The majority of a turf care professionals remedial maintenance is carried out during the non playing season there is, inevitably, much work that has to be completed either side of matches and tournaments.
To keep a bowling green in top class condition a greenkeeper will have to balance the needs and demands of a clubs playing membership against the needs and demands of the grass root-zone.
An exceptional amount of foot traffic will walk up and down the rink an compound the soil surface. This compaction makes it difficult for the roots of the grass to breathe.
Getting down to depths that interfere with drainage is not so easy. However, here at Terrain Aeration we have become specialised in treating the sub soil areas of bowling green playing surfaces whilst the season is in progress - all with little or no disruption.
The Lancashire green has been suffering from persistent surface water retention following heavy rainfall. Terrain Arrived on site at 10.40am, not bad considering we had travelled 230 miles from our Suffolk base.
The first visit was to deal with persistent surface water at Seedfield bowls club in Bury was the greatest challenge, not due to the green but because the only access being via some steep slabbed steps descending eight or nine feet from the road level entrance.
Out with ramps, ropes and timbers to construct a safe, if not steep access way down and we eased Scamper and its compressor down to the green and work began at about 1PM.
Working at two metre spacings in lines parallel to the side of the green and with two metres between the lines, we avoided the white lines marking the drains and underground services while following our own orange guide rope. This guide rope was accurately spaced using two metre measuring rods ensures a neat and efficient grid pattern of one metre deep treatment sites.
Work progressed slowly at first with the heavy red clay subsoil causing numerous probe blockages. Treating a bowls green is a delicate compromise between sufficient pressure to fracture often obdurate subsoils and the need to avoid blowing humps and bubbles or splitting the delicate turf surface. Eventually the pressure was wound up to 15 bar and all went well. We achieved good surface movement with minimal surface damage
The club members had very neatly lined out the run of the somewhat complex drains and sewers running beneath the green using a white twine.
This well engineered drainage system was exactly what we had to avoid hitting with our JCB breaker powered steel probe :Note the heavy red clay subsoil around the pipes.
A team of club members all mucked in to backfill the probe holes to about 100 mm below surface and top them up with some topdressing materials. Once a few rows were complete, Brian the Chemist, there are several Brians, the Chairman, the treasurer and a couple of others, got out his woods and was bowling test woods in various directions over the treated areas. Having satisfied himself and the rest of the members they were able to confirm that the match planned for that evening could go ahead!
After our relatively late start due to travelling and the awkward access, there was only enough time to complete half of the green before removing the equipment from the green at about 5 PM. This meant that the bowlers were out in force with one half of the green treated and the other half to be completed. Bear in mind that crown green bowlers choose the direction they wish to play across the green and are not confined to parallel rinks as in the flat green version of the game.
We arranged to return at 8.00am the following day to complete the works only to be amazed to be handed the keys to the entire club and being told 'to let ourselves in' and make ourselves at home with tea, coffee and refreshments available for the taking should we wish.
Back on site the following morning we let ourselves in and began work, gradually the members arrived, some, including the chairman, merely walk out a gate in their back garden and they are in the club grounds. I asked how the match had gone and how the green area of the green performed. The answers was instructive:
Apparently, those that won their matches said the treated area was excellent and allowed them to play really well, those that lost blamed the treated green and couldn’t put a wood where they wanted it. In any case a good night was had by all.
Work continued until the green was completed and the machinery was dragged up the slope and loaded ready for the short trip to Leyland.
At 8.00am the following day we arrived at Leyland and because there was an easy access we were set up and running in less than an hour.
The Floodlit Fox Lane green is used throughout the year and this means that it must be very free draining as evaporation of the heavy winter rains just does not happen and, while some of the members prefer to stay in the warm, there are sufficient diehards to keep the green busy through the winter with play only stopping in times of frost and snow.
Last winter the green was unplayable for long periods due to standing water. This caused some of the winter league organisers to muttering darkly about expelling Fox Lane unless the situation improved for the new season. The club have responded using a truly multi-pronged approach (Pun intended) and the green had been vertidrained to 12” the day before we arrived.
Once again we setup our guide line and when we asked about drains, there was no-one left alive who knew where they were as the green was laid over 150 years ago! We were asked to go ahead but to take a bit of care if sudden resistance was felt!
The first runs were in an area that was very dry due to nearby trees and this was hard going. Once into the main body of the green it became apparent that there was a band of heavy red clay subsoil across the centre 10 metres of the green that could not be treated by the normal method because it simply bunged up the probes every time.
Instead the hole was bored and air released without seaweed injection, to just shatter the soil. The air receivers were recharged to 17 bar and then seaweed was injected into the already shattered subsoil. This double shotting was effective and although a lot slower than normal it was much faster than continually clearing the probe by hand. This wide are of clay subsoil added at least two hours to the time needed to treat the green
Once again the bowls soon came out to test the treated green, there was some bounce caused by the vertidrain holes but no change caused by the heaving action of the Terralift.
After backfilling the Terralift holes with Lytag and 100 mm of top dressing the excess top dressing was swept into the vertidrain holes and then on came the mower. The lawn hardly needed cutting but the roller on the mower was sufficient to remove most of the vertidrain induced bounce.
Finished at 3.00pm and went home!