Lockdown greenkeeping part 3

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Since the last blog post we’ve had a whole 0.2mm of rain! As a result the course has dried considerably. Wetting agent was applied to the greens before the last bit of rain and its effect can still be seen now, irrigation water soaks in immediately. The wetting of the soil is also much more uniform rather than high spots remaining dry and low spots becoming lush green.

 

The Annual Meadowgrass is struggling with the dry conditions given its shallow roots, the Bent and Fescues however are thriving, their deeper roots still able to take up what little moisture is present lower in the profile.

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While the Meadowgrass is on the back foot we have taken advantage and overseeded the greens. While we would normally sow predominantly Browntop Bent cultivars the current situation has meant we have had to fall back on stock rather than buy in new materials. As a result we have used mainly Fescue with what little Bent we had being used on the weaker greens. At this stage however either is a better alternative to Meadowgrass!!

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We began the seeding works by making holes 1/2″ deep and 1/2″ diameter with the tractor mounted Aercore. Normally a fast machine we had to slow things considerably to make a tidy job at such a shallow depth, a giddying 1.0kmph meant it took almost 2 days to complete.

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The seed mix was then broadcast by fertiliser barrow ensuring an even spread (allowing for the constant wind!) before being dragged into the holes using the metal dragmat. Anything left on the surface is essentially wasted as the seed has to have soil contact to germinate. Without a sizeable hole it is almost impossible to get 100% in but we are happy with our estimated 75-80% in the holes, there was dramatically less seed after 2 passes of the dragmat.

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The continuing winds and lack of rainfall has meant we have had little time to do anything more than hand water to keep the seed moist.

The plan now is to roll the greens to help close the holes a little before applying a light dressing to help keep some moisture in the little plant pots.

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Everyone has their own preferred way of seeding but for me personally i don’t want to fill the holes completely with topdressing. I feel we get a better strike of seed by letting the crown of the seedling form slightly below the surface of the green. By doing this we are essentially creating a higher height of cut for them compared to the established plants around them, 8-10mm rather than the normal 4mm. This means less stress from mowing, rolling, traffic etc as they establish themselves.

Once the seed starts to germinate we will apply a granular feed to boost growth. There is little point in applying it earlier as it would only cause the existing plants to grow stronger and out-compete the new seedlings. We will be applying an organic fertiliser which will not give a flush of growth but rather a longer, gentle feed. We still have products in stock which are applied through the sprayer but in the past we have learned that these provide nowhere near the response we get from a granular feed. They will be used as a supplement throughout the season.

We have lowered the cutting height on greens as move toward golf resuming, 5.5mm down from 6.5mm. This will be lowered again next week to 5mm, low enough to be within reach of our target 4mm but not so low as to cause undue stress on the turf.

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The reduced frequency of mowing given the current staff numbers has meant a frightening increase of stalks on fairways! Happily this is easily remedied by a pass of the rough mower at 1″ cutting height.

A cut straight behind with the fairway mower, possibly in 2 directions will bring them further under control.

The semi-rough continues to grow over much of the course but again it is mostly stalky growth easily tamed by the rough mower.

Over the past few days we have had a small band of volunteers socially distancing themselves and helping to trim sprinklers and weed bunker sand, so a big thank you to them!!

To give some perspective, hand-watering is being done manually using hoses and 3 mobile sprinklers. As an experiment and partially out of curiosity i wanted to see how much water a mobile sprinkler applied so an old fashioned rain gauge was set up on a few greens to gather the irrigation water. It takes an roughly an hour to apply the equivalent of just 2mm of rainfall. This, as you can imagine, does little more than keep things alive given the non-stop Easterly winds which strip the moisture from the soil almost as fast as we can apply it. The wind also has the annoying habit of stopping a sprinkler covering the whole green from a central position meaning even more time is consumed moving sprinklers around.

At almost 2 whole greenstaff it is a real struggle at the moment to complete everything. For example we have a fairway mower still to sharpen from the end of last season, it has coped well up till now but the edge has finally gone from its blades. It is a whole day of work for one person to sharpen the 5 cutting units so it is currently sitting in the shed patiently waiting! Parts for machines have become harder to get therefore we have been cannibalising other machines when needed. So far no major problems so fingers crossed…

Next update soon, possibly around the return of golf…?

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