In a slight change to our usual format I thought it would be nice for our STH to see the progress we have been making over the winter period mostly in pictures as opposed to my usual boring reports!
So we are now only four weeks away from the golf courses changing over to summer tee positions, where did winter go we ask? That sounds a bit contradictory after almost three weeks of consistent winter greens due to low temperatures at the end of last month but as we move into March the temperatures have really picked up allowing for some good growth potential on the golf courses (see figure 1). When setting our maintenance plan for winter work we basically have two schedules, one before Christmas and one after. We also, however, have two separate Plans, one for when the grass is dormant and one for when we start to see soil temperatures rise initiating shoot growth.
As you can see from the above graphic, we are approaching good growing conditions, this is the kind of weather pattern we are hopeful of seeing in March and is quite unusual to see this so early in the year, but we must take advantage. As stated previously when soil temperatures are conducive to shoot growth (above 6 degrees) we then focus our resources back to the playing surfaces by way of top-dressing, gentle grooming and light nutrition. There are multiple benefits from this unexpected spell of extremely mild weather, for example, some golf courses – especially further south, have brought forward their major renovation projects such as hollow-coring greens by one month. The advantage of this is very simple, higher temperatures = faster recovery (provided adequate moisture and nutrition is applied).
Here at Montrose, we have already carried out our major maintenance on greens last September and I think we are definitely seeing the value of these practices now. Our greens have been very strong all winter with minimal disease pressure, however the disease we have encountered left behind small scars of dead plant tissue. Now with temperatures on the rise, we aid the recovery of the grass sward by applying a little foliar of nitrogen and iron, this is followed up by light top-dress brush and mow. Flexibility is everything in our industry – we have to be able to react to the weather and change our schedule at a days’ notice. By working with two schedules in the winter we simply pick up where we left off when the weather inevitably turns cold again. This is where effective planning and constant re-evaluation of our practices serves us well as a team. We are always looking to improve and learn more efficient techniques/methods to improve our golf courses.
I have talked incessantly about aeration and the importance of these practices not just in the winter of course but year round. Perhaps what I haven’t mentioned are the time-consuming smaller jobs that the greenstaff put a lot of effort into. Jobs such as:
- patching rabbit holes
- plugging out badly repaired pitchmarks
- repairing and upgrading paths
- trimming gorse
- removing selected areas of gorse
- turfing weak/worn areas of the golf courses
- rough management
This is just some of the less glamorous but equally important tasks which we must ensure are carried out. We also have our project work to finish as we head for the spring, tee work, irrigation upgrade and replacement and of course bunker reconstruction. It was our aim to complete a minimum of 15 bunkers; we have in fact managed work on 24 in total. A complete re-build of 18, repair of 6 and full re-turf of all 24.
Our mechanic Sean has been just as busy as he races to complete the full service of our fleet of machinery. It should be remembered Sean is our only mechanic, the servicing as well as repairs and dealing with breakdowns is a hugely time-consuming affair, we are extremely lucky to have someone so committed. The same can be said for our whole team who have worked non-stop all winter. Special thanks has to go to Iain Robertson (butty) as well, who has been down at the mechanic sheds almost every week this winter helping Sean.
As I finish writing this newsletter (I tend to complete as time allows), record-breaking temperatures have been reported for February elsewhere in the U.K. While we haven’t quite been basking in these glorious conditions of over 20 degrees, we have had to break out the hand hoses to our newly laid turf. This is due to a mere 15mm of rainfall recorded on-site for the full of February (average 45mm) resulting in very stressful conditions for our new bunker turf – I must say this is the first time I can remember hand watering so early in the year.
While the sunshine is always most welcome on the golf courses, I sincerely hope this is not a sign of last year’s drought – purely from an agronomic standpoint!!
That’s all for this month
Regards for now