The key to a great game of bowls is an excellent, well-maintained bowling lawn that everyone can enjoy. Keeping your bowling green looking flawless takes some work but this guide is designed to help you understand exactly what to do to keep your lawn looking fresh. Whether you’ve never cared for a bowling green before or you’re an experienced groundsperson, we will cover everything from bowling green ditch liners to lawn maintenance.
A well-maintained bowling green can last for decades before it may need to be renovated. Therefore, it’s worth investing the time into your turf, not only for the club to enjoy a perfect bowling green, but also to keep it healthy for years to come. From sarel rollers to grass paint, we’ll discuss everything you need to keep a first-class bowling green.
Here’s our guide to caring for your bowling lawn and bowling green ditches.
Mowing is the most important practice of maintaining a good surface and you’ll need to use a specialised lawn turf mower with at least ten cutting blades. These are a worthwhile investment as there really aren’t any other alternatives that will do the job properly. You can check your mower’s blade by inserting a piece of paper in between the cylinder and bottom blade and it should cut cleanly through the paper.
By the end of March, you will want your grass to be cut to a height of 6 mm. If you haven’t reached this height yet, lower the height of your blade by ½ mm until you reach the desired length. You can buy a tool to help you check the height of the grass so you can gain a better idea of how often to cut it. You should aim to cut the green twice a week during spring, as it will be growing fast at this point. Mow the grass from corner to corner, alternating between corners on each cut.
In April, you should start lowering the height of your mower by ½ mm each week to reach 5 mm and cut the grass up to three times a week. Whether you take the grass lower than 5 mm depends on if the members of your club like fast or slow greens and the type of grass you have. Finer grasses such as fescue bowl faster than grasses like annual meadow grass.
Whilst mowing, it is a good time to check your turf for any signs of disease, infection or deterioration so that if any problems do occur, you’ll be able to fix the issue early on and it won’t cause any further disruption to the club.
Scarifying is the technique used to remove dead and dying material known as thatch and fyber. This helps to let light and air into the green and vertically prunes the grass, stimulating lateral growth. You can scarify throughout the season but not in winter as exposing the grass crown to frost will damage the plant.
You can use a thatch removal reel in autumn and early spring if there is a thatch problem. However, you can also use the method of verti cutting, a less aggressive form of scarifying, two weeks after the application of early spring fertiliser.
You should continue scarifying every two to three weeks throughout the season, alternating the corners each time.
Fertilisers and conditioners
Bowling greens experience a lot of wear and tear from feet, bowls and equipment, so fertiliser is needed to promote growth and keep it healthy. Conditioners assist the grass in uptaking the nutrients by targeting the soil and increasing the microbial and bacterial content and supplying micronutrients.
You should aim to apply the first fertiliser of the year in March when the weather starts to feel a little warmer. You can match this timing with the local farmers when they start to fertilise their fields in spring. You should be using fertiliser with iron to help kill moss – and no phosphate or potassium.
During the season, you can use liquid fertiliser so that it doesn’t affect the game of bowls, as powders can be messy. Use a liquid fertiliser containing nitrogen, potassium and seaweed at the end of May and July. If the season is particularly wet, you may have to apply more to compensate for nutrients leaching out.
Aeration is essential for ensuring water penetrates the surface and drains through to the root and creates space for the roots to grow and absorb nutrients. How often you will need to aerate depends on what the green consists of, for example, sand drains much faster than loams or clay soils.
A good method is to alternate between deep slitting and chisel tines every two weeks from October to March. During the summer months, use solid pencil tines or chisel tines once a month to keep the surface open. A sarel roller will work well and you can deploy this every two to three weeks throughout the season. Make sure you only spike in the same direction to promote root growth and avoid damage to the green.
Watering the green is important to keep it alive but you don’t want to water it so much that it makes the grass and soil too soft to play on. You can use automatic watering systems but make sure to only soak the grass every three days, this will ensure the roots have the right amount of moisture. If it is particularly hot, then a quick one minute spray with water during the day will help keep the turf cool.
Rolling ensures the surface of the bowling green is flat by compacting the turf down. This shouldn’t be done too often as it can inhibit growth, however, if combined with spiking, can help to increase the speed of the green. You can use pedestrian trulevel rollers or a motorised version to help keep the green flat and playable.
Lawn equipment such as bowling green markers
Another part of being a groundsperson is ensuring the lawn is ready for play and that game accessories such as bowling green markers and coloured disc markers are available and ready for game play. Other equipment includes a bowls gatherer and rink protection mats to ensure the turf is not agitated by constant playing.
Bowls ditch liners
It’s also important to maintain your bowls ditch liners as these may need some attention if most of your time is spent caring for the bowling lawn. Check there are no blockages in the drainage system as you don’t want water to pool in the ditches. If there are any blockages you may need to clear the drain out with drain rods, to ensure a good flow of water from your bowls ditch.
It’s also worth regularly checking underneath bowls ditch liners to ensure there is no build up of debris or anything growing underneath. Smooth, rubber bowls ditch liners are much easier to clean and are recommended for use in bowls bitches. These are also much easier to fit in ditches as they can be cut down to the right size.
Sportsmark – The one stop shop for all bowls green equipment
Sportsmark is a UK provider of sports ground equipment including groundsman’s equipment and sports products. Whatever you need to keep your bowls lawn looking pristine, we have it! From bowling green ditch channels and bowls ditch liners to bowling green access steps and ramps.
We also provide a range of indoor bowls equipment so our equipment can help you however you choose to enjoy the game of bowls.
Sportsmark also provides road marking services, so we can provide you with speed bumps, litter and grit bins, reflective road studs and antisocial studs to help keep your club and surrounding area safe. To find out more about our services, visit our website or call 08000 197 733 for more information.