Grass Clippings

The period of dry, settled weather has been a lucky break for the Course and Grounds team and it has meant that we have had a productive week. As mentioned in the last Grass Clippings, keeping the course, courts and lawns in good order, ready for the return of Members is priority. Dew clearance, leaf removal and wormcast dispersal is a crucial part of each day but we have also been able to progress with other projects brought forward to take full advantage of the time we have without disturbing Members at play.


The greens aeration I mentioned in the previous Grass Clippings is now complete and we are almost done with fairway aeration too. We have a root pruner in at the moment, which is an implement that sits behind a tractor and chugs around the perimeter of the fairways and severs overextending root systems that contribute to dry areas on fairways during the summer. Adrian, our irrigation technician, is diligently working his way around the course, connecting the pipes that have been ploughed in around the bunker complexes by our contractor. He first has to fuse the pipe to the nearest lateral irrigation feed from the fairway pipe network and then install the valves which act as the controller gate ‘switch’. This allows water to flow to the series of mini irrigation sprinklers which he plants around each bunker. It is precise and methodical work which brings together electrical, hydraulic and computer expertise.

We have now completed the bulk of the landscape planting on the course for this season. The planting on the 2nd / 15th, 13th and the 16th are now in the ground and looking good. We are awaiting the native shrub bare root whips that arrive this week and shall be planted on the bank of the recycling area between holes 12, 13, and 8th tees that will eventually mask this area, all in good time. The last task now shall be to apply a mulch to the areas that have been planted up to shroud the weed barrier from view. Ongoing work on the course includes the modifications to the 18th tee complex, with the installation of the drainage pipe work under the tee now almost complete, we are awaiting the arrival of the safety fence contractors who will be placing the net and netting poles in position soon. Once this is done we can continue with the root zone mix filling in and consolidation before dressing the tee surrounds with top soil.


This week also, the London Plane trees that are in the vicinity of the golf trolley and bag storage areas are getting their onceadecade trim, to take the trees back in line with their previous pollard points. This helps the trees to renew and create new growth without overextending lateral branching, which may break in high winds and damage the tree.


In the gardens, Steve and Kate are pushing on with the herbaceous planting pruning and tide up of plants. With the weather being so mild, some perennials are resisting dormancy as are some flowers. It’s a bit of a topsy-turvy world in the garden which seems to be the norm with wet winters and no real sign of drop in temperatures.  Finally but not least, Mr Vass from our gardens team is giving the car park areas a jet wash to remove moss and debris while they are empty. It’s a grim task at the best of times but Mr V’s accomplishments are to be applauded.

Making the most of your Christmas Tree

Many garden centres have brought in cut Spruce and Pine trees a week earlier than normal this year and have seen early demand from customers who want to begin Christmas ahead of schedule. However with the weather turning colder outside, trees will be stressed indoors so should be kept in the garden as late as possible before bringing them into a warm environment as should wreaths for your doors. After talking to our usual suppliers at New Covent Garden this week, I have been told that it’s almost certainly a waste of money if anyone puts a tree inside before this weekend. We have seen an uplift in tree sales and festive related items in the past week or so and we are keen to stress the correct after care to customers to ensure that live plant items last till the end of the year. British Christmas Tree Growers Association have offered some good advice for tree selection and care for home:-


  • Before you go shopping, decide where your tree will go and measure the space beforehand – many people buy a tree that is too wide and even too tall then spend the next few weeks knocking needles off the tree each time they pass it.


  • Select a healthy-looking tree – it should have a good shape, and bright, shiny needles –  then pick it up. The heavier it feels, the fresher it will be, as it will have lost less moisture since being cut. Tap the base of the tree on the ground to check for needle retention – if it drops a lot of needles, don’t buy it.


  • Net wrapping will protect the tree while you transport it. If it has to travel on your car roof, make sure the base faces forward to protect the foliage from any more moisture loss. If possible protect the tree with plastic if you are transporting it further than a few streets away. 


Once you get your tree home, here are four easy steps to caring for it:-


  • Retain the netting cover while you saw the trunk off level for it to stand upright. Keep the tree in a bucket of water outside for a day or two to absorb water. A fresh cut base will also allow more absorption  of water to move through the tree and keep it in good condition longer.
  • After leaving outside for a few days, secure the tree in a water-retaining stand in your chosen location in the home, then release the branches from the netting. Fill the stand with water and keep the needles fresh by topping up the water every couple of days.
  • Place the tree away from direct heat, such as an open fire or a radiator for the longest possible display of fresh, scented needles. Give it plenty of space so that air can circulate around it, too.


After the festive celebrations:-


  • Many councils will collect Christmas trees for recycling, check your local authorities website for guidance on the issue. Alternatively, make good use of the tree long after Christmas by shredding the branches and collecting the shreddings to spread under shrubs in the garden, where it will act as a weed-suppressing mulch. Pine needles are very good for acidifying the ground around rhododendrons and azaleas bushes and other acid loving plants


Your Garden

Now is a good point of the gardening year, if you have time on your hands, to have a good clean up outdoors before retreating to the fireside during December. There are two schools of thought to herbaceous and grasses pruning. Take most things down to the ground now and blitz the pruning, or leave it until after February when old vegetation will protect the crown and allow new growth to come out of the winter stronger. At the Club, we have to take the opportunity and fit in with which projects we are completing at any one time. In general I would prune hardy shrubs now and the softer growth in the new year, not knowing what the weather would bring in January. Apples and pear trees can be pruned to remove dead branches and remove thin twiggy shoots that are not productive at all. Cut back all strong side shoots to three to four buds from the base short stubby branches or ‘spurs’ will carry the blossoms for next year and should be left in place. Roses can now be reduced by half to help prevent wind rock. Both bush and climbing roses should be cut back further, in late February or early March to three or four buds from the base. You can certainly prune rambling roses now, by cutting out old flowering shoots and tying in the vigorous growth from the past season. Hazel and other nut trees can be tidied up by pruning out thick stems that are four year old wood, leaving younger stems to replace them and carry the crop for the new year. Having a variety of growth in the crown will help maintain the tree as a small multi-stemmed tree. Forms of sambucus that are grown for their foliage can be cut down to the ground or cropped every year. Use a sturdy  lopper to cut through chunky steams, rather than grabbling with secateurs. Deciduous hedges, once bare of foliage, are good tasks to tackle now, by pruning back to two or three buds from the base of the current seasons growth. For best results follow this up with a summer prune, taking care to check for birds’ nests first. Young deciduous hedges respond well to winter pruning as it will encourage vigorous branching in the spring. 


Secateurs, loppers and pruning saws should be well maintained after each cycle of use. Many plants will bleed out sap when cutting stems and this will harden on blades if not removed. Use a wire brush and or wire wool to remove sappy deposits and smear a layer of light oil on the surface of the blades after cleaning. Even a kitchen oil is better than nothing for this purpose and prevents oxidation on the surface of the metal. Blunt tools will damage plants and create poor cuts to plant stems that do not heal as well. A good garden centre will stock sharpening stones and files as part of the range of stock items in the tools sections. A good quality set of loppers and secateurs will also allow for blades to be replaced and again a good supplier will have stock available or will source them for you. My own secateurs are now over thirty years old and had several new blade replacements over the years, quality does last given good care and attention. Happy gardening for the season.

Peter Bradburn | Course and Grounds Manager