I particularly like this time of the year, witnessing the vast array of glorious autumn colours on show during November.
This display of colour usually lasts about eight weeks and is stimulated by a change in day length.
Deciduous trees offer a final touch of drama to the landscape with their leaves turning shades of golden yellow, orange and red, before falling.
So-called ‘autumn colours‘ (yellow carotenes and red and pink anthocyanins) are present in their leaves all year round. We just don’t see them because they’re hidden by green chlorophyll. However, when day length starts to decrease in late summer, production of chlorophyll slows down and eventually stops. The green colour fades from the leaves, revealing glorious yellows, oranges, reds and pinks.
A busy time
The recent SALTEX show brought home the diverse nature of our amenity and turfgrass industry, and the sheer workload that occurs every week throughout the year.
There is no such a thing as a quiet time for turf professionals - there is always a job to be done. We now entering the winter phase of our calendar year, where many winter jobs will be planned and undertaken.
November is renowned for the time of the year when we devote effort to clearing up leaves from playing surfaces, roads, railways and public open spaces.
From my own working experiences, I spent many hours raking leaves into piles and chucking them into a trailer with leaf boards. For the youngsters among you, these were little more than two bits of rubber, occasionally plastic or wood, and often an old cardboard box, that extended the size of your hands to allow you to pick up as much as possible in one go!
Combined with the raking, it was back breaking and time consuming work requiring many man hours over a period of about six weeks every autumn. No such things as blowers, sweepers or vacs back then - perhaps with the exception of the Billy Goat, which first came to market in 1969 and was essentially the first commercial lawn vacuum. 50 years on the Billy Goat is still being produced and has remained a popular leaf clearing machine for the turf grass industry.
Leaf collection is one of those tasks that must be done. Whether on grass or artificial, the car park or the steps leading to the toilet, they need to be cleared away. And all the while the grass refuses to stop growing, winter renovations are still to be done and there's a million and one other things on your 'to do' list.
Therefore it is not surprising that manufacturers set about the task of mechanising this work. There is now a myriad of machines available to turf professionals to blow, suck, sweep, vacuum and clean up unwanted surface debris. The trick is finding one to suit your working requirements, in terms of performance, size, labour resources and cost.
The topography, size and site-specific facilities needs will have an influence on the type and size of product you choose to use. There is a plethora of handheld, bespoke, stand alone or tractor mounted / trailed debris sweepers or vacuum collectors to help us clear up leaves at this time of the year.
As for portable handheld machines, nearly every conceivable amenity / turf industry manufacturer now produce a suitable device, both petrol and battery powered. With the likes of STIHL, Husqvarna, Echo, EGO, Etesia, Makita leading the way on choice and performance.
As for larger capacity products the likes of Trilo, Wessex, Redexim, Overton, Votex, Estesia, Iseki , Kersten, Amazone, Pinnacle Power, and many other leading manufacturers now provide a wide range and choice of sweepers, blowers and vacuum collectors for large areas.
As a landscape gardener, one of my most used tools is my STIHL handheld BG56C blower. A godsend for cleaning up after undertaking maintenance tasks, blowers are a now a valuable addition to the tools we use on a daily basis.
Golf clubs in particular have for many years invested thousands of pounds on larger capacity sweepers and blowers to keep their playing surfaces free of debris – offering them the ability to blow or vacuum surface debris from fairways, tees and greens.
While on the subject of winter works, it is now a good time to start getting your mowers and machinery booked in for their annual service. The earlier you undertake this work the better, especially as there may be a waiting time for spare parts, due to the pandemic and Brexit situations.
The winter months offers plenty of opportunities to carry out further remedial and reconstruction works. These usually centre around drainage, pitch improvements, aeration, tree / hedge planting and tree surgery to name a few.
As for golf courses, some clubs will have started their winter construction and repairs. This is often associated with drainage improvements around the course or may include refurbishment, new build or extensions to bunkers, tees and greens. January is also a good time to carry out repairs and maintenance to fence lines, seating and other structures around the course. You may get some favourable weather for painting and repairing these structures.
After Christmas (which is less than six weeks away!) it is a good time whilst it is quiet, to plan and get yourself organised. What are your targets for next year? What do you want to achieve? Have you organised your spring renovation works? Have you ordered materials and machinery for the forthcoming season?
There’s never a time when we have nothing to do!