November weather was certainly very mild, with temperatures remaining in double figures for the majority of the month. This, coupled with some much needed rain, helped promote some substantial grass growth. However, this balmy weather did instigate some outbreaks of disease in the form of fusarium and red thread.
Ensure you sweep and remove leaf litter from your courts to keep them clean, using hand held blowers are an efficient way to remove leaves from the playing surfaces.
I am sure, however, that many parts of the country will be bracing themselves for the first real taste of winter weather, when temperatures drop to single figures, and the likelihood of snow and ice.
Aerating the playing surface with a sarrel roller or some solid tines will be beneficial. However, only use machinery on the surface if you can operate without causing any smearing or damage.
Keep up the regular, daily brushing of the grass courts to keep them free of early morning dews and to prevent any debris accumulating on the grass surfaces. Reducing the humidity levels around the grass plant will help prevent the likelihood of turfgrass diseases becoming prevalent.
Mowing frequency will be dependent on a number of factors - grass growth, sward type, level or standard of facility, resources (staff and machinery) but, generally, it may only need mowing on a fortnightly/monthly basis to keep tidy during these cold, dark months.
Keep the surface open by the use of aerators, a sarrel roller is often used to prick small holes in the surface to a depth of 45mm. A pedestrian punch tine aerator will give you the best results, with the aim of getting penetration down to at least 100mm.
Frequency of aeration will be dictated by the condition of the courts and weather conditions, however you would look to aerate at least once a month. Other solid tine aerators can reach greater depths.
Useful Information for Mowing and Aeration
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Keep an eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. The recent mild and wet weather will certainly have provided the ideal climatic conditions for diseases.
Regular brushing or switching off the dew in the mornings will reduce the chance of fungal attack.
Worm treatments can be carried out if needed, but please remember to ask yourself why worms are present. pH level, organic matter and your cultural practices on the courts need to be assessed. Carbendazim is the only permitted/approved active ingredient available left to control worms. Comply to all safety data sheets when using this pesticide product.
Useful Information for Pests and Diseases
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Soil sampling is an important part of Groundsmanship. The results will enable the manager to have a better understanding of the current status of his soil and turf. There are many tests that can be undertaken, but usually the main tests to consider are:
Particle Size Distribution (PSD); this will give you accurate information on the soil type and its particle make up, enabling you to match up with appropriate top dressing materials and ensuring you are able to maintain a consistent hydraulic conductivity (drainage rate) of your soil profile.
Soil pH; it is important to keep the soil at a pH of 5.5 to 6.5, a suitable level for most grass plants.
Organic matter content; it is important to keep a balanced level of organic matter content in the soil profile.
Nutrient levels; keeping a balance of N P K nutrients within the soil profile is essential for healthy plant growth.
Once you have this information, you will be in a better position to plan your season's feeding and maintenance programmes.
Useful Information for Soil Sampling
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Keep surfaces clean with regular sweeping and brushing. Remove any algae and moss from surface. Sand filled systems require regular brushing to maintain manufacturer's recommendations on sand levels and pile heights.
American Fast Dry courts: Keep surface clean, rolling to consolidate surface, levelling and brushing of fast dry materials, brushing to clean lines.
Clay courts: Keep surface clean, regular sweeping and brushing to restore playing levels using SISIS Trulute or similar equipment. Topdress any hollows or damaged areas. Repaint lines.
Tarmacadam Courts: Keep surfaces clean, regular sweeping and brushing. Repair any hollows or damaged areas. Repaint lines.
Useful Information for Artifcial courts
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Inspect and clean machinery after use; service and repair damaged machinery.
Remember to protect your sprayer's spray lines, pump and pressure regulator by leaving anti-freeze in it during cold weather over winter. This saves split junctions and writing off pump or pressure regulator housings, and nozzle holders damaged by expanding ice. Check that your vehicle cooling systems are up to strength too.
The winter months are ideal for getting any odd jobs or repairs completed - repairing and painting structures around the club, fences, signs and furniture. It's also usually a good time to send your machinery away for repairs and servicing.
Soil and air temperatures are now dropping, early morning frosts are appearing on grass surfaces; it's important not to walk / traffic across frozen ground, as this will lead to turf damage.
Depending on ground conditions, some clubs may be able to complete drainage or reconstruction works during the winter months; existing drainage systems can be overhauled and cleaned out, or additional drainage systems may be added.