Straight into the weather – July and August saw typical periods of distinct weather patterns; either extended rainfall or periods of dry weather. Despite the dry spells, we still saw roughly 140mm (exceeding 5 inches) of rain through the five-week period which has in a number of ways benefited us and provided a good boost to soil water levels throughout the usual dry part of summer.
Growth levels of turf took a huge boost with the rainfall. Particularly with mild overnight temperatures and warm day time temperatures where you will see the number of clippings that are apparent on our fairways.
We have been dealing with these as best as time can allow through blowing and increasing our fairway mowing from three-to-four cuts per week as well as using a growth regulator to minimise clipping production. Additionally, increased rainfall has seen an early onset of worm casting across the mown areas leading to some smearing and fine mud mess to a few fairways. I’ll touch on this a little later.
We reverted our greens renovation programme for the summer back to an intensive operation like we were doing three years ago. The work involved hollow coring, solid tining and overseeding in addition to a heavy topdressing.
I just wanted to reiterate how the week actually panned out given the time restrictions in place. We are always at risk of having to adapt to changing weather conditions to fit the work in with the possibility of skipping an operation.
Following a productive day on Monday 29 July, the rainfall on Tuesday 30 July slowed our progress making the collection of the last few green’s cores a little difficult and slightly messy, but the crew pulled together and got it all finished. Wednesday carried on with topdressing and solid tining and the greens were back in play by Friday afternoon.
#1 – Hollow coring removes organic matter and provides an opportunity to create channels of clean sand that aid rainfall and irrigation infiltration once topdressing is incorporated and the cores are filled.
#2 – Solid tining provides small aeration channels that aid root development deeper into the soil profile and gives an opportunity for increased oxygen content in the soil.
This benefiting both root health and soil micro-organism populations. Tining also helps to “shake” the sand into the green surface and mix the sand with the existing root zone.
#3 – Overseeding with a slot-type machine beds the seed well into the soil providing solid seed/soil contact and gives the seed the best opportunity to establish beyond simply germinating.
The bentgrass varieties that we use for this operation have been specifically selected from a range of available varieties due to their fineness of leaf and disease resistance.
Our topdressing programme saw us use about 70 tonnes of graded sand across the greens throughout the week. This equating to 4.5kg of sand per square meter of green surface which took almost 90 loads with our top dresser to apply.
Following overseeding, we saw germination after roughly 6 days and clear rows of new seedlings after 8 days which are visible now. Recovery from the work was quite fast which is down to pre-treatment with fertiliser to ensure that the greens were growing strongly before work commenced.
A drop of rain over the proceeding days also aided growth and washed the sand into the surfaces; always working with nature!
Our fairway improvement programme continued in parallel with the greens work throughout the renovation week with one of our team working dedicated on topdressing both gypsum and sand across 7 fairways and carry areas. We applied the powdered gypsum initially and following heavy rain the following day (Tuesday 30 July) this was very well washed into the grass sward to the extent that it was almost not visible.
Applying gypsum produces a reaction with the clay in the soil that also increases the porosity of the soil, again allowing water to drain more quickly into the soil during periods of rainfall.
Following the gypsum application 180 tonnes of a coarse, washed sand was dressed across the same areas. The sand we use is one that I have sourced from quarries in Surrey, it is composed of a fairly narrow range of medium to large sand particles that allow it to maintain good porosity and hence allow water to freely drain into it when the sand is in situ.
This is the point where the rain really gave us a helping hand, in addition to daily irrigation, the rainfall washed the materials in well. We had no need to drag-brush to incorporate the topdressing materials and hence bringing the fairways back to a playable condition and rather importantly, allowing our mowers back out onto the surfaces to recommence mowing was straight forward.
While we wholly appreciate that this process is hugely disruptive to play when we undertake this work, the results are tangible and apparent almost immediately after completion. As we have had heavy rainfall and as autumn/winter approach, we will see ground conditions remain firm later and later into the winter.
We also see a reduction in worm casting on the fairways which is great as, due to recent legislative changes, we as turf managers no longer have access to any worm suppressing spray products. We are therefore always looking for processes that will decrease the impact of worm casting to playing surfaces.
Moving forward, while planning for the autumn and winter season has commenced, we will be pressing on with a number of projects both small and large, details to follow.
Signing off for this month, see you on the course.