Expected weather for this month:

Warmer soil temperatures to aid seed germination

The weather has been challenging to say the least, a very cold April with air temperatures fluctuating below 10 degrees C, resulting in little or no grass growth. Most soils were also in a state of saturation and in need of drying out. 

It is suprising how quickly the ground can dry up in May. Heavy clay and clay loam soils will begin to crack if left to dry out, and this is the last thing you want to happen to a natural turf tennis court. It will be imperative to get some water on the courts to prevent the soils drying and the grass plant suffering from heat stress. 

Rolling will be a priority; it is important to build up the rolling frequencies and gradually increase the weight to achieve maximum consolidation. However, it is important to note that we do not want to over roll or adversely compact the soil to the detriment of root growth, surface water drainage and active microbial populations. 

Firstly, roll across the court followed by rolling down the length of play. Timing of this operation is vitally important. Trying to roll when soil conditions are wet or too dry will not achieve the desired effect. Ideal rolling conditions would suggest the soil be in a state of plasticity or "plasticine". 

Initial marking out of the grass courts should be undertaken, using the 3,4,5 method to ensure the lines are square and accurate; most tennis courts are marked out with a 50mm wide transfer wheel line marker. Also ensure you use approved line marking paint for the line marking machine. 

Continue to feed the sward with a spring/summer fertiliser product to maintain colour and vigour.

Key Tasks for May

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

Cutting height should be coming down towards 8-9mm (tournament height). Inspect the sward before mowing to remove any debris. Stones or sticks can damage bottom blades and cutting cylinders. Poorly adjusted mowers will result in poor presentation and damage to the grass plant, making the plant more prone to disease. 

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

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

Fertiliser treatments and turf tonics 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. Apply a spring fertiliser when conditions allow. Fertilisers can be applied in liquid or granular forms. 

In May, you would be using a 13:5:10 fertiliser or similar or, towards the end of the month, apply a slow release fertiliser to see you through June and July. However, the choice of material and how well it works can be dependant on factors such as soil type, weather etc., with moisture and soil temperature being the catalyst for growth. 

A lot of groundsmen now use a slow release as their base fertiliser, and complement it with the use of straight compound granular or liquid fertilisers which activate when in contact with moist soil conditions, effectively stimulating grass growth within days. 

Mowing will be one of your main tasks during May, ideally mowing at least 2-3 times a week., or even daily if you have the time and resources.

You will also need to set out your courts, take your time and re-check your measurments before finally committing to marking out the courts.

To ensure accurate lines, consult the Lawn Tennis Association's rules and regulations and use approved line marking materials; set out base lines and side lines using the 3,4,5 method. There are many types of linemarkers available for marking; choice will be dependant on budget or preference. High level facilities such as Wimbledon tend to use a wheel to wheel transfer system on grass because it gives a sharper line.



Artificial Courts

There are now many other different types of tennis playing surfaces to manage and maintain - tarmac, acrylic, shale, clay and artificial grass. Contrary to a general view, these surfaces are not maintenance free, they all require different levels and types of maintenance. 

The following problems are associated with poor maintenance of artificial pitches that, in time, will affect the performance and wear of the court:- 




Poor drainage and surface water ponding

Lack of brushing and keeping the pile open, no rejuvenation programmes, Little or no maintenance. The sand migrates down into the bottom of the carpet and begins to compact.

Regular brushing, carpet revitalisation / rejuvenation programmes to relieve compaction.

Infill contamination. Surface becoming dirty, top 5-10 mm affected.

Debris, chewing gum, litter, soil brought onto playing surface by users and wildlife.

Litter bins, signs, paved clean access areas, regular cleaning brushing / hoovering

Algae and moss build up will make surface look unsightly, prevent drainage and create a slippery surface.

Shade and wet conditions, lack of regular brushing.

Regular brushing, treatments with approved algae & moss killers.

Infill compaction.

Compacted layers will affect ball bounce and playability, the surface over time will become harder and may cause injuries to players.

The infill material is driven into the carpet by use and climatic conditions, coupled with a lack of regular brushing and cleaning, lack of sand movement, lack of rejuvenation cleaning programmes.

Regular brushing after games, annual rejuvenation programmes.

Lines fade; seams joints wear and tear.

Regular use, joints and seams come loose or damaged by vandalism

Repair and repaint as necessary.

Pile damage, bending over of pile, defiberation of pile (splitting of grass pile).

Too much sand, the carpet will wear. Too little sand the fibre will bend over and flatten causing slippery surface and pile damage.

Correct sand levels, regular brushing and rejuvenation programmes.

Slippery conditions.

Players have little traction and control.

Too much sand. Contaminated sand; moss and algae on surface

Clean off algae and contaminated sand, apply herbicide, moss/algae killers.

Player safety. Players may experience injuries through slipping.

Lack of maintenance, no top dressing, algae and moss will cause a slippery surface

Regular brushing and cleaning.

Excess sand.

Over dressing with sand. Sand should be within 1-2 mm from pile tip, surface sand will damage and wear down the carpet pile and may cause a slippery surface.

Keep levels within manufacturer's recommendations, regular brush sand.

Lack of water on non-sand filled systems. Break down of irrigation systems.

Surface cannot be wetted; surface playability will be affected, players may get injuries

Keep irrigation systems repaired.

Inconsistent infill levels.

Sand can be blown away by wind.

Poor sand levels will affect playability and damage carpet pile.

Topdress with sand to restore levels.


Cleaning and maintenance options:- This will include hoovering, brushing and sweeping to keep surface clean and free of debris, topdressing with sand to maintain levels. Non-filled systems require watering prior to use. All systems require appropriate maintenance to control moss and algae, both of which can have a detrimental affect on the playability of these surfaces. Water based systems require regular watering to achieve playability. 

Brushing/sweeping:- The use of a SISIS Zig Zag brush or similar should be used on a weekly basis to keep the sand agitated, and prevent the build up of moss and algae. Any foreign debris, litter, leaves, soil and other extraneous materials should be removed from the playing surface. 

The cost of these operations are dependant on how much time is allocated to the tasks and the initial cost of the cleaning equipment. A specialist rotary vacuum brush can be hired to remove surface debris and ideally should be used on a monthly basis. This will ensure that the facility remains clean and free of debris.


May is a good time to take soil samples and get them sent off for analysis, thus enabling you to get them back in time to start your new season's maintenance. Ideally, if you have not had one done before, you should have a full (PSD) Particle Size Distribution soil analysis done to tell you the actual make up of your soil profile. 

Soil is made up of percentages of clay, silt and sand. The PSD Analysis will identify the ratio of these and confirm soil type, thus giving you a better understanding of what soil you are dealing with. Also, you can establish the amount of organic matter (OM) content as well as soil nutrient status and soil Ph. With this information, you will be able to identify the needs of your soil. 

Pitchcare have recently launched a new independent Soil Anaylsis service that enables you to get specific results for the soils you manage. Soil analysis is a means to discover what levels of nutrients are available to plants. There is an optimum for each plant nutrient and, when coupled with other properties such as soil structure and particle sizes, determine how vigorous your plants are. Different nutrients undertake different tasks within the plant.

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 the application of chemicals, usually a broadleaf selective weed killer. Best results are achieved when the soil has warmed up and the grass is actively growing.

Keep and eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. Outbreaks of Red Thread may occur, which often indicate your grass is in need of a feed. Usually an application of a nitrogen feed will be enough to control an outbreak.

Inspect machinery and equipment, clean after use and remember to check air filters.

Inspect and reset mowing blades on cylinder mowers to ensure they remain sharp , click on following link for information on sharpening mowers:-http://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/the-art-of-cylindergrinding.html

Pitchcare provide a range of courses suitable for tennis clubs. In most cases, the courses can be held on site using the club's own equipment and machinery.

Some of the courses available are:

Chainsaws - CS30 and CS31

H&S Refresher Training on Combined Turf Care Equipment; Tractors and Trailers; All Mowers (Ride-on and Pedestrian)

Machinery Courses on ATVs; Tractors: Brushcutters/Strimmers; Mowers (ride-on and Pedestrian)

Pesticide Application (PA courses)

Stem Injection of Invasive Species (Japanese Knotweed etc.)

Basic Trees Survey and Inspection

More details about all the courses can be found here, or you can email Chris Johnson for information.

Drainage: Inspect drainage outfalls, channels and ditches. Ensure that they are working. Renew or repair any damaged or problematic drainage systems.

Tennis structures: Inspect stored posts, nets, seating and notice/score boards. Replace with new equipment if required. Repair any damaged fencing.

Litter: Inspect and remove debris from playing surface - litter or any wind blown tree debris, twigs and leaves. Leaf debris can be a problem during the winter months. It is important to sweep and clear the leaves off the courts as an accumulation of wet leaves will damage the grass surface.

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