Grass Clippings

Maintenance summary

In the last week the restricted crew have been working on preparing the all areas of the estate for Members’ return. The grass tennis courts have been over seeded and top dressed, which we needed to catch up with after the end of last season’s awful wet weather.

On the golf course, we have completed the organic matter removal that we schedule for this time of the year. Instead of the usual process of greens’ coring and top dressing done at break-neck speed, due to social distancing and the need to adjust working practices we have spread the whole process over several weeks and the greens look better for it. Our goal is to keep organic matter in the greens profile to acceptable levels so no sudden build up degrades the playing conditions of the surfaces.

The other work deferred since the autumn, was to prepare the area behind the 2nd green ready for planting out this winter. Ian Vass, our longest-serving team member, a seasoned professional in the art of excavator driving, has been carting material from the recycling area out to the bed in question. In total, Ian has shaped and added contours into approximately 75 tonnes of material created from organic waste from the course. Recycling from the grounds and gardens composted over the last year has been utilized saving the Club expense and fulfilling our environmental requirements. Once this topsoil has been firmed and graded, it will be covered with a weed barrier until a time we can arrange planting later in the season. We will make the bed a feature that includes shrubs and trees which highlight spring and autumn colour, to give contrasting styles of planting throughout the year.

The bugs are back in town


Calling out to all local gardeners that have box hedging – the bugs are back with vengeance this year! Notably Box tree caterpillars which are the larvae of a moth that feeds on box (Buxus) plants. It is native to East Asia and it became established in Europe in 2007. Although the first adult moth arrived in Britain during 2007 it was not until the end of 2014 the moth had become established in parts of London and surrounding areas; in many cases the caterpillars cause severe defoliation. For growers in the south-east of England it is now a problem that is likely to ​reoccur repeatedly throughout the growing season and in successive years. This year, the severity of the moths’ egg-laying activities has probably been assisted by the mild spring and relatively dry April.

♦ Practical steps for control are as follows:- Where practical, caterpillars should be removed by hand. Peering within the branches of hedging has become an obsession for me.

♦ Pheromone traps can help monitor adult moth activity and are available from several suppliers including Agralan, Dragonfli and Solabiol

♦ The mixed nematode biological control sold as Fruit and Vegetable Protection has some effect on the larvae. It is a fiddly business to get right and there are no guarantees it’s going to be an effective control for the amateur to get right.

♦ Consider choosing alternatives to box plants. A somewhat drastic approach to the problem it may be, but the alternative is being on a state of annual readiness to repel fend off the caterpillars before they munch their way through your prize hedging.

Alternatives include:-

Berberis darwinii ‘Compacta’, Berberis thunbergii ‘Atropurpurea Nana’, Elaeagnus × submacrophylla ‘Compacta’, Euonymus fortunei (various cultivars), Lonicera nitida ‘Maigrün’, L. nitida ‘Baggesen’s Gold’, Osmanthus delavayi, Pittosporum ‘Arundel Green’, Podocarpus ‘Chocolate Box’,Taxus baccata ‘Repandens’

Pesticide control can be effective and extensive infestations can be treated with an insecticide by thorough spray coverage of the infested hedge. Organic contact insecticides containing natural pyrethrins (e.g. Bug Clear Gun for Fruit and Veg, Ecofective Bug Killer) are available. Several applications of these short persistence products may be necessary to give good control.

More persistent contact insecticides include the synthetic pyrethroids lambda-cyhalothrin (e.g. Westland Resolva Pest Killer), deltamethrin (e.g. Provanto Ultimate Fruit and Vegetable Bug Killer) and cypermethrin (e.g. Py Bug Killer. The systemic neonicotinoid insecticide acetamiprid (e.g. Bug Clear Ultra) is also available. Please follow label instructions when using pesticides and wear the correct PPE as advised.

Nurseries plea

The Garden Centre Association says there is ‘considerable anger’ that garden centres cannot open but it is hopeful that lobbying will persuade the Government to change its mind. In the last few weeks, the B&Q Group have moved from a click and collect presence to opening some 215 stores. The B&Q Store group is unique multi layered brand with garden lines as a key feature. There has been a growing chorus of calls from gardeners such as Alan Titchmarsh, Chris Beardshaw and Peter Seabrook to allow garden centres, currently excluded, to re-open using social distancing measures to help the gardening industry. The Horticultural Trade Association is asking for a £250m compensation scheme to be set up and claims that the UK Government’s aid package simply does not work for the horticultural industry. Less than one in five growers have received help through the Government’s business support measures. Current UK Government support does not consider the total loss of annual income for growers, which is largely seasonal from March to June. Meanwhile, over three-fifths of growers (62%) said that they were not eligible for business support grants, while nearly four in five (79%) growers are not entitled to any kind of rates relief. A collapse of the growers and retailers of British plants would create a vacuum in the market leading to higher prices for the customer and a business model highly reliant on imports rather than domestically grown products.

Lavender off the menu

The concern over the possible spread of the Xyella disease has led to tighter restrictions imposed last week by Defra of plants that are susceptible to the pathogen. With immediate effect there is a blanket ban on the import of coffee plants and polygala myrtifolia, with stricter import requirements for olive, almond, nerium oleander, rosemary and lavender. The restrictions have come as the plant growing industry is paralyzed by the lockdown and the short notice meaning that home grown production of gardeners’ favourites such as rosemary and lavender will not be available for some time. The lack of notice by the government means that the production of home-grown plants will take months to fill any shortages.

Gardening tips

For anyone hoping to hone their gardening skills during the lockdown, YouTube is a helpful site to allow keen gardeners to brush up skills and gives tutorials on a host of subjects. One issue with the internet is that there is a great deal of American information on lawn care which is sometime transferable, but we do not always use the same grass species or have the identical machinery to hand or for hire. Three of the best I can recommend include Rolawn, who give simple and effective advice, Alan Tichmarsh who appears on You Tube as guest presenter on a range of videos by Waitrose & Partners offering a host of advice on lawn care detail via YouTube. His no nonsense approach mixed with a few quips adds entertainment in what can be the most mundane of tasks such as prepping a lawn for seeding. A very sleek presentation is available through the FA website which involves the Wembley Stadium Ground staff with footage shot at the training grounds and main site pitch where the fundamentals of lawn care are generally covered.

Generally, now is a good time to remove organic material or ‘thatch’ from a lawn. Surface thatch naturally forms on a lawn. However, when it gets too thick it prevents important nutrients such as water, fertiliser and oxygen from getting to the grass roots, this become the problem which will promote moss to take over also. Scarification either by hand raking or the mechanical removal of surface thatch from a lawn are the two favoured methods in general. A vigorous rake in several directions with a wire ‘springbok’ rake is tried and tested and offers a pretty good work out too. De-thatching a lawn now will allow lawn seed to be added into the sward and if possible, add lawn sand (usually called sharp sand in builders merchants).  Avoid adding builders’ sand used for wall building as the lime content of the sand is too high and can lead to burning the tender grass plants. A stiff broom is the best method to get the sand worked in and if it is a large lawn, break it down into smaller manageable sections that can be done over a few days. If the temperature rises and there is strong sunshine, then avoid scarifying and top dressing or the leaf blades of the plant could be too bruised by your efforts and damage the grass plant long term. Try to time the process with in-coming rain showers or water thoroughly.


Peter Bradburn  |  Course and Grounds Manager