April Tasks at Chapel Allerton
By Anthony Asquith
Soil temperatures are now rising and now is an ideal time to overseed your courts. Sarrel rolling is advised before to break surface crust and produce an ideal tilth so any seed / topdressing will ameliorate into the surface. But beware not to "cake" the surface as this will be detrimental to plant growth. Only a small amount of dressing needs to be applied, as the dressing will have to absorb into the surface before the commencement of play.
Also remember that clay soils take longer to warm up and dry out so germination could still be quite erratic. However, now the warmer temperatures are arriving any seed will swell and break and germination will take place. It will be worth noting that if we hit a dry spell adequate moisture will need to be available to ensure the seed does not dry out and die.
Frequency of mowing will be increasing now that temperatures are rising. Aim to mow the courts at least twice a week varying the direction to avoid nap formation and encourage tillering. Always make sure the mower and bottom blade are sharp and well set, ryegrasses can be notoriously difficult to cut cleanly, often tearing leaving white fibrous strands that are prone to pathogenic attack. We are currently cutting the courts at 10 mm and will be reducing the height of cut gradually, until we are at about 8 mm by mid May.
Seeding can now take place as the temperatures are now increasing to 10-15 degrees. Getting seed into the surface is now ideal, however good seed-soil contact is essential to achieve germination. Overseed generously( 50 g/m2) so ryegrass crowning is avoided. But beware overseeding can initiate damping off disease. Remember that rye`s produce an "open" sward so overseeding has to be regular to encourage density. We are currently using Barenbrug Bargold seed on our courts.
This can now be done LIGHTLY, however the topdressing will need to be absorbed into the surface before play can commence and the dressing will need to be looted/brushed well in to avoid smothering the grass plant. April is also a good time to level out any minor irregularities caused during the winter.
A pre-season rolling programme should have taken place to consolidate and release any trapped water in the soil. Letting your pitches dry out of their own accord will result in a poor surface which will be difficult to put right. Rolling frequency will now be increasing (depending on weather conditions), we are now rolling down the length of play.
Providing temperatures and conditions are correct "thinning out" the sward will help speed up the hardness and firmness of the courts and reduce poa annua populations. Set your verticutter to about 3mm below the height of cut however, care must be taken on newly seeded areas as this abrasive operation will pull and disturb young plants.
Subject to soil analysis, feeding can take place. Feeding is now ideal as the "flush" of growth will have slowed down before the commencement of play (May). Try to apply the feed before rain is expected or irrigate to wash in and break down the feed. Overfeeding too close to the playing season will make foot traction poor, due to the high moisture content in the leaf blade of the grass plant. resulting in a slippery court that may induce an injury to players.
We have to be very accurate and precise with our line marking, taking our time on initial marking out, using 3,4,5 method and diagonal line measuring to set out court perimeter box lines. Our base lines are 100mm wide and the remaining tram lines are set at 50mm width. We over mark using wheel to wheel transfer marking machines using Stadia's Super Marking fluid.
We sweep and clean areas around the courts to prevent any debris contaminating the court surfaces. We ensure to keep in stock, enough spare materials for top dressing and overseeding.
These courts are used on a daily basis and we keep them clean and tidy. Regular brushing and sweeping of these surfaces helps to remove the build up of unwanted debris.