Contributed By: Eoghan Buckley, Head Greenkeeper
At the start of December, I wasn’t as optimistic about the condition of greens going through the rest of the winter as I am now. The reason for this was that despite plant protection measures been in place a lot of our greens had been affected by Microdochium Patch, and with traditionally the colder months of winter to follow, scarring would be extensive with little recovery.
What has transpired in relation to weather since has allowed for a lot of recovery, as we have just experienced one of the mildest December’s ever on record. Apart from an occasional night frost, there has really been no significant shutdown of grass growth which we would expect. Most Meteorologists say that as climate change develops we can expect to see warmer winters but with more extremes in terms of flooding and storms. This will make managing disease prevention in the winter more difficult in my opinion as we won’t experience the harsh cold weeks which previously would have shut down disease development for a few weeks in previous years.
Most of our winter work programme has focused on the irrigation system. To date, we have replaced 11 isolation valves for greens. We have backfilled all holes with sand and discarded the rocky soil. This makes it easier to dig up the next time if we need to do further work on these areas, hopefully not for a long while!! The next step in our irrigation system upgrade is to start replacing the old hunter heads on the soil greens. Before this happens, I need to carry out some pressure testing to identify what will potentially work on our site, along with some spacing calculations.
We have purchased a new irrigation controller panel which will be installed in early spring. This should allow us to run irrigation in standalone programs or at night, something which hasn’t happened here for a long time.
After a lot of troubleshooting, we finally got our 1997 Charterhouse Rapid core back up and running. It’s been parked in the shed for a few years after it ripped a good section of 13 green during aeration that year. We managed to solid tine all greens to a depth of 75mm using a 13mm tine in the middle of December. One of the main benefits from this process is the release of any trapped gases in the root zone which may lead to poor root development. We plan to carry this process out monthly this year but hopefully with a slightly smaller tine. With a roll or a mow after its operation, it’s barely noticeable on the surface.
This winter has been the first without the traditionally used liquid control products. These products have been removed as they were linked with side effects on worms which the Eu has deemed a threat to the worm populations. There are some new products on the market which seem to be quite site specific. I trialled one of these in late November but wasn’t impressed with its efficacy. So, for the moment we are trying to switch greens before play every morning to minimise the worm casting effect to the golfer. We will continue to explore all options to decrease the casting going forward.