Thursday, 14 September 2017

Wormcast woes

As we head into the middle of September, the onslaught of leaf collection seems as its just around the corner. Some trees are showing colour change and a hand full of trees have started to drop their leaves. We are regularly out with the tornado blower dispersing grass clipping, from wet cuts, so these few areas are not an issue as yet.

Storm Aileen, the first of the season passed across the country on Tuesday night, this brought strong winds and a bit of rain, fortunately after a couple hours of clearing and pushing water off the greens the course suffered no real damage. Unfortunately this hasn't been the only rain the course has had over the last week, to be honest there has hardly been a day without rain. 37mm has fallen so far in September, followed by a wet August (87mm) and an even wetter July (112mm). The course is therefore getting sticky, the rainfall in July and August is not ideal, but there is sufficient heat in the sun to dry surfaces and remove moisture from the soil, in September the air and soil temperatures start to decline, therefore less moisture is lost from the ground and we start to see some damage. This has been exaggerated this year due to the worm cast issues we are facing after the removal of all effective worm suppressants from the market.

Carbendazim could be sprayed at this time of the year to supress worm casts on all areas of the course, with no means of preventing them we are seeing more and more as the soils get cooler and wetter. Ideal conditions for worm activity. These cause damage in a couple of ways, firstly they are smeared by machinery, foot traffic and other golf vehicles such as buggies and trollies. The smearing looks bad, but once the grass slows down in growth will not be able to recover as quickly as it would at this time of the year. This will lead to poor, thin turf in high wear areas. The second way turf can be damaged is the casts blunt the mowers, the soil is abrasive and will dull sharp blade edges. The poor cut will then lead to tearing of the grass plants, opposed a sharp scissor action, letting in diseases and adding stress to the plant, which can only be detrimental to its growth.

We are noticing the most cast activity on wetter and poorer soils and on high wear areas. We have trialled 4 different products on the market which claim to suppress worms, 2 of those had no real effects to the cast activity, 1 had an immediate effect but its longevity was limited to a couple of days and the final product which is an organic soil conditioner showed the best results, however its longevity was limited. It claimed to have an effective suppression of 3 months, however after 3 weeks casts have started to return. I will reapply the product to see it a build up of the organic substance is needed to have a longer effect on the casts. This product is over 5 times the price per hectare than carbendazim, so reapplying to large areas simply wont be affordable. The tests I have done so far are on singular greens so cost at this stage is not an issue.

In a couple of weeks we will begin to cut down all the long rough once more. The amazone machine will be geared up to start the collection in all areas. As mention on my last post we will be starting to clear some areas for grass and leaf disposal. Below are some pictures of the long rough areas around the course, compared to year end 2016 there is a remarkable difference. Even in the wet year we have had the rough is far more playable than previous years, given a couple more years of cutting and collection we should see a big difference to our natural areas on the course.

September 2016

Adam, Sam and myself attended a machinery demonstration day at Wetherby racecourse organised by CLS and Campeys. It was a good day and a chance to see some of the latest machines in action. Days like that always give inspiration and help us think about where we can improve the course here at Malton and Norton. Below is a disc seeder, one area I'm keen to persue once we have tackled drainage issues on some of the greens is to create a more uniform and dense bent grass coverage in the Poa dominated areas of the greens. The reason there is poor bent growth in certain areas of the greens is due to saturated soils providing unsuitable conditions for bent grass. Conditions that Poa loves.

Last but not least I'm pleased to say we have now a second new born on the greens team, Matty  Turnbull and his fiancĂ© Ellie have had there first child. Lola was born on Monday 11th September weighing 8lb 2oz. Matty is now off on his paternity leave, however I'm pleased to say Rich Malthouse is now back to work after becoming a new parent himself.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Happy Autumn

This year seems to have flown by and now we are officially into Autumn(meteorologically). The leaves are already starting to fall in one or two areas of the course but we certainly aren't thinking about starting to get the leaf collector ready just yet.

With the routine settling back into some normality we will be concentrating on presentation of the course, with a few smaller jobs to catch up on. Sprinkler heads, winter cups and junior discs are the first priority, as mentioned the growth has been very strong and some of these are getting lost in the long grass. We also need to get caught up on lower priority areas of cutting, such as strimming, cutting copses, intermediate rough areas and the clubhouse border areas. Overall the course is looking great.We are now going to start grinding and changing blades on the greens mowers, as the sand we apply to the greens during maintenance weeks blunts the cutting edge, leading to a poor cut. When the units cut poorly they tear, rather than cut the grass. This sometimes isn't clearly visible as the grass is very short, however on closer inspection the quality of cut can clearly be seen. A torn edge can lead to more disease, stressed growth and slower greens.

We will be starting to look at removing some trees and vegetation around certain areas of the course to create disposal points for leaves and grass once we start to use the new Amazone machine. We are looking at minimising travelling across the course with heavy machines, so we need to have multiple areas across the course. initially we are looking at the 1st, 3rd, 6th, 11th, 23rd, and the end of the range.

The greens have recovered really well, holes 19-27 will require another application of sand to fill any remaining holes in a week or so. We will be applying another application of fertiliser to all the greens in the coming weeks, we will also be applying a granular fertiliser to all the tees, this will boost growth and strength going into the Autumn period when recovery from play isnt quite as good as through summer. A granular application of fertiliser will be applied to the greens once we get into October, however when conditions are still good liquid applications are preffered.

We will be booking in the spraying contractor to apply another mix of fertiliser and selective herbicide to the fairways towards the end of September, its important that this is applied before soil temperatures dip away. The programme we are currently running on the fairways has worked well this year, they are dense and growth is strong, the fairways on 14, 15 ,16 and 18 still need a little more work, there is some dry patch which can be amended using wetting agents and in combination with a little more aeration. We will be also looking to get the Air2G2 booked in sometime in October to aerate the greens again. This machine causes very little disruption to the surfaces and is a fantastic tool which keeps the greens more playable and increases the drainage as we head towards the wetter months.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Maintenance weeks done

After a very busy couple of weeks we can finally breathe a sigh of relief as the maintenance weeks are finished. This is always a busy period of the summer for us, we obviously have more work to do to get all greens cored, collected and sanded, but there is also the tees, worn areas, wet bits to vertidrain and all the bunkers to edge during the weeks we have the course closed, that's not to mention all the normal cutting we have to do. This year hasn't been helped by the growing conditions, grass has been growing at a phenomenal rate for a long period of time. The weather has got itself into a pattern of thunderstorms and humidity which is going to be difficult to get out from according to the weather forecasters.

The other piece of news which I'm delighted to announce is Richard Malthouse and his wife Victoria have just had their first child, Harry was born last week and all are doing great, Rich is currently on paternity leave, enjoying his time away from picking up cores.

The maintenance on 19-27 holes went as well as expected given the routine we were in from doing the rest of the course. Many thanks again to our Director of Greens for the help he gave us picking up cores. Fortunately we were able to finish off all work and get the greens sanded before a torrential thunderstorm on Wednesday afternoon. 22mm of rain fell in and hour, I have heard that other areas not too far away received more, and some of the images and videos from the Scarborough area made the water stood here at Malton small in comparison. Fortunately the course had over 12 hours to drain before we arrived the following morning. On inspection the course had stood up well with only minimal damage to bunkers and paths, no real standing water and we were able to complete a full course cut. This goes to prove the work we do in terms of compaction relief and installing drainage is a great investment for the playability of the course.

The rest of the greens have recovered very well and on reflection the plan to decrease disruption has been a success, the greens are more playable and overall in good condition, there is a little anthracnose lingering on greens 2-7 but the majority of the surfaces are disease free. 
Since mid-aeration treatments subsequent applications of biostimulants, humic acid, seaweed and fertiliser have been put onto the greens to help water retention and boost turf vigor for the upcoming month during a period when anthracnose disease pressure can remain high. Applications of the mixes will continue to be made until growth slows.

We will be starting to cut all long rough back again in the next month or so, in conjunction with leaf collection. Removing the top growth will also remove some of the nutrient content, hopefully reducing vigor over time, as mentioned in the July report. This year is the first year of using the new Amazone machine to collect leaves, we are looking forward to seeing its improved efficiency and saving on manpower. During September, we will be clearing some areas on the course to tip the leaves which are composted back to soil over time and used out on the course, we have some areas already but we have found the new machine collects a lot more debris and grass, meaning more disposal areas are needed. These areas will be away from the main course, in trees, woodlands and waste areas, so not to effect play.

One issue the wetter summer has given us and will be a massive problem into the future is worm casts, I have mentioned this many times before, but I cannot emphasise enough what issues they give, not only us, trying to maintain good quality turf, but the golfers that play the course too. There is now no chemical to suppress worms on turf. All have been banned due to their toxic properties to the soil and the micro-organisms that live in it. That is understandable, we don’t want to pollute and harm the environment, however for over 90% of golf courses built on heavy, fertile land, worms are a big issue. Already in August we are faced with a daily challenge of casts on all surfaces. Golfers will have noticed casts collect on balls, effect ball roll and during wetter periods make the course muddy and untidy. We are trialing a few organic products which claim to have some effect on casts without harming the soil, but these are yet to be proven. In the short term please understand we can’t stop the casting problem and we are looking at alternatives to make the course as playable as possible heading into what is going to be a difficult Autumnal period.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Maintenance week 2

The end of another week and another 9 holes of maintenance complete. This week brought more challenging conditions than the previous week but the team stepped up their efforts to ensure we got all tasks completed.
This week it was the turn of holes 10-18, we started with solid tining the greens, just to emphasize why we vertidrain, here's a great example, below is the 12th green which has always had drainage problems due to the shape of the surface of the green. We have installed drains which have helped with the general health of the turf but do still struggle to remove the volume of water the surface collects. This puddle on the 12th green was one of the few on the course after some heavy overnight rain, The second photo is the same green 5-10 minutes later following verti-draining, the vertidrain removes any compaction and opens up the surface so any water can penetrate more easily through the soil and drain away. Once the surface gets sealed up water will be slower to penetrate again. Regular aeration is therefore very important to allow the greens to remain playable.

All the greens were cored with 6mm tines and collected, unfortunately this was the worst day of the week, with 26mm of rain falling, the heaviest rain started around 10am with 5 greens left to collect, the team did a fantastic job and continued in the deluge to finish the work so they were ready for sand the following morning.

Fortunately the following days weather was much better so the greens were top dressed with sand and brushed in. The bunkers on 10-18 were edged and tidied, making the most of the closure on 10-18.

The greens on 1-9 are getting back into shape. We are cutting them daily and rolling when time allows, they have also been sprayed with a mix of mirco nutrients, fertiliser and growth regulator. As you can see from the video below they are rolling great for just 7 days after deep tining, hollow coring and an application of sand. Proving the point greens maintenance at this time of the year is far more beneficial for all concerned. We are very lucky to have 27 holes giving 18 good greens all of the time. Following the maintenance we will apply another light dressing of sand to ensure any minor imperfections are dressed out to improve smoothness.

This weekend we will roll 10-18 following the work and start cutting regularly from Monday next week.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Ready to go again

Maintenance week 1 is complete, now we gear ourselves up to start all over again on holes 10-18. These holes will be closed from Monday this week up until Friday morning. In this time we will carry out the same procedure as on all the other greens we have done so far, 12mm solid tine, 6mm hollow tine, topdress and roll. The greens on 1-9 will be beginning to settle down now, we have rolled them over the weekend to help smooth the surfaces, we will try to cut them as normal from Monday, depending on sand on the surface. On Wednesday they will be sprayed with fertiliser and biostimulants to promote healthy recovery.

On Thursday and Friday we continued solid tining walkways and some wetter areas on the fairways on holes 1-9. This took its toll on the solid tines as some areas of the course on holes 1-9 have stones very shallow below the surface, these areas are unknown when tining and all it takes is to hit one and bang, the tines end up like the ones below. All told around 12 tines were damaged beyond repair from doing walkways on holes 1-9, fortunately the chances of stone damage on holes 10-18 is a lot less as the subsurface is deeper and turns to clay opposed to stone. We will also try to complete 10-18 bunker edging this week.

I have previously mentioned worm cast issues we face and the lack of chemicals available to control them. A recent video I saw online of worms being extracted by the use of mustard made me want to experiment a little to see if was of any use to reduce damage to our turf. I selected 4 areas where i know cast are a real issue. 3 of them around the practice green and the last one around the edge of the front putting green. The area around the practice green was sprayed with a mixture of ground mustard powder and water, at a rate of 50gms per 5 litres water. One area spayed once, one sprayed twice and the third sprayed 3 times, so in theory doubling and tripling the amount of product applied to each area. The areas were 6m x 6m each and clearly marked to identify whether the mustard has had any effect of casts. The forth area was treated with the same amount of product per 5 liters of water, however this time was applied using a watering can to ensure the soil was soaked sufficiently. The sites will be checked this week and any changes to casts will be recorded and I will publish my results on my next blog.

About Me

Im the Head Greenkeeper at Malton and Norton Golf Club. I began my greenkeeping career at Malton and Norton Golf Club straight from school as an Assistant Greenkeeper. Wanting to climb the greenkeeping ladder I gained my NVQ level 2 and 3 at Askham Bryan College. I continued with my education gaining a HNC in golf course management and took the position of Deputy Head Greenkeeper at Malton and Norton Golf Club in 2005.In 2008 I was promoted to the position of Head Greenkeeper, leading a team of 6 hard working and dedicated Greenkeepers. Our aim is to continue to improve the condition of the course year on year maintaining our high reputation within the area.