Grass Clippings

January 2022 has begun unseasonably mild, with no sight of snow or freezing weather on the horizon. The dark mornings and early dusk signify that we are in the midst of winter, but December is behind us and it’s a time to look forward to spring and brighter days and regrowth.

Already on the golf course and around the estate, trees are starting to show buds that will bring new life to barren canopies. It has been a different winter so far, due to the mild temperatures, the grass surfaces have still been growing throughout the months when usually we would see no movement at all. This presents a problem in that when very wet, there is a need to be as careful as possible to not damage the course when managing the surfaces. Traffic movement on the course when it is saturated can cause damage which although unseen has a detrimental effect in the short and long term.

There are the visual consequences, tyres will smear the surface and lead to turf loss but there is a hidden peril also. Traffic patterns cause most issues around tees and greens, but also on other key parts of the course where most golfers play. Once air spaces within the soil structure are squeezed out by the force of continuous vehicle movement, the damage has long term consequences. The balance between air pores in turf, soil particles and water movement is one which is crucial for turf growth. Remove air pores from one level of the soil structure and turf will find it hard going to sustain root growth in the areas. Devoid of oxygen in a soil profile, an area will also become anaerobic and produce an environment that doesn’t favour turf and actually deters grass from growing.

Every morning in the early hours, the golf team assess the course and weigh up the condition as well as considering other factors such as the weather forecast of the day. Upper most in priorities is safety –what is the condition of slopes and banks, would ice or wet conditions make them slippery under foot? What is the saturation point of the course on even areas and would this cause and issue for Members? Once this is gauged then the turf conditions come into play and how this effects the playability of the course. Before the sun has risen over the horizon, the golf team have discussed the situation with the Sports Shop staff and advised Tristan of the state of play, so this can be communicated to the Members. This process occurs throughout the entire year and to ensure Members’ wellbeing and that we are preserving the condition of the course for all our golfing Members to appreciate.

Get off my land!

This winter we have seen an increase in the presence of many feathered visitors to the golf course. Migratory geese have increased in numbers and seem to favour the site as a feeding ground during the day. During the night they usually fly to a body of water in the neighbourhood to avoid predatory foxes picking them off for dinner. As well as being very brazen in claiming the course as their own, the toilet habits of these visitors are less than discrete and are making an impact on the course in a negative way. We have employed the services of a keen gun dog who has had instruction to move on these fellows to another site where they can graze contentedly on someone else’s turf. So far, Rasin Bradburn (pictured) has carried out his duties most diligently and has been very respectful to Members and staff alike. I’m sure that during January the birdlife will get the message that this is Rasin’s turf and move on to greener pastures.

The trouble with trees

On kerbsides across the nation, an unusual form of vegetation pops up this time of the year. Varieties of pine trees mysteriously appear under cover of darkness, some as handsome as the day they were felled while others are less than perfect and have been seen better days. Loved and admired for such a short time, the Christmas Tree has a short life in comparison to other trees and other coniferous species. In the wards of Wandsworth and Richmond Upon Thames, collection by the refuse and recycling teams will take trees until the end of the current week, as part of the Christmas clean-up schedule. I’m assured that they recycle the trees and that they are chipped and used as ground cover mulch.

Use it as compost

Aside from spreading the mulch around trees and shrubs, you can also use a little in the compost heap. Don’t include too much as the tough rubbery needles can take quite some time to break down.

Use the tree as a stake

Rather than reducing your tree to mulch or compost, you can strip it bare to create a fantastic frame for flowers or beans to grow up. You can use the unwanted pine needles in compost or sprinkle them on a muddy path to provide grip.

Use the branches

If you strip the branches off the trunk, these can be used to protect your beds during the colder months. One way to do this is to create a frame from the branches and cover it with frost protection fabric. Branches can be bent into an arch which you then cover in the fabric to protect delicate plants, or twisted together to form a wigwam shape over larger plants. Make sure you secure the fabric so that it doesn’t blow away during a windy spell.

Create a bird feeder

Your old tree is a fantastic way to provide much needed food for birds during the winter months. Secure it in a heavy pot that won’t blow over and decorate the branches with suitable food ‘decorations’ (the kids will love helping with this) – for example:

Halve an orange and scoop out the flesh. Attach three or four strings through little holes in the side of the orange to create a hanging basket shape. Fill it with bird seed.

Attach string to a pine cone, making a loop. Dip the cone in peanut butter then cover it in bird seed.

Thread popcorn onto string. using a needle and use as ‘tinsel’.

Mix suet with plenty of bird seed, squish it into cookie cutters and push the shapes out onto greaseproof paper. Partly unwind a paperclip and embed it in each shape to create a hook for hanging. Pop your shapes in the freezer to set.

You can halve and hang up old fruit by attaching string – even if it is bruised or partly rotten. Apples, pears and other fruit will be appreciated by the birds.

Your winter garden

Sam Cumber, our Head Gardener has a few seasonal tasks for the keen gardener and those who need to burn off the Christmas pudding this month:-

♣ Plant bare-root roses, while they are dormant it’s a good time to stock up on summer colour. Select a day when the ground is soft and the weather is kind. Add plenty of well-rotted manure and a well-balanced fertilizer to the planting hole and work into the back filling soil.

♣ Keep it tidy! Leaf litter can harbour pests and disease over the wintertime so give the garden a good going over to remove debris and start the year with a clean slate. Scrub up pots, using a disinfectant solution, that are empty which you are going to use this year

♣ Now is the time to start to think about sowing sweet peas so you have cut flowers for early summer. Soak the seed in tepid water over night or until they swell. Plant in long tubes or cardboard inners from kitchen roll, this creates the long root systems that are required to support the plants. Use fresh compost and plant one seed per inner tube.

♣ If you have a potato stock, ready for planting out, go through them and check for mould or signs of any decomposing stock, before this spreads to other individuals and causes a bigger issue.

Peter Bradburn, Course and Grounds Manager –