August Tennis Diary 2012

Laurence Gale MScin Tennis

August will be a busy time for most tennis clubs, not only fulfilling their fixture lists but also catering for an influx of wanabee tennis players trying their hand after such a successful Wimbledon Tournament and Andy Murray wining gold and silver medals at the 2012 London Olympics.

It is important to provide a safe and consistent playing surface. This will only be achieved with regular ongoing maintenance regimes. It is important to keep the surface clean and free from any debris; recent high winds may have brought down a fair bit of debris in the form of leaves and branches.

Red thread and a number of other turf grass diseases may be seen after the recent changing weather fronts, conditions have been ideal for this disease. Grass plants are under stress, favourable temperatures for incubation, overcast and moisture in the ground enables the disease to spread quickly. The disease has come in because the grass plant is under stress, quite often due to the fact that it may be under-nourished. In most cases red thread can be controlled with an application of fertiliser.

If the outbreak is severe, then treatment is likely to be necessary. Choice of a curative or eradicant fungicide, preferably with a systemic action, is most suitable. Protectant types can take time to work and seem less effective on aggressive red thread strains. This must be a last resort, as the costs of annual applications of fungicides to large areas are very high and may eventually lead to pathogen resistance.

Control should be a mixture of good sward management, good observation and use of cultural controls. Occasionally, the bottle (or box) needs to be reached for to keep sanity and the sward alive. A dose of feed or, in some severe cases, an application of fungicide will help treat the problem.

Continue with your maintenance schedule; the courts may now need another feed to see them through the last period of play before the courts are closed for renovations.

It is important to plan and organise your end of season renovations, check you have all the equipment and materials in stock ready for the start of your planned work. The level of work required will initially be governed by the condition of your courts .

Generally you should be looking at a programme of scarifying in several directions to remove unwanted thatch layers and dead matter, aerating with some deep solid tines to break up compaction, topdressing with some loam or sand/soil top dressing to restore levels, and overseeding with some new grass seed.

Unfortunately, one of the deciding factors that often reduces the effectiveness of these planned works is the amount of money ( budget ) the club has available. It can cost anything between £1500-£2000 for a contractor to come in and do all the work.

Savings can be made if the club undertake the work themselves, however, the effectiveness of the work carried out will be determined by the equipment they have at there disposal.

Savings can also be made if clubs buy materials in bulk (several clubs group buying).

Key Tasks for August
Tennis courts1

Mowing:- Your maintenance regime will continue in much the same vein as last month's - grass cutting, grooming, brushing, aerating, feeding, watering and marking out for matches.

Prior to mowing, the surface should be thoroughly brushed. Continue to brush courts daily to remove moisture from the grass surface, stopping the spread of disease and facilitating an improved quality of cut on the dry grass.

The mowing height on the courts should be around 6-10mm for the playing season, subject to local weather conditions, but remember not to remove more than 1/3 of total grass height in each cut.

Mowing frequency will be dependent on a number of factors - grass growth, sward type, level or standard of facility, resources (staff and machinery) but, in the main, it will vary from three times a week to weekly.

It is important to remove any weeds from the playing surface as they can affect ball bounce and performance of the court. Weeds can be removed by hand, or controlled by an application of chemicals, usually a broadleaf selective weed killer.

Grooming and verticutting are operations that remove unwanted side grass growth and reduce the amount of debris in the sward. These operations are carried out on a regular basis, often weekly or fortnightly, and are completed in conjunction with your mowing regimes.

Useful Information for Mowing

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Feeding and Watering
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Feeding:- Assuming you have access to water, fertiliser treatment and turf tonic can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested; try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results.

In August, you would be looking to use a 12:0:9, or similar compound fertiliser blend, or apply a slow release fertiliser to see you through to September. The choice of material and how well it works will be dependent on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and soil temperature being the catalyst for growth.

The performance of slow release fertilisers can be influenced by the weather, often producing a flush of growth when you least expect it. Some grounds managers may use straight compound granular or liquid fertilisers which activate when in contact with moist soil conditions, effectively stimulating grass growth within days.

It is essential to have water available for fertiliser applications, court preparation and repairs. Ensure that the water gets down into the rootzone, a minimum of 150mm, to encourage deep rooting.

Check with a probe. Allow to dry out and repeat the irrigation process. Allowing surfaces to remain dry can lead to problems of dry patch, a condition that prevents water infiltration into the soil and thus forming areas of non-uniform turf quality. To help overcome dry patch, the use of wetting agents have now become an integral part of the maintenance regime, with applications being applied on a monthly basis throughout the summer.

Keep an eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.

Useful Information for Feeding and Watering

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Seeding:- Seeding sparse or bare areas can be continued, again assuming you have a water source. The good soil and air temperatures will help germination. Use germination sheets to aid this process, but remove the sheets regularly to check for disease. Remember that without good seed to soil contact, the operation is useless. Ensure you use new seed as old material may not give you the required germination rates.

Useful Information for Seeding

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Other Surfaces

It is vital to keep tennis playing surfaces clean and free from debris to avoid possible injury to players.

Many artificial, sand filled courts are not cleaned regularly, mainly due to the fact that they were sold, mistakenly, as maintenance free facilities. However, these courts require regular brushing and cleaning to keep the pile upright and prevent contamination of the sand infill materials.

Artificial grass systems:- Keep surface 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:- Keep surfaces clean, regular sweeping and brushing. Repair any hollows or damaged areas. Repaint lines

Useful Information for Other Surfaces

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Other Tasks for the Month
  • Check nets and post for damage / wear

  • Check perimeter fence lines.Cut and maintain natural hedge lines

  • Service and keep clean your line marking equipment

  • Check floodlights

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