Around the grounds
As we wave goodbye to March, we also welcome back Members to outdoors sports. The team have been working diligently throughout lockdown to prepare the sports areas for Members’ return. Adhering to the coronavirus restrictions, this has been a protracted process due to social distancing and the need to rotate the teams to reduce the likelihood of cross infection. But we have brought the Club’s sporting facilities through probably one of the more difficult winters and now, hopefully with an improvement in the weather, we shall see turf growth very soon.
A marker of how little growth there has been during this winter will be evident to anyone who plays golf regularly at the Club. Divots on tees which were created last November, before lockdown, are still not repaired, despite being over seeded countless times this winter. Grass is very susceptible to soil temperature fluctuations and as the days shorten and night time temperatures fall, the grass plant will shut down to conserve energy as soil temperatures hover in the single digits or as a minus. Seed will not germinate unless there are consistent soil temperatures of around 12 to 14 degrees, which means it’s not until April or May that you see a true growth spurt if you are seeding turf unaided. I emphasize that this is soil temperatures and not ambient, or air temperature, which can improve earlier in spring before the ground warms up, usually more slowly and over weeks, not days.
Grow covers and pre-germinating seed helps but this can only be used in specific environments due to the cost implication and practicality. In horticulture we often talk about windows of opportunity to do tasks and this is certainly true for the likes of overseeding sports areas. There is little benefit in overseeding fairways, in November or January for example, when soil temperatures are so low, as you are going to lose a high percentage of seed, as it will sit and rot before spring arrives. This is why the tennis court renovations are so crucial in September, to take advantage of the last vestiges of the residual heat in the soil to raise a crop of good grass for the following year’s courts before the winter arrives. Growing grass seed is a fickle game – too cold and it will not grow and too hot and it will not germinate. There is a possible 12-week ‘window’ per year when the conditions are perfect for the highest percentage for grass to grow in abundance. You often see or hear staff (and other Members) appealing for Members to replace divots, pitch marks and use divot boxes on the par three holes. Part of the reason is that replaced turf which has been removed from playing surfaces is so difficult to replace with new seed all year around.
An Easter excursion to Cyprus
Easter is probably my favourite holiday in the calendar as it usually heralds spring and the opening out of daylight hours. I have spent a great deal of my working career in Cyprus, opening golf resort courses and have been lucky to experience the culture and way of life of this unique Mediterranean island. Easter has precedence over Christmas on the island, being of an Orthodox Christian background and so the marking of the holiday begins with a Mardi Gras style event with the Limassol Carnival Festival (pictured above) being considered one of the most notable carnival events worldwide.
The event is held twelve days before the start of Lent, on the Sunday before Ash Monday, 50 days before Orthodox Easter. The festival is a colourful 10-day event of people eating, singing, wearing costumes, and attending parties. The festival culminates with a large parade, which includes an array of floats traversing the city. The first day of Great Lent, on the seventh Monday before Easter, locally is known as Green Monday.
Lent is still taken seriously by a large part of the population so the observance of avoiding meat as a part of meals during this period is still common. As an official public holiday, many families or groups of friends go out into the fields for a picnic on this day.
Grass, in general in Cyprus is a commodity that is only seen in the countryside immediately following the winter rains. As summer ensues, unless grassland is irrigated for a specific reason then the fields usually burn off to parched straw. Therefore the site of green fields and the unique flora that is abundant is a welcome sight for many Cypriots as it is the marker that winter has passed and spring is a pleasant time before the hot, oppressive summer begins. Thursday of Holy Week is when the wonderful aromas begin to drift out into the streets as this is traditionally the day when housewives start preparing the ‘flaounes’ (small loaves made of flour, eggs, cheese, mint and sometimes raisins).
I was adopted by a Cypriot family, as a honorary member of their clan and as they own an independent bakery business within our part of Limassol, lending a hand to make thousands of flaounes became an Easter tradition and akin to working in a chocolate factory. After several flaounes, you can become queasy if too many are consumed.
The religious element of the event is key to family life at this time and Good Friday (or Great Friday) and the proceeding Saturday church services are when extended families gather together from all over the island. The midnight Mass on the Saturday evening is the culmination of the events as the holy light is depicted in churches by the extinguishing of the all lights in the building and then from a single source, candles are lit and passed within the congregation. Chants of ‘Christos Anesti’ (Christ is Risen) ring out as the moment is celebrated.
Outside the churches huge bonfires are usually lit by younger generations, to burn Judas, the betraying apostle and fireworks will illuminate the island into the early hours. On Pascha Sunday the ‘Vespers of Love’ are celebrated. The tradition of cracking painted red eggs is a key feature of lunch table games with the winning egg holder having good fortune for the next year. Food is key to the celebration with feasts of souvla (large pieces of lamb or pork, or chicken cooked on an open charcoal fire), salads, cakes and sweets inducing a sugar rush in the children who are excited by the celebrations.
By Sunday afternoon, most guests are fatigued by the quantities of food and alcohol consumed during the event and the day usually concludes with card games and music being played. However you celebrate your Easter this year, I hope you have a happy time and as we say in Cyprus Kalí óreksi !
Peter Bradburn | Course and Grounds Manager