The secret to the maintenance of a fescue green is all about timing and basic principles; my theory is to limit the amount of Nitrogen I apply. This can vary between years, but typically for me in the years I have been responsible for Royal St George’s, it’s between 30 – 50 kg.
We will also try to keep our moisture levels constant in the growing season at between 16 – 20 %. On top of this we will usually try to apply 100 to 200 tonnes of sand.
For me the weather is crucial to how I manage my maintenance plan. I generally have a strategy as to how we will go for the year, but it will depend on weather conditions as to the procedure we follow. The following plan will demonstrate how we expect to proceed each month, however it may fluctuate due to weather conditions and this is only a general guide.
Despite this being the start of the year, the greens are generally just resting. For us we will just make sure we get the dew of the greens early morning to avoid any type of disease. Keeping them dry, we have the best chance to halt the encroachment of microdochium nivale. If we go into winter with a dry green without to much excessive nitrogen, then we have really lowered the chances of contracting any disease. If the weather is dry & conducive to some top dressing, we will add about 10 tonnes of sand to the surface & hand brush it in. In this time, we hand weed greens to avoid use any herbicide. I am a great believer in cultural methods rather than chemical controls.
February tends to be more of the same as January. We will try to get another dressing on the greens & if fortunate we may be able to get another 20 tonnes of sand on. Hand weeding will continue, however, if the weather is mild it is feasible we could roll the greens to keep them smooth, but I try to keep this minimal as I want to reduce the amount of compaction this could lead to. It is possible we may spray a little sulphate of iron onto the greens. This will help add a little colour to the greens, but can also help us by aiding us in control of some cushion moss we may get during the winter months. This can also help in the reduction of any fusarium patch disease.
In addition to the iron, I have started to spray a wetting agent. This has allowed us to keep the moisture levels more even. The dry springs & summers we are experiencing has certainly aided us. I have found that this can help alleviate any hydrophobic areas as this can help the water to negotiate its way through the soil.
This month tends to be quite complex for me. Spring is trending to be later these days hence we are finding growth a little sluggish. This can be a frustrating time as golfer expectations are beginning to rise by now. Thankfully the fescue greens still produces a smooth fast surface so with some constant sand dressing we can produce a fast firm surface. We still have a cutting height of 5mm which I have tended to stick to throughout the year. This is the beauty of fescue as we can get speeds from 9 to 10.5 on the stimpmeter without having to cut much lower. This enables us to keep the fescue sward happy & stress free.
Typically, this can be another challenging month as golfers expectations are certainly high. With the changing weather patterns, this can perhaps be the hardest month to deal with. The hardest hurdle tends to be the sudden changes in weather temperatures. We can go from 7c up to 23c within a few days, but luckily we have such a good sward coverage that I am not fighting for growth so can get very good smooth greens. We will ramp up our cutting by now & will roll a couple of times a week at this stage. We also improve by spraying seaweed on a monthly basis in addition to the wetting agent.
This is the real growing month! The fescue will be in full force by now. The seaweed & wetting application in full flow so it will be all about keeping moisture levels pretty constant. I will look to keep them at between 16% – 20% . By now the poa is looking really stressed and for me this then tends to be a great opportunity for me to verti cut the greens at around -1 mm below. This tends to help me in my fight against the bent grasses & the poa and I also use a granular fertilizer & apply an 8-0-0 feed. This will be followed up by a very light overseed of fescue at a rate of around 12g/m2. By now we in full flow of top dressing every two or three weeks. This will be very light at around 11 tonnes an application and we tend to roll it in then irrigate to wash in as by doing this we feel we don’t have to brush in. This is so we can be gentle on the fescue & minimize any abrasive actions.
June tends to be just making sure we keep our moisture levels constant which is important. We will be cutting every day & will sporadically use the greens iron to keep things smooth. On top of this we will we will hand weed if the need arises. By now we are just on the routine monthly applications of seaweed wetting agent & the top dressing are applied fortnightly. This continues until October.
July is more of the same, but by now we are really concerned with moisture levels, but to help with this we will hand water. It is important we don’t over water as we want to help the fescue thrive & keep the poa at bay. A few years back this would have been the month I applied a summer feed of 8-0-0, but with climate change I have since put back our fertilizer feed until later in the year.
This sees us continue with our monthly action plans, but by now we will probably be reviewing some pencil tiningto alleviate some compaction & aid the penetration of water through the soil. We will carry this out throughout the summer on a ad hoc basis dependent on the correct timing. In conjunction with this I will have also sarelroll throughout the year but will be crucial we go into the Autumn in good shape.
Early September will see us tine the greens again & continue with the sand dressings. At this point, I will overseed a pure fescue mix into them at around 18g/m2 to take advantage of the soil temperatures. The height of cut will still be retained at 5mm, however I may attempt to roll a few times instead of cutting to help the new seedlings along. If required, we will not roll or cut to help protect the seed.
With the nights drawing in & disease pressure at a high risk, we will do everything possible to dispense of any moisture & keep the greens dry. Cutting will now be slowing down so we will roll occasionally or alternatively, dewy the greens. Remnant weeds still lingering will be hand picked so as to avoid any chemical applications.
If we are likely to verti drain this is the month we would do this. The majority will try to go earlier, but due to playing demands, we tend to stick to this month.
We didn’t verti drain last November and slitted the greens instead. We did this four times last November at two weekly cycles. Another procedure I carried out last November for the first time was give the greens an 8-0-0 granular feed. The weather pattern was changing and I feel this was a necessary change to our plans. This meant we went into winter very healthy & with a much better plant adapt to disease. It meant I wasn’t chasing for growth in the early spring. In fact I will not have applied any fertilizer until May thus helping the greens perform better than ever.
December allows us to ease back on everything, but we still seem to get some growth so find ourselves still cutting once a week. With the slit tining continuing, we still try to apply very light sand dressings if the weather is conducive to this. Of course, as usual we will dry to keep the greens dry by dewy brushing the greens.
This is my guideline but is always changing. This plan works for me but every course is different so it really depends on your site ,weather patterns etc as to how you manage your greens. I hope this proves a helpful insight as to how we manage ours here at Royal St George’s.