How to make your rival clubs green with envy

IN the last issue the most pressing subject was how to deal with the drought conditions. Although we have had a very much wetter period, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the rain has reached the lower depths of the green, unless the clubs have followed the recommendations to go to town on spiking at every opportunity. Spiking enables the water to move down through the turf into the root zone and then further down into the drainage layer 12 inches below.

We can appreciate the benefit of the spiking because it allows the water to get away quickly into the green, provided that the programme of cleaning out the debris, allowing water to penetrate through the thatch, has been followed. Otherwise, the water will be held in the surface of the turf by the thatch and will not penetrate easily very far down into the turf and will most likely be evaporated by the sun and the wind. So, in that case, although we think we have had a lot of rain, we will not have benefited from it very much.

The bacteria that are in the soil need both water and air to break down the decay that is ongoing as a result of the grass plant shedding its dead and dying leaves and roots continuously. We can see that spiking is so essential as it not only enables water to be transported through the soil, but also allows the passage of air into the root zone where it can be utilised.

You can refer to the article two months ago on spring work to remind yourself how vital this preparation is for the opening of the season. Spiking, scarifying and rolling are all very essential basic tasks to sustain the green throughout the summer months. The more spiking done during the winter period, the less likely you will be using artificial watering because the raft system below the green holds much water in reserve for reuse during dry periods.


A bowling green is constructed for a purpose to allow play to continue as soon as rain finishes during a normal day, but due to the increase in demand bowlers need to play even in the wet to be able to complete their competition dates. This calls for extra work on the greenkeepers’ part in order to maintain the soil porosity which brings us back again to the importance of spiking.

Spiking should be continued throughout the summer months at fortnightly intervals with solid round tines, always ensuring that the turf is moist enough to accommodate the maximum depth of the spike into the root zone. Remember that all operations on the turf during the playing season must be carried out on the diagonal.


Light scarifying should be practiced at least once a fortnight in both directions diagonally to help to assist the removal of debris which is a continuous process throughout the life of the grass plant. When you mow you can see the volume of grass cuttings which finish up in the box and what you may not realise is that just as much debris is being produced by the plant as it sheds its leaves and that is why scarifying is so vital.

If your mower has a groomer attachment then you will not need to carry out scarifying as a separate operation until the autumn months when scarifying is a major job and needs to be more intense.


Rolling is still an important factor in your greenkeeping work because although we have the green tight in the spring to benefit early season play, when the turf does get wet it will be partially waterlogged on the surface and swell up. This means the turf will lift slightly and once it has dried out it needs to be firmed back down to where it came from to expel the excess air.

If you don’t roll at this time then the green will be relatively soft and any action on the green will cause disfigurement. If the bowls are dropped from above the green instead of being delivered on it then divots will result in these soft conditions. On a dry, firm green, divots are not so noticeable or as likely to occur.

Often the roller of the mower may be sufficient to firm the turf back into place or maybe a Sisis Truelevel or even a dew roller may be used otherwise without rolling the green will perform much slower than is desirable.

A simple way to assess if rolling is needed is to press down on the turf with your thumb. If it only goes down a little way (5mm) then possibly a light rolling will be sufficient. If your thumb can go down 13mm then it is apparent that more rolling is required, either with a heavier roller, such as your motor mower, where you can control the speed, or a double roll with a light roller. Always remember to roll diagonally in two different right angular directions during the season.


Rolling, spiking and scarifying are all contributing factors to how the green will play. If the club requests that the green bowls faster then there are several ways of achieving this. If the club owns both a scarifier and a mower and has two willing operators this will not be too time consuming. If there is only one operator then far more time must be allowed.

The first routine is to brush the green to dry off the surface and then scarify corner to corner diagonally being extremely careful when turning. The next action is to mow off the effect of the scarifier and then scarify in the other direction and collect up the debris with the mower once again.

The green will now be twice as clean as it was before but still finishing up at the same height of cut and the result is that the bowl will be able to draw equally on both hands on the same day. The green is also now a lot faster.

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