Regular top dressing also helps us to control the level of organic matter in the soil by diluting it and creating conditions conducive to organic matter breakdown. This is important because if organic matter levels build up we get soft, thatchy surfaces, reduced playing quality and plant health issues such as disease, water retention and impeded drainage. Our target range for organic matter levels in the greens' root-zone is 4% to 6% and we're currently at 7% to 8%.
We've been using Fendress, a mixture of sand and fen soil to top dress the greens since 1989. Continuity is important with top top dressing to prevent layering in the soil profile which causes a number of problems such as root breaks and impeded drainage.
We aim to put about 100 tonnes per year of top dressing on the main course greens, usually in six applications spaced four to six weeks apart. The actual rate on the day varies from half a tonne per green to a tonne per green depending on factors such as grass growth rate, weather conditions, fixtures and whether we have done renovation work such as aeration or over-seeding.
Timing of top dressing application depends on a number of factors. Firstly grass growth is required so that the material can be incorporated into the base of the sward. Weather conditions play a big part as we can't top dress effectively if it is raining or the greens are wet. The timing of the programme is also affected by major golf events and other fixtures, we would not normally top dress during the three weeks before a major event.
After top dressing we rarely cut the next day and for a few days we use an old mower to prevent the blades of our best mower from being blunted by the sand.
|Jerry top dressing the 15th green|