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Bowls In Focus : August September 2009
of the many couch types now available leads to a number of questions that need to be answered before a final decision is made. Many couch cultivars need different management Concerns On Couch T practices to obtain a satisfactory playing surface. Some require higher fertility rates, others produce different amounts of thatch, while others can be affected by wear, shade, disease, insect damage, degree of drought tolerance, salinity and mowing heights. In the future there will be many new couch types available including seeding varieties. The Boronia club will be sowing a seeding-type couch next summer and the results will be of great interest as this is a different alternative to planting vegetative materials. The Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries Turf Section is continually trialing new couches both vegetative and seeded and currently has the largest collection of warm season grasses in the world. Some of these are being trialed in Victoria, but at this stage the emphasis is on sports ovals and golf courses, not bowling greens. The main organisations testing new couches in Vic- toria for bowling greens are the Victorian Greenkeepers Association and North Melbourne TAFE Institute at Fairfield. The RVBA does not have the financial resources needed for plant experiments and cannot at this stage be associated with research activities. he increase in the number of metropolitan clubs converting their greens from bent grass to one It is well known that there are limits where couches can be successfully established for bowling greens. A couch grass performing well in Queensland might not easily adapt to our southern cooler conditions. Soil and air temperatures determine plant growth and it must be remembered that couches are warm season grasses and until these two essentials increase there will be no or little growth. These differences can be seen between Santa Ana and Tift Dwarf couches when they come out of dormancy. Along the Northern NSW and Queensland coastlines couches in bowling greens do not go into dormancy, as we know it. They change colour but they still need to be mown on a regular basis, while many couch greens in Perth are renovated in August as they are actively growing at this time of the year. Couches need less water than bent grasses, but they still need enough to maintain a strong root system which means that each watering, when necessary, must be deep. There has been an instance where there was a shallow root system following a summer of light watering which meant that this green would not be able to tolerate extreme heat and wear conditions. There is currently a vast discrepancy in quotations being received for converting a bent grass green to couch, which needs to be clarified. A club converting to couch where the existing grass top is removed, fresh soil introduced (when needed), cultivated, fertilised, laser-levelled and planted with vegetative material obtained locally (free of charge), should not cost more than $25,000. However, if a new drainage system is needed and/or a more suitable growing medium is used, the cost can be up to $50,000. There are now many couch greens in Melbourne that will be renovated during the pennant summer break to obtain vegetative material from varieties that have acclimatised. I cannot see how clubs can charge for this plant material when it is usually disposed of as rubbish. Couch grasses are still susceptible to diseases and it is essential to maintain plant health that also helps to produce a good playing surface. Frequent grooming, which thins out the surface growth, and light scarifying during the active growth period, will prevent excessive thatch and mat build up. Mowing times need to be more frequent than for bent grass. In other words your greenkeeper, if this is his first experience with a couch green, will have to re-adjust, both his thinking and management practices, to be able to produce acceptable playing surfaces in the long term. - Max Fielder RVBA Greens Committee V ictorian Gr eenkeepers Association ii Greenkeepers On Tour I Tour. There are more and more bowling clubs in Melbourne changing their cool season Bent grass greens to a more drought tolerant warm season couch grass, mainly Tift Dwarf. This three-day trip gives those on board the opportunity to visit regions renowned for their high quality couch surfaces and talk to their greenkeepers. After setting off early Tuesday morning, our first stop was at Wangaratta to talk to Rob Mitchell. Rob’s Tift Dwarf greens are in great condition considering the tight budget he has to work with. With little amounts of fertilizer and a small allocation of water, Rob was able to convert the club’s previously unplayable greens into a nice playing surface. Our next stop was Myrtleford to speak to their voluntary crew, including VGA secretary Alan Elliott, who talked about their two Tift Dwarf greens. After some minor ‘transport’ problems we drove up to Albury for the first night. Awaking to the rain, the next stop was the Albury SSA club, which has three couch greens with the very course Greenlees Park variety. Greenkeeper Ross spoke about the aggressive nature of this couch and the amount of dethatching required. It was now down the road for a quick stop at the excellent Wodonga club. The bus then took us across the border into southern NSW where we headed north-west towards Finley. We called in at Finley Returned Services Club and spoke to greenkeeper Warren Blanch. His greens were excellent and he spoke about his de-thatching techniques in which he uses a wire brush ‘Fat Boy’. We further discussed the 50 Bowls In Focus maintenance he does on his dormant Tift Dwarf greens in the winter when they are not growing. Then, like a gypsy caravan, we headed south where we met up with Greg Dunn at Strathmerton and Cobram. Greg gave us a demo on his ‘Fat Boy’ and spoke about many things, including the region’s water situation. Cobram is on Stage 1 restrictions, while a couple of kilometres away the towns across the Murray are on Stage 4. Greg spoke about how many clubs in the area drill down to access bore water and the differing salt contents the water may contain. Many clubs in Melbourne have access to a bore and some have also installed their own desalinisation plant to combat the high salt levels. On our final day we visited the clubs hosting the 2010 Australian Open. First was Shepparton Park, then on to Mooroopna. The Tift Dwarf greens at both clubs looked good and should be great for the Open next year. Our final stop was to speak to Shane Waddingham at Darebin City. Shane showed us over his four Tift Dwarf greens, which are in good condition and spoke about the on-going work being done to ensure big events return to the venue. All greens had an excellent cover of grass. With around thirty Tift Dwarf greens being planted in Melbourne last season and maybe more this summer, this tour was an excellent way for keen greenkeepers to discuss different techniques and share ideas. Both the experienced and non-experienced couch greenkeepers come away with something from the experience. Over the next few years the standard of greens in Melbourne can only get better, especially with tours being organised like this. Thanks to David Gudgeon for arranging the tour and to K&B Adams Turf, Simplot and Golf & Bowling Machinery for their support. - Warren Maynard VGA Committee n early August a group of sixteen greenkeepers from across Victoria set off for the 3rd Annual VGA Couch