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GREENCRAFT | Don’t work blind this Autumn

At this time of year, bowling clubs are often inundated with offers from contractors to carry out an autumn renovation programme devised by, you guessed it, the contractor… without actually seeing the green!

Bowls International’s greencraft expert, John Quinn of Bowls Central, shares his views as we head into Autumn bowling green maintenance.

These programmes are often classed bronze, silver and gold to cover all budgetary requirements.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with such a marketing ploy, many businesses we encounter in all walks of life use it every day. The problem with these programmes however, is that they are all based on conventional greenkeeping and will usually involve all three elements that contribute further to the Circle of Decline in bowling greens, namely sand, high salt fertilisers and fungicide.

A better approach to this is to create an autumn renovation programme based on the facts about the condition of your green. The first step in that process is to evaluate your green’s condition objectively, i.e. by actually doing some investigation work.

This process will help you to develop a better understanding of the issues faced by your green and allow you to make better and more informed decisions on the renovation and maintenance it requires going forward.

When you take charge of your own green, find out what is actually going on under the turf and begin working on introducing a common sense greenkeeping programme, you end up in a better place from which to make decisions on your greenโ€™s future than most contractors are. Whether you take charge by actually carrying out all of the work yourself or instruct contractors to apply the right operations to your green, it results in more confident clubs and better club/contractor relations.

However, if you are working blind and get all of your information about the underlying green condition from your contractor then you don’t actually have the right arguments to counter with when that same contractor is clearly getting it wrong.

They want to apply some of my recommendations, but when the contractor wants to do something different, then they don’t have a sufficient depth of first hand knowledge to explain their thinking.Unless you actually know what the condition of your green is and can communicate this clearly to your contractor, then you are working blind and can be easily sold the wrong programme.

Towards the end of every bowling season, thoughts start to turn to the autumn renovation programme or the โ€™closing of the greenโ€™ as many clubs call it. Bowling clubs throughout the UK will take delivery of between three and ten tonnes of very expensive top-dressing compost, which will be applied to the green after hollow tining or some other aeration operation, in the belief that this will ensure that the green is in perfect condition next season. However, too much top-dressing can actually harm the green and in many cases, clubs simply shouldnโ€™t be doing it at allโ€ฆbut why?

The answer is simple yet full of complexity. At its most basic, the answer is that excessive use of sand on bowling greens causes the under lying soil to become inert; lacking life or the complex web of interactions that go to make healthy, high performance turf. The natural balance of the soil/turf ecosystem is upset and the green will never be capable of consistent high performance for as long as the folly of top dressing continues.

The complexity comes in when we start to consider that top dressing is recommended by most experts and consultants and that this advice is religiously followed by the majority of bowling clubs. However, a brief look at the facts facing many bowling greens after decades of this type of maintenance makes it clear that top-dressing is not a good option for the majority of bowling greens in the UK.


Greencraft expert John Quinn covers all of your bowling green maintenance needs and questions within his monthly column in Bowls International, the worldโ€™s most respected bowling magazine available monthly in both digital and print formats.ย 

A six-month print subscription to Bowls International is priced at just ยฃ19.90, or a 12-month subscription is ยฃ35.99 โ€“ thatโ€™s less than ยฃ3 per month and includes FREE POSTAGE.