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What to do when your green floods.

As a result of many enquiries about how to deal with the excessive amount of rainfall and flooding that has been experienced in many parts of the country, I thought I would give some pointers of how to go about getting the green back to normality as soon as possible.


In the first instance, if there is obvious flooding in the ditch, then that indicates there could be a blockage in the drainage system, so we need to determine where the outlet for the main drain is situated. It is obvious on most greens that there is a perimeter drain running around below the bowling green ditch and normally there are holes in the ditch sections to allow water to permeate through.

Looking at your green surrounds you can usually detect where the lowest area would be situated away from the green and that would usually be where the outlet from the bowling green drainage site is situated. Originally, it would have had an inspection cover on the top and underneath there would be a silt trap and pipe work leading from there to a disposal outlet, such as a stream or a soak away.

Many of the bowling green silt traps have been accidentally covered over and maybe a little difficult to find. Once located, with the use of a metal detector if appropriate, the lid can be opened up to check to see if there is any water flow away from the bowling green. If there is no flow then you need to clean out the drainage pipes with drain rods. This will allow water to flow pretty quickly away from the green and the surface should dry off naturally. Avoid treading on the turf or doing any work on the green until it is thoroughly dried out and feels firm.

There are many people who think that they haven’t got drains under their green, but I can assure you that it would have been an integral part of the original construction. Some of us can determine where the drains are by using an old metal coat hanger shaped like two guns held parallel to the ground and they twist when held over the pipe work. This is an old skill and the majority of people can perform it once they are shown the way.


If the water table is high in the bowling green area then the water will have nowhere to drain until the natural water table level drops. There is nothing that you can do apart from being patient. This would be a good time to check over your equipment, if your sheds are accessible, plus any areas around the green that need your attention, such as the gardens, gutters and shrubs, pathways, edging up and any other spring work.

If the green is actually waterlogged then this will mean that most of the insect life has been harmed and the soil nutrients will have been leached away. So once the water has dissipated, air will replace the spaces in the soil and hopefully it will become aerobic once again and the soil life will perhaps recover, depending on how long the turf was water logged.

You will also particularly notice that there will be a lot of worms lying on the surface that have tried to escape the waterlogged conditions in order to find oxygen. This is a clue when using worm killer to ensure that the green is thoroughly soaked because they exist somewhere within the top two inches.


A big contributor to the quick recovery of the turf will be what aeration maintenance has previously been carried out in the past season, together with scarifying which would have reduced the amount of debris (thatch) in the green. Debris on the surface will act as a blanket and absorb water, so if a good job has been done then there will be minimal debris to hold surface moisture.

The more holes we knock into the turf, and the more debris we scratch out, the more this will allow air to replace the water. The secret of scarifying is to change direction frequently during the closed season and not to touch the soil which would cause ruts and destroy the new crowns which are the growing tips of next season’s grass.

Once conditions have returned back to normal you are able to get on the green and because there is ample moisture (lubrication) in the soil root zone, this will be the ideal time to improve the structure of your root zone dramatically. This can be done by using as deep a tine as possible on your spiker, as well as chisel tines, to break down the soil profile that on many greens hasn’t been done regularly in the winter months.


In extremely wet areas it might be a good idea, once dried out, to hand fork to six inches or even deeper at every opportunity to assist the drainage in those particular areas. Also incorporate lime free sharp sand into the fork holes once the fork has been moved back and forward to increase the size and shape of the hole, making it easier for sand to funnel down. This is normally autumn work, but you might be able to take the opportunity now to fit this job in, but I do ask you to use scaffold boards to work from when the turf is still soft and moist.

Footnote: Remember that flood water can kill grass. It will certainly change the colour of the leaves to yellowish or even white, so be prepared to do repairs before the new season gets underway.