Crazy Bowling Green Turnaround!
With the Commonwealth Games in full swing and with Victoria Park Leamington Spa swept up in the action of the lawn bowls, we thought it was the perfect time to share a very special side project with you! It's heavy on the grass chat but stick with us - the images tell the story too!
Lawn Dethatching and Fertilisation to the Extreme!
Our Founder Jack has been quietly working on this crown-green bowls green with his Dad Dave since October 2021 at Atherstone Grove Sports and Social Club, North Warwickshire. This club has a personal tie for Jack, who were in need of help last year with their bowling green in a very poor condition. It was sad to see given the high praise the green used to receive, coupled with the then recent passing's of highly regarded members.
The green was suffering from excessive thatch and moss along with poor grass cover – and this was just at the surface level. The green had received no nutritional inputs or work besides mowing for around two years and it was showing. Inspection of soil samples showed trouble which could be dated back further still, with the soil hydrophobic in many areas but more alarmingly, a well-defined root-pan at a depth of just 60mm. These were conditions that we wouldn’t be happy with in one of our lawns, let alone a fine turf surface!
Aerating to different depths is vital for happy roots. It came as no surprise that on using their SISIS drum aerator and measuring the depth of the holes, that it gained a depth of 60mm. This had to change.
Dethatching a Bowling Green...
It was all to start with one of our much-loved renovations, but the turnaround of a bowling green from this position was always going to take much more than a weekend.
Aggressive scarification, hollow-tine aeration, overseeding and wetting agent application was carried out to freshen up the surface, with the biggest skip we’ve ever filled with thatch. Without the help of the members this simply wouldn’t have been possible as this was one epic dethatching project!
The green was slow to recover as expected, but the work realistically had only just started. Repeated aeration with a range of chisel and solid tines was required with our superior Groundsman aerator to depths of between 90mm and 125mm. Aeration of this intensity wouldn't have happened here for many years.
Regular wetting agent applications were made following what was quite disruptive aeration given the rooting was so shallow. The watering system was even used briefly in late November to give wetting agent and liquid seaweed products their best chance of benefitting the soil structure.
As expected given the soil conditions germination from the renovation work was average to poor at best. We finally got the rootzone rehydrated with further aeration and wetting agent prior to a wet week between Christmas and New Year. This was the first big issue overcome.
Soil Analysis / Fertiliser Programming and Machinery Overhaul
Given the condition of the green, unfortunately the state of play in the shed wasn’t much better. With machinery servicing and a stock take of what was to be of most use going forward we had restored some order off the green.
With no fertiliser applications made on the green for a long time, and no knowledge of what had gone on beside a lot of empty containers this needed to be addressed. Sand-based soils, and all the more so on surfaces being cut to 5mm height needs a source of nutrition – all the more so than lawn fertilisation given the lower heights of cut and the higher stresses placed on the surface.
The reasoning behind a soil analysis over the winter would be to test the soil at a time where there were minimal nutrients in the ground, find out what was present, deficient and abundant and calculate a cost-effective programme from there.
This was the largest skip we could gain - and the bowling green is only 1225m2!
Winter 2022 - The Aeration Programme!
With the cylinder mower back in full working order following servicing and repairs, we could get onto reducing the height of cut from around 12mm that it had to be maintained at with a rotary mower, to slowly reducing this down to 8mm for the end of February. With the agronomic work completed, fertiliser was calculated and ordered, ready for a first application in early March to bring potassium levels back up to scratch, along with aiding the soil biology. The mild weather had helped grass growth, and we had made the most of the rain, getting it through the soil profile.
PS - this could be key to the recovery of lawns in 2022-23 also - aeration and wetting agent required to rehydrate the soil
The root pan and areas of dry patch made this aeration work disruptive - but we soon had the issue in retreat with the correct mechanical work and products across the winter months. Our Groundsman aerator was able to reach a depth of 105mm with Chisel tines between Christmas and New Year. We were looking far better than in October with still a long way to go.
More solid tine aeration was carried out in early March with this being a final one of the winter for the Groundsman Aerator to a depth of 125mm. This was prior to a range of fertiliser applications with the green now being cut at 7mm.
We waited as patiently as possible until April before overseeding the green, even with the soil temperature being a little cooler than the ideal. The worst and shadiest areas were sheeted for 10 days to protect the seed. Regular cutting resumed, and a further fertiliser application made. All we were lacking was some warmth in the soil to get the grass moving and filling out.
More holes! Rooting was improving with roots rushing down aeration holes, moisture was through the green, it was now just a case of it coming together on the surface at we reached the start of the season in mid-April
May - July - The Summer Bowling Season!
The green started the bowling season still in recovery with thin in areas and bumpy in places. This was due to not having a cylinder mower to cut the green with for a number of weeks through the winter months, combined with the aggressive aeration programme which was much needed short term pain to disrupt the rootzone.
As the soil temperature and increased and the grass responded, week by week the surface improved in terms of its playability, health, colour and density. Bumps became minor ripples on the surface, and bare patches closed up into either small spots or a full grass cover. Execution of the fertiliser programme, regular verticutting and not dropping the blades inside 5mm had encouraged existing grasses to thicken up and fill out, with a far healthier rootzone and only minimal thatch in the surface.
Fortunately, we were able to build enough density into the green before the hot July conditions where the green picked up in speed and the surface dried out. With the irrigation system, enough water has been applied to provide the grass with some life-support, while maintaining a fast summer green to the advantage of the home bowlers!
The bowls green in June being cut by Steve at 5mm now a drastically improved surface in terms of its playability, health and appearance from 2021. The green is in a good place now and will be even better for the 2023 season with a less intensive autumn and winter ahead!
Can We Help Your Lawn?
It is always underestimated if it be a lawn, bowling green or cricket square as to what can be achieved over the ‘off’ season. Whatever you project is, if your lawn is firm enough to work on then do not let this time go to waste, as we didn’t in this example at 'The Grove'! Our recent winters have been quite short and sharp in the West Midlands. The building blocks of a fantastic lawn can be put in place all year around.
We’re proud as a business to have some leading local turf care brains who have had extensive experience across a range of lawn and sports turf settings. Where as we’re not looking to create a bowling green in any rear gardens, the in-depth grass and product knowledge that we possess is what our customers say sets us apart, along with the passion and professionalism required for the best possible results from a lawn care service.
If our service can be of help to you, you can speak to us today on 01827 826123 or get in touch via our contact form below.