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Planning Ahead for Your Autumn Work

Bearing in mind that the past summer included a very hot, dry spell, we must plan accordingly as it might be the weather pattern for future years.

Many greens have suffered from the drought conditions, so we have to look at the cause and the way to minimise the damage the next time we experience such dry conditions and know how to prepare the turf to cope with the situation.

If your green has suffered from dryness this year and the turf cracked up due to lack of available moisture from the root zone, it will point to the fact that not enough aeration (spiking), was carried out throughout the winter months when there was an abundance of water available. By spiking, you would have enabled the water to permeate through the soil to the root zone and drainage level where it would be held in reserve for re-use by the plant throughout the playing season. This is one of the reasons for the stone raft being put in place during construction because water can move through this drainage level sideways or up and down to wherever it is needed by the plant. This is known as basic capillary action and if there is insufficient water available then obviously the turf will become stressed.

Unfortunately, due to misconceptions or bad advice, many greens have buried the drainage layer much too deep by applying top dressing each year, with the idea of improving the level of the green instead of practicing proper turf culture.

The correct procedure is to hollow tine every three years, removing approximately 4.5 tons of material, thus maintaining the height above the drainage layer. The hollow tinings will be put aside and eventually recycled by sifting the dried cores and dressing up any low areas on the green. This way, the green will be maintained at the correct level and the material used will have been compatible because it has come from the green. There is no reason at all to buy in materials in the form of commercial top dressing to fill the holes back up again as this would defeat the whole object of removing the cores to reduce compaction and density in the turf.

If anyone is thinking about filling up the holes made by the hollow tining then be aware that holes allow for air and fertilisers to permeate through to the lower levels as well as the roots surrounding the core holes being able to spread and develop downwards in the space. Beneficial bacteria will also be able to multiply and set to work in their new environment and reduce debris below ground level.

After two to three weeks, the maximum benefit to the turf of the extra oxygen and moisture will have taken place and the holes can be compressed back together again by using solid or, better still, chisel tines. More roots will be able to develop and penetrate down to the root zone where the food reserves are kept, providing that the turf is kept moist. Rolling will even out the surface in mid March and help to resist loss of moisture in the turf.

The process of hollow tining and re-using the dried out cores and then solid tining to join up the spaces after allowing a few weeks for aeration and bacteria activity to take place will all help to make a large contribution to the condition of the turf for the following season. It should also mean than if you need to water the green before mid July, this will indicate that insufficient spiking was carried out on your green in the closed season.

Spiking will always benefit your green, even during the summer months. Once every fortnight would be ideal for this with solid tines and, of course, always diagonally corner to corner during the season. Regular spiking will enable any rain or storm water or irrigation to penetrate into the green, down into the root zone and not just lie on the surface. If water is allowed to sit on the surface then this will encourage the growth of shallow rooting grasses such as annual meadow grass (amg), which is detrimental to the playing conditions on the bowling green.

Autumn is the only time that you can carry out any major or remedial work on the green and its surrounds. You should ensure that everyone concerned, whether maintenance staff, committee members or just playing members, are all aware of the improvements or regular jobs that need to be completed in the closed season and how they can be funded and staffed. Everyone can play a part, however small, and it all helps to integrate club members and build a good spirit. The more involved people become, the more interest and support there will be as a consequence for any future work or fund raising and they will also gain a better understanding of what needs to be done to produce their lovely playing surface. It will be a source of pride for all participating club members, which can only be a good thing.