equipment as additional referencebetter still, take pictures of your equipment.