August 2012 – Problem Solving on the Green
ONE of the most common problems brought to me is the after- effects of tightening up the surface of the green following deep scarifying with powerful scarifiers. This problem relates to greens having been deep scarified using blades that go into the turf below one inch.
When using a scarifier with this amount of power, a vast amount of material is removed from the root zone whatever level the machine is set. It is claimed they can go down at a rate of two inches plus, bringing to the surface both dead root material and much soil with the action.
First impressions indicate the machine has been doing a good job, but anything acting vertically, removing extensive materials in continuous well aerated lines, will leave the green in a spongy condition, similar to a loaf of bread, and this makes it difficult to compress to a firm surface that is required for a bowling green.
A further problem can arise when grasses grow stronger in these lines than in between. The effect of this can be to deflect the line of the wood to its final resting place. Similarly, if all new grass seeds were put into a continuous line, the extra vigour of these new plants would affect the run of the bowl.
If a machine like this is used dropping seeds in a continuous line then it is of paramount importance that this is done diagonally in both directions.
Picture 1: shows extensive spiking has been done to tighten up the surface before play. Take care when using these deep scarifiers and be aware of the results. These machines were originally meant for golf courses, where the surface required is not the same as for a bowling green as it needs to ‘hold’ a golf ball with backspin on it to bite into the turf on landing.
Picture 2: Have you noticed these insects on the green whilst brushing and removing the dew? One is a millipede and the other a cut-worm caterpillar. Whereas the millipede does very little harm (anything that moves quickly does not usually do any harm), but the cut-worm caterpillar causes discolouration, similar to a horseshoe, approximately six inches in diameter as it eats away at the roots of the turf on its way to the surface.
It is usually seen in August and September trundling across the greens having finally eaten its way to the surface. When many of these insects are in existence it can be quite disfiguring to the green. Treat the green in Spring with the correct insecticide as recommended by your supplier.
Picture 3: The cobweb effect can often be seen when brushing the dew from the green. If the brush is too light to be effective these cobweb-like structures aren’t disturbed and continue to have a greenhouse effect on the micro-climate beneath. Should you remove this it can often coagulate and it leaves an oily film on the grass. This is not detrimental, but the brush would normally disperse this and interrupt this fungal action. Many spores of fungi in the turf are motile spores transported by water globules to new areas, therefore the removal of dew is very important.
Picture 4: This illustrates puff-balls (Lycopurdom) as seen in the early Spring without being accompanied by the usual darker green irregular shaped rings as nitrogen is released from the soil to the surrounding grasses. These puff-balls are the fruit of the fungi and not the fungi itself.
Picture 5: Shows a puff-ball being removed from the turf. Note that it does not have a stalk.
Picture 6: Shows three puff-balls, the first one illustrates the live stage, the second shows the dead stage as millions of spores are held inside the body, and the third one shows the puff-ball fully opened to the atmosphere and millions of spores will subsequently blow about. Conclusion: Make sure you pick off these puff-balls when you are removing the dew.
Picture 7: Shows a plastic container with holes drilled in the centre and around the edge. This is filled with sulphate of iron and shaken lightly over mossy areas. This can be done as and when moss is first spotted without having to treat the whole green.
Picture 8: The old age problem where players have damaged the green by dropping bowls, often called divoting. I read with interest that Tony Allcock feels that greens are no longer in tip-top condition due to the fact that most clubs are unable to afford full-time greenkeepers and therefore the green is maintained by volunteers.
For a green to have a ‘true’ running surface, it can well do without players dropping the bowl from the knee and sometimes even above. Very few clubs, while admitting that it happens, will do anything about it.
Greens deteriorate, particularly on the ends, where it is most important that there is no deviation where the bowler’s wood will follow the correct trajectory only to be frustrated when the course is changed by a divot. It could be suggested that mats are put down more frequently and this of course would save a lot of damage, but until this can be standardised, clubs are reluctant to lead the way.
Also another problem is bowlers running on the green. This also causes unseen damage (pathways) and should be discouraged.
Should we have bowls centres of excellence in three or four areas throughout the country? It would be interesting to see how the greens play and look when only the top players are allowed to play on them. There would be a true comparison of where the damage is done.
I and many other bowlers will remember when to make bowls appeal to a bigger audience one of our well-known internationals was shown delivering the wood so fast and hard and running at full speed down the green.
Unfortunately, many players have copied this method and think that this is what bowls is all about. Tony Allcock has always emphasies in his column that the skill is still drawing to the jack.