Fighting Bowling Green Dry Patch & Compaction: The Seaweed Cure

bowling green dry patch can be dealt with using seaweed and other methods

Harvesting Seaweed

I received a question recently that I thought was worth sharing on the site. It was regarding the use of seaweed fertiliser and whether it can combat both bowling green dry patch and compaction.

Bowling green maintenance is obviously a subject I’m quite passionate about, and deeply experienced in. I think there are a lot of people out there that could benefit from the answer, so I hope it’s helpful to you.

As always, if you have any questions, or want to have a chat about your own bowling green maintenance, get in contact with me. Let’s have a look at the question:

Would you recommend the use of liquid seaweed fertilizer throughout all of the bowling green season (Here – last week in April – 1st week in September?) Would you supplement it with other fertilizers?


We have been told we have patches of Pearlwort, but no disease and that the overriding problem is poor nutrition, compaction and a condition called Dry Patch. Could this deterioration of the green be due to the late frosts we had plus the high temperatures we have experienced this summer? We have not had problems in the past. Our green has always been one of the best in the area and is chosen by the county to host their matches.


Our new green keeper is adamant that liquid seaweed is not a good fertilizer, in spite of the fact that our previous green keeper used it for 15 years. Your comments would be appreciated.

So, plenty of questions in there – let’s see if I can help!

Bowling Green Maintenance at it's best at Ayr Northfield

The ladies World Championships at Ayr Northfield, under my management.

Why Use Seaweed as Feed for Bowling Greens

Seaweed is a fantastic soil conditioner which can be used to great benefit all year round on any sports turf situation.

Seaweed contains well over sixty nutrients which act to increase the soil flora and fauna content, which in turn increases the ability of the grass plants to take up and use efficiently the nutrients essential to producing a healthy turf. It also contains iodene which is a great aid in reducing the incidence of disease.

Seaweed is not a fertilizer on its own, but is an essential part of a good maintenance regime for the reasons given above.

Dealing with Bowling Green Dry Patch and Compaction

The conditions you describe in your letter, including the dry patch on your bowling green, are indicative of a green that has not been receiving enough nitrogen. It’s most probably suffering from compaction which limits further the ability of the grass plants to make use of nutrients in the soil.

Dry patch is a good indicator of compaction as once the soil dries out it becomes hydrophobic, becoming very difficult to re-wet, especially noticeable in very hot temperatures as in this year, which kills the grass in these areas.

A Bowling Green Dry Patch Maintenance Programme

The operations required to restore the green to good condition are as follows.

1   –  Intensive aeration, especially on the areas affected by bowling green dry patch. I have always found slit tining to be far more effective than hollow coring which softens the surface leading to unevenness. This should be supplemented by hand forking in the dry patch areas to ensure good penetration of the wetting agent.

2   –  Ensure a balanced fertilizer is used in conjunction with the seaweed. You can purchase seaweed liquid with nitrogen and potassium already added, something like an 8.0.4 ratio is ideal applied three to four times from Spring to early Autumn. Or you can add your own nitrogen, a lot cheaper, by adding urea or ammonia.

3   –   Wetting agent will be required to help alleviate the dry patch problems by aiding water penetration. This is best applied after each aeration operation.

4   –   Scarifying in Autumn and Spring, followed by applying about three tons of good quality sandy top-dressing on each occasion. This is when poor levels can be addressed as well.

5   –   Pearlwort is a symptom of poor nutrition, allowing it to get a foothold in the weak grass sward. It is easily killed by spot treating with a selective weedkiller.

In summery, I do not think the late Spring will be a factor in the deterioration of the green, rather a combination of that and the very hot spell showing up the problems with the maintenance regime.

I hope you find this of help to you in diagnosing and dealing with bowling green dry patch, and do not hesitate to contact me with any further questions. You can always contact me via our contact page, by phone or email, or leave a comment using the box below.

I can also supply you with a comprehensive maintenance programme to cover your needs if required. Just get in touch!

Duncan has been a Golf Head Greenkeeper thirty five years, with experience in sports pitches, public parks and bowling greens, including the world bowling championships at Ayr Northfield. Since 1991 he has run a turf advisory company, including Lawn Care services, and this has now morphed into Lawns For You and the site you see today. More about Duncan... Google+ Duncan


  1. Leslie Shaw

    Terrible season 2013 with bare patches and compaction.SEPT2013 Scarified green then hollow tined, added winter fertliser then overseeded. Top dressed with 5 tons of 70-30. OCTOBER 2013 then decided to add wetting agent granules,firm recommended autumn application. FROM APRIL 2013 green spiked 3 times and slit once. Grass is growing over most areas and compaction is getting better. I’m not in possession of pedestrian sprayer. Interested to know if sea weed extract would help further.

  2. Leslie Shaw

    April 2013 to Sept 2013 terrible season with bare patches and compaction over most of bowling green, never looked so bad in history. Sept 2013 scarified green then hollow tined, added winter fertiliser then overseeded. Top dressed with 5 tons of 70-30. Then decided to add wetting agent granules on suppliers advice (autumn application} During last season I spiked the green three times and also slit once. Grass is beginning to grow over most areas and compaction is getting better. Interested to know if sea weed extract would help further. Not in possession of pedestrian sprayer.

  3. had a bit of dry patch managed to cure by spiking and using wetting agent ,our problem is i do not have a machine to spike the green so have to employ a contracter which can be expensive will try and get it spiked once every month during season have been advised by our fertilizer rep that as we use liquid sprays from april till mid september to go for the highist nitrogen fertilizer working on the basis that this will be diluted to some degree , my only concern using i high nitrogen content will encourge a lush growth making it more prown to fusirum despite this still played exceponaly well this year
    any thoughts please

    • Hi Howard,

      You are right in trying to spike as often as possible, followed by wetting agent on each occasion. Do not listen to the high nitrogen theory. Liquids are taken in very quickly, especially when using wetting agent in conjunction.
      Seaweed based liquids get the best out of all nutrients, and help to prevent disease year through. My normal Summer applications are monthly in May, June, July, and August with 3-0-10 +1%mg which stands the grass up giving a lovely smooth fast surface.
      I would be happy to give you a full program of fertilizer etc which would also save you a lot of money, as we are introducing a new bowling green shop section. e-mail me on and I can give you more detail.

    • Hi Howard,

      I omitted to say that you are perfectly correct in assuming that high nitrogen will produce soft growth more prone to wear and disease damage.The fertilizer rep is not providing good advise, but then it is their job to sell!

  4. hi duncan
    thanks for your reply
    my present summer program began in april 2015
    recomendations by rep as follows our green is 1600 mt square
    nb i used marathon outfield fertilizer during the autum and winter working on the principle that the grass is kept between 10mm and 12mm there fore larger granules would take longer to break down
    now spring and summer
    march /april evolution 8-0-5
    may till september every two weeks
    primo max + 35-o-o fertilizer
    seavalution + aquazorb 45
    also haveing green spiked once a month ,the green is playing well but think i have two dry patches developing have started to fork the patches and run a small hose on them for about 15 minutes , because the grass is slow to grow everything is about 3 to 4 weeks behind noticed tips of the grass in places had a white tip to them called in the rep , the explanation which sounds fesible was that the primo max had done its job by limiting the top growth but because everything was behind the grass had not developed enough strength to take advantge of the primo max, i have since consulted the rep and have been advised by him to replace the primo max with a spring and summer fertilizer in conjunction with the 35 0 0 and when growth stars to pick up go back to the primo max
    our green is an all fescue grass
    sorry so long winded but woul appeciate your thoughts

    • Hi Howard,

      I am shocked at the fertilizer levels being applied as they would be way above I have ever experienced in my forty years of green keeping.

      Fescue grasses do not need high levels of nitrogen to produce a healthy sward, and I am surprised any rep worth his salt would recommend this program, other than to boost commission levels!

      Your Spring fertilizer application would be fine, but I would not in any way recommend the applications rates being used over the Summer months. The seaweed liquid along with wetting agent and a little nitrogen and potassium applied once per month would be a more sensible approach, and lead to a healthier and better quality playing surface. It would also save a lot of money!!

      I have not mentioned primo max because in my experience it is not necessary, especially on fescue, to produce a high quality playing surface. The white tips on the grass are evidence of damage caused by over application, and I have witnessed recently severe depletion of fescue in the sward because of this.

      Regular spiking is always desirable, and forking the dry patches along with water and some seaweed will certainly help.

      On your Winter program I would say the cutting height is a little high, as you need to keep the surface as dry as possible to avoid disease and moss problems. Long grass holds a lot of moisture that the wind would dry of if kept shorter, around 8 mil is high enough.

      Very little fertilizer is required by the grass plant in Winter, so an Autumn/Winter application in late September applied after the Autumn renovation is sufficient, with a couple of applications of lawn sand and regular spiking over the Winter.

      If you would like to discuss in more detail then please contact me directly by e-mail or phone.


  5. i like this post, we visit again for more updates , thanks for sharing this article.

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