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 minerals and nutrients which act to increase the soil flora and fauna content.

This 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, it is classed as a soil conditioner, but in my experience is an essential part of a good maintenance regime. See examples here. It can be used as a fine ground meal, calcified, or most commonly on fine turf as a concentrated liquid.

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 aeration, and not enough balanced nutrition. Aeration, spiking and slitting, is essential, as compaction limits the ability of the grass plants to make use of nutrients in the soil efficiently.

Compaction will also lead to the formation of a thatch layer, dead and dying material that will naturally decompose and be incorporated into a healthy 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 past year, which kills the grass in these areas due to the lack of a sustainable root system.

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 slitting to be far more effective than hollow coring which softens the surface leading to unevenness, and possible weed invasion.

The ideal program would be to deep slit, 6″ to 8″ depth, alternately with chisel slitting, 4″ depth. every three to four weeks over the Autumn/Winter period.  This should be supplemented by hand forking in the dry patch areas to ensure good penetration of the wetting agent. Find wetting agent here.

Over the Spring/Summer period the chisel tines should be used three to four times, with sarrell rolling as well if available.

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 a kilo per knapsack  of urea or ammonia. Find the seaweed liquid here. Find nitrogen here.

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, find a scarifier here, followed by applying about three tons of good quality sandy top-dressing on each occasion.

If the playing season starts early the main top dressing should be applied in Autumn, as growth will not be strong enough in early Spring to incorporate the dressing. Find top dressing here. This is when poor levels can be addressed as well.

5   –   Pearlwort is a often 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. Selective weed killer here. All creeping weeds can be dealt with this way, and rosette types like daisy/dandylion, should be removed manually.

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!