Spring is in the air; the days are getting longer and when the sun does shine, it’s starting to feel just a little warmer. The natural world is coming back to life after what will have felt like a very, very, VERY long winter for many of us. However, these glimpses of spring bring hope to those of us who make our living in the great outdoors, whether that be in an agricultural, horticultural or sports turf sense.
We’re turning our attention to Greenkeepers in particular who now face immense pressure in preparing their courses for the playing season having suffered great setbacks after this extremely wet winter. Alongside pressures such as the course being played when it probably shouldn’t be, worn out and damaged areas, there will also be the added pressure of various routine maintenance activities that have not been fulfilled due to the weather.
With that said, there are always solutions to challenges and greenkeeping is no exception. We’ll go over a few ideas for how to get back on track this spring.
Firmness is key to giving the greens the best possible start to the season. If they are not firm, they will not be smooth and true and if they are not smooth and true, they may be running a little slower than we would like. We could be tempted (due to pressure) to get the 13mm spanner out and reduce the height of cut but this only creates further stress to the grass plant when the winter has already taken its toll. The roots have been sat in water for most of the year and golf traffic in unsuitable conditions has weakened the plant, making it less able to endure further stress. It’s tempting at this point, to throw on a high-powered fertiliser to “get them growing”, but this can also have a negative affect.
Understanding how fine turf and soil biology comes out of hibernation is key to the task of hardening and firming up the growing environment. It needs nurturing and protecting with a well thought out, programmed approach rather than quick fix, short term wins. When we apply high salt, high nitrogen feed we are damaging the biology; adding high nitrogen fertiliser when the weather is still unpredictable can weaken the plant and encourage soft growth and disease.
Solutions for firm up, consistency and speed:
- Appropriate nutrition through the spring growth period by understanding your soil biology. This will be crucial to maintaining a healthy plant and visually attractive playing surface. A soil test is always a good place to start.
- Stimulate the soil biology, protect the plant and help with seedling establishment through with use of a bio-nutritional such as Attain. Attain promotes optimal plant and soil health, it contains secondary metabolites that enhance the existing nutritional elements contained with the soil.
- Aid recovery, build resistance to stress and improve presentation through the use of a package such as Tough Turf Xcel which promotes all-round turf health.
- Use of a quality wetting agent to move water away from the surface that has the technology to meet your specific needs. Wetting agents are not one-size-fits-all so seek advice from a manufacturer rep who knows his products. Here are a few questions you can ask to make sure you’re purchasing the right product for the job:
- What chemistry does this wetting agent contain?
- Is this chemistry new or old and is it safe?
- Can this wetting agent be tank mixed?
- Will this wetting agent hold or release moisture?
- Once you have moved moisture away, it’s time to aerate and top-dress. Aerating very wet soils or during dry spring periods can be catastrophic for recovery so it’s important to find a happy medium before embarking on heavy aeration.
It’s no secret that sharp blades create a cleaner cut but this also helps to reduce plant stress, promote less disease and create a better playing surface and ball roll. Mowers lose that all-important sharp edge through picking up debris, worm casts, wear and tear from early spring renovations and sand topdressing so regular checking, adjustment and a quick sharpen will make a significant difference to your playing surface.
You are the master of your turf environment and greenkeeping on the eye is key but it’s always useful to look beyond the surface and gain alternative perspective during times of significant weather pressure. In summary, use the right aeration and wetting agent technology for your situation to get that moisture away, top-dress to get the ground firm, and apply sensible nutrition and stimulants to get (and keep!) the turf healthy.
We are about due some luck with the weather so crossed fingers for a kind spring and you will soon get the playing surface up to tip-top summer standard.