After one of the best summers in recent years, with plenty of sunshine, grass growth and, subsequently, extensive use of the facilities, Peter Craig says that it is essential to carry out robust renovations to rejuvenate the sward, get rid of any thatch, remove weed grasses, level up and reintroduce some new seed.
Priority is given to the tennis courts and cricket square, mainly due to the fact that they are clay loam based and work needs to be completed before the onset of autumn rains and associated damp conditions as, once the clay gets wet, it becomes difficult to work with.
This year, Peter employed Total Play to come in and fraise mow the five match play courts and the cricket square, whilst undertaking the rest of the work in-house.
Peter was mindful that he needed to control some poa that had found its way onto the match courts, hence the decision to fraise mow.
Work on the grass courts had begun in earnest during the early part of September, and a number of courts had already been completed by the in-house grounds team, prior to Total Play's arrival on site, during which they had paid particular attention to scarifying, repairing base lines, topdressing and overseeding.
Once completed, they were covered with germination sheets, with good establishment achieved within six days thanks to the relatively mild temperatures.
Total Play were racing against the clock to get the courts finished before the onset of some predicted heavy rain, which was forecast to arrive later in the afternoon.
Peter uses three different websites to keep an eye on the weather front, and satellite predictions on all three were showing a heavy rain front sweeping in, so he was keen to get as much completed and the courts covered before it arrived.
It was certainly going to be a race against the clock. However, due to an enforced late start thanks to a traffic snarl up in this part of south London, Total Play were not able to complete all the work before the rain arrived, as predicted, at 6.30pm.
In that time, they had managed to fraise mow all five courts, scarify two ways diagonally with the tractor mounted Graden, clean off, overseed with a cyclone spreader, brush and cover the courts. The innovative use of three pedestrian blowers to help clean up the debris had helped to speed up the process.
With wet weather forecast for the whole weekend, no more work would be undertaken until the following week when Total Play were due to come back to undertake the renovations of the cricket square. As it turned out, Peter cancelled this work as he felt they were far enough behind with tennis renovations and, with continued bad weather, didn't want to risk over burdening his already hard-pressed team.
This would see the square fraise mown to remove 5-10mm of surface vegetation and scarifying in three directions, finishing in the line of play. It was then to be topdressed with Surrey Loams Gostd 125 loam and overseeded with a Johnsons Premier seed mixture.
It is not until you see these works in action that you get an understanding of the scale and size of the works required at the Hurlingham Club. In total, 2,000 bags of special Gostd tennis loam and GOSTD 125 were being applied, along with over forty bags of grass seed to renovate the tennis courts and cricket square.
This year, Peter has chosen two seed mixtures. He will be using an R9 mixture on some courts and will be trialing a Johnsons Premier mix on the cricket square and a couple of tennis courts, with the aim of comparing performance over the following season.
Once the courts have been seeded, Peter uses germination sheets to aid establishment and, just as importantly, prevent the vast London pigeon population helping themselves to a free meal. During this period, Peter employs the services of a falconer, who brings in his birds of prey to patrol the site every few days to scare away the pests. The sight of a Harris Hawk taking to the wing is enough to frighten even the most stubborn pigeons away.
And then there are the croquet lawns and bowls greens to be renovated. These will be done immediately after the tennis courts have been completed and, with an area covering over 10,000 square metres, the work of scarifying in three directions, topdressing with CH45 sand and oversowing with a bent fescue seed mix, will take some time.
Peter and his staff will be praying for an Indian summer to help speed up establishment, making good use of any warm temperatures and dry conditions. As Peter confirms, it is one of the busiest times of the year for him and his staff, and he is always pleased when all the summer sports renovations have been completed so they can move on to other work.
Peter is now coming to the end of his fifteenth year at the Hurlingham Club, and knows only too well that the hard work all his staff put in on the renovations will be the driving force to the success of all the summer sports surfaces during the 2014 season.