Autumn Operation Pollinator

It’s hard to believe that we are now in autumn, where has the year gone?! We are now well outside of the bird nesting season with skylark and other ground-nesting birds now fully fledged and on their way to warmer climes or winter hideaways. Wildflowers and grasses have now set their seed, hopefully to be seen again next year. Whilst nature hunkers down for the cooler months, it isn’t time for us to slow down just yet, there’s still work to be done for Syngenta’s Operation Pollinator.

Autumn gentian nestled amongst eyebright at Royal Portrush Golf Club. Autumn gentian is one of the few wildflowers flowering at this time of the year.

There are a few things to consider before progressing with the autumn management of your Operation Pollinator wildflower meadows. What are you aiming to achieve with your nectar rich grasslands? Are they in play and need to be a little thinner for easy ball retrieval? Or are they away from golfers and can be allowed to be a little more ‘wild’? Your answer will determine what needs to be done over the coming weeks.

Fine, wispy wildflower rich rough at Effingham Golf Club. This is in play, and managed to ensure that balls can easily be found among the grasses and flowers.

In play or not quite happy with the percentage of coarse grasses still present? Cut, collect and scarify. Wildflowers need gaps, so try to aim for 10-20% bare ground. It sounds harsh, but they will soon fill in with life – whether sown or natural.

Happy with the composition of grasses and flowers? Tussocky grass no issue? A simple cut and collect will be fine. Perhaps leaving scarifying for next year, if it needs it.

It is important to understand that every wildflower grassland is different. Even if you have multiple areas within your course, assess each one individually. Some may be better established than others, some may still be dominated by Yorkshire fog and other ‘unfavourable’ grasses. It depends on age, past management, shade, moisture, pH, disturbance and so many other environmental factors. Each green, each tee, and each fairway (in some cases) are ever so slightly different and therefore require ever so slightly different maintenance – wildflower meadows are no different.

An out of play wildflower meadow at Cumberwell Park requires a cut and collect only.

On top of mechanical management, consider introducing some hemi-parasitic plants to your wildflower areas to help knock back unwanted grasses. Yellow rattle needs a period of cold, termed vernalisation, to trigger germination so now is the time to sow, either directly into established grasslands following either of the above management practices, or in a ‘nursery’ ready for plug-planting in the springtime. Yellow rattle is an annual so, if you can, remember to collect some of the seed from the established plants next year for resowing in other areas of the golf course. It may be too late to collect seeds now, but it’s always worth having a look before cutting and collecting.

Your Operation Pollinator projects largely look after themselves, but once or twice a year, your input is needed, so make it count!

Of course, OP isn’t all about wildflower grasslands, OP is about pollinators and what we can do to support them and let them thrive. At this time of year, once grasslands are cut and wildflowers have gone, ivy is one of the most important plants on the golf course so make sure that you let it bloom and provide one final bounty of pollen and nectar for wasps, ivy bees and a multitude of other invertebrates that are still buzzing around!

Ivy awash with invertebrates at Sleaford Golf Club.