I haven't had much time to blog lately and it's definitely something I need to make more time for. At the moment I write all the blogs in the evenings at home but lately the kids have had their own ideas for my time! I guess that's what happens as they get older.
I started a blog about three weeks ago and never got chance to finish and publish it but reading it back today I am glad I didn't. I was writing just after the maintenance week work and wanted to talk about how the GDD (growth rates) were showing we were on course to hit 180 GDD (our magic growth number) by the end of March and that we were flying as far as spring was concerned...
Wow, that will teach me! As since then the wheels have literally fallen off of spring.
At one point we were looking like 59 days ahead of last year (we knew 2016 spring was cold from the start) but those have been crawling back and we are now only 19 days ahead of last year.
Interesting the last three years February to March has had better growth than March to April!
Now I can hear you all thinking I have gone mad. The suns been out and the weather has been lovely! So what's he going on about? Well yes the day time temperatures have been good but for us the two big issues have been the night time temperatures and the lack of rainfall.
The night temperatures are dropping so much that growth is not happening as the soils are still cold because of the night temperatures, which isn't a bad thing for us apart from its the weeks following Course Maintenance week and we want the greens to recover quickly.
As they say "Ne'er cast a clout till May be out" (Dr. Thomas Fuller 1732), this old English saying simply means 'never discard your [warm winter] clothing till May be out' and how true this is at the moment. We are still getting frosts!
The second part of the issue lately is the lack of rainfall. Whatever happened to 'April showers'!
The answer to that is May. Our data shows that May has been wetter than April the last few years but this is by far the driest April I have ever known with 5mm falling and so far three weeks without a single drop of rain.
Adding to this, our Irrigation system has been drained down due to new irrigation sprinklers being installed to all the greens and aprons around the course has meant priming irrigation system up and draining down just to get some water on the greens to wash in top dressing & give it the moisture it requires and the problem with this?...
Adding irrigation water on to greens cools the soil temperatures down so a vicious circle of greens requiring water, soil temperatures being low and then lowered by the water meaning less growth. For me watering is essential still as low growth and recovery won't last forever but dead through drought will.
I normally say we a rocking growth wise by the middle of May or the FA cup final as I say too. Let's hope I am not wrong again as this cool dry April has been not been great for us.
So what have we learnt from this? How do we improve? Well already looking at next years diary and we are going to book two dates in for the early Maintenance week. One being end of February and one in March. Now depending on the winter we are having will determine the week we will use but GDD graphs show that in the last four years February to March has been warmer causing a flush of growth before cooling for March to April. So if it's dry enough for us to get the equipment round I would like to go earlier if possible on the greens to get this recovery.
What's been going on out on the course?
It's a busy time for us out on the course, seeding worn areas, adding the spring fertilisers, turfing worn areas, woodland management.
All the greens sprinklers have been replaced with new ones. The big difference is that old sprinklers (19 years old) worked at 360 degrees and the new ones will work at 180 these also have the option that we can add what they call a 'tail' this is a rear nozzle allowing us to get certain areas where we want to add water. Our old sprinklers didn't give us this option meaning water was going onto pathways, heather, trees etc. In the long run this will save us water and allow us to have enough water to give all areas (greens, tees and aprons) a proper water and once the aprons sprinklers are replaced (before the summer) our uniformity of will be better.
We are also giving the course a bit of spring clean. Some of the tidying jobs have included:
Astro turfing the steps around the course. This is not just an anti slip measure but will improve manual handling as weeding will be reduced.
Painting of the course furniture, sheds and signage is on going. It's amazing how much better things look with a lick of paint.
The pathways are starting to get topped up in places and this is an entire blog in itself to explain the pathway issues. This also normally works when we require rain because previously every time I have ever put pathway materials down it tends to hammer down with rain and wash them away pretty soon after, so the running joke in Greenkeeping is if it gets to dry top your pathways up :-)
You may have noticed we are trialling hand mowing tees. I personally think these look great and give a better look to the holes. The down side is it takes more man hours but sometimes I think it's worth it.
Just a quick one from me. Hope that has explained a few things to you and I will keep the blogs coming. Let's hope for a good May weather wise.