September Tennis Diary

By Laurence Gale MSc

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Natural grass tennis courts will be coming to the end of their playing season, with the ground staff organising and preparing for the end of season renovation works, which often starts mid September with the aim of completing all renovation works before the end of the month.

It is important to ensure that all materials (seed, fertilisers, topdressings) and any hired machinery have arrived and are secured and stored safely on site ready for use. Often when ordering materials late, you may be faced with delays on delivery or not being able to get the products you want in time for your planned works.

The objectives of end of season renovations are:

  • To repair worn areas.

  • Prevent a build up of thatch layers (scarification).

  • Restore surface levels (top dressing).

  • Alleviate compaction (aeration).

  • Re-establish sward densities (overseeding).

  • Application of pre seeding/autumn fertilisers to help promote sward establishment.

The weather will be an important element when carrying out end of season renovations, planning and timing of operations are critical. You do not want to be top dressing when inclement weather is about (during rain showers) because once the top dressing gets wet, it becomes very difficult to spread and brush in. You have to work with the weather. Putting on too much dressing in one go will smother the turf. Keep jobs in proportion and keep an eye on weather forecasts.

Most of the tasks detailed can be undertaken within a limited budget. Local conditions and circumstances will need to be taken into account. If any members are undertaking any specific work not detailed, please let us know by adding a comment in the section below the diary.

September Maintenance Tasks for Tennis

Natural Grass Tennis Courts

Task

Frequency

Reason

Aeration

When conditions allow

Aeration is essential during the end of season renovation programmes. After a season's play most surfaces generally become compacted; a programme of aeration works using solid/slit or hollow tines will effectively de-compact soil profiles. Depths can vary from 75-200mm depending on the type of aeration machinery used. The deeper the aeration the better the response.

Brushing/Sweeping

Daily/Weekly

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.

Drainage

Weekly

Inspect drainage outfalls, channels and ditches. Ensure that they are working.

Diseases

Daily/Weekly

Keep an eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. During September there is a Likelihood of heavy dews forming on grass surfaces which often promotes outbreaks of disease.

A number of diseases are usually very active at this time of the year, namely red thread, fairy rings and fusarium. See link for details about diseases in turf, particularly Fairy rings.

Regular brushing or switching off the dew in the mornings will reduce the chance of disease attack.

End of season renovations.

When conditions allow.

These works will involve a number of operations that are carried out on the grass courts.

The following activities are generally implemented during autumn renovation and usually carried out in the following order:-

  1. Mowing the sward, preparing surfaces for renovation.

  2. Scarification, removal of unwanted debris (collect arisings and dispose off site).

  3. Aeration, decompaction of the soil profile improving the air and gas exchange in soil.

  4. Top dressing, restores levels and improves surface drainage. Use approved compatible materials.

  5. Overseeding, restores grass populations. Use approved seed mixtures for tennis.

  6. Fertilising, provides nutrients for grass growth.

  7. Brushing to incorporate dressings and to help the grass stand back up.

  8. Watering / Irrigation.

Further information on renovation techniques and equipment can be seen on the following link. Renovation.

Fertiliser programme

If grass shows signs of stress (weak growth, discoloured)

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.

Pre seeding fertilisers should be used to stimulate new seed growth and a low nitrogen autumn fertiliser should be used to keep the grass plant active through the autumn whist soil temperatures remain warm. See link for a list of autumn fertilisers.

Grooming/verticutting

As required

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. These operations are completed in conjunction with your mowing regimes.

Inspect tennis structures

As required

Label and store away all tennis furniture (posts, nets, seating and notice/score boards).

Irrigationdry-patch-on-tennis.jpg

As required

It is essential to have water available for irrigation purposes. Irrigation is required for court repairs.

September weather can often be quite unpredictable. Often we can experience warm, hot dry weather spells which will require groundstaff to address the irrigations needs of the courts. This will be an important factor especially during the end of season renovation works.

Scarifying dry grass surfaces will result in very little debris being removed. There needs to some moisture in the surface to promote effective scarification works.

Also, after overseeding, adequate soil moisture is required to stimulate seed germination. Further information about irrigation of sports surfaces can be see on the link. Irrigation

Litter/debris

Daily/weekly

Inspect and remove debris from playing surface litter or any wind blown tree debris, litter, twigs and leaves.

Machinery, repairs & maintenance

Daily/weekly

Inspect and clean machinery after use; service and repair damaged machinery.

Materials

Inspection

Estimate and order seed, loams and fertilisers and any other consumables required.

Mowing

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As required

The mowing height on the courts should be raised and maintained at a winter height of between 12-18mm.

Mowing frequency will be dependant on a number of factors, grass growth, sward type, level or standard of facility, resources (staff & machinery). But generally it may only need mowing on a fortnightly/monthly basis to keep tidy during the winter months.

Pest control

As required

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 square need to be assessed.

Birds feeding on insects often cause damage to turf surfaces. September is a very active month for craneflys (Tipula spp). See link Cranefly.

Verticutting/grooming

Fortnightly or as required.

With the development of mowing technology most fine turf mowers have cassette fitting attachments that offer additional maintenance operations, such as grooming and verticutting. These are operations that effectively remove thatch and side shoot growth enabling the promotion of a upright plant and denser turf growth.

Soil tests

Ideally once or twice a year, or as required.

Soil sampling is an important part of groundmanship. 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 it's 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 5.5-6.5, 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.

Top Dressing

As required

Top dressing is usually carried out in spring and autumn in conjunction with the renovation programmes. However, some Tennis clubs have a policy of applying top dressing materials during the season. It is important an appropriate top dressing material is sourced to ensure compatibility with the existing rootzone materials of your green.

The last thing you want to encourage are rootbreaks in the green.

Spreading of the materials can be achieved by several methods, utilising pedestrian or ride on disc or drop action top spreaders, or by hand using a shovel and a barrow.

It is important to get an even spread of material, the aim is to put on a very light dressing, followed by brushing in with a lute or drag brush/mat to restore levels. Autumn top dressing usually sees about 2 tons of dressing per court applied to restore levels.


Weed control

As required

It is important to remove any weeds from the playing surfaces, as they can affect ball bounce and performance of the court. Weeds can be removed mechanically by hand.

No chemical controls can be used during the winter months.

Artificial Tennis Courts

Artificial grass systems

Weekly

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

Before/after games

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Clay courtsapril-diary-tennisEuroclayc.jpg

Weekly

Keep surface clean, regular sweeping and brushing to restore playing levels using SISIS Trulute or similar equipment. Top dress any hollows or damaged areas. Repaint lines.

Tarmacadam

Weekly

Keep surfaces clean, regular sweeping and brushing. Repair any hollows or damaged areas. Repaint lines.