November Tennis Diary

By Laurence Gale MSc

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Soil water content will have certainly increased in recent weeks due to the recent heavy rainfall experienced in most parts of the country. Many soils are now becoming saturated, a condition when the air spaces in the soil become predominantly filled with water. When soils remain in a saturated condition they can easily be damaged/de-structured by traffic or use of machinery. It is essential you keep off playing surfaces when saturated. A programme of aeration will aid surface drainage.

It is essential you keep the surface open and free draining, aerating the playing surface with a sarel roller or some solid tines will be beneficial. However, only use machinery on the surface if you can operate without causing any smearing or damage. See article on Aeration.

The recent mild, wet weather may have also have influenced an outbreak of disease, fusarium and red thread have been quite prolific in recent weeks. The combination of the warm weather and leaf wetness tends to encourage disease. Keeping the sward dry is essential to prevent disease taking hold and spreading. Leaf wetness is a common problem at this time of the year, particularly in the mornings when early morning dews appear on grass surfaces.

Brushing or caning off this dew is an important task that should be undertaken each morning. Knocking off the dew helps the sward dry out more quickly.

Earthworm activity usually increases in November. Earthworms can survive in a wide range of conditions, but most activity is dependent on the quality of food available. Worms like plenty of Organic Matter (OM), therefore greens with a high thatch problem tend to encourage worm activity. Soil pH also affects where earthworms are found. In strongly acid or alkaline soils earthworms are rarely seen (pH less than 4.5 or greater than 8). The soil texture will also affect the number of earthworms found; they prefer clay soils and are less frequently found in sandy soils.wormcast.jpg

Worm activity inevitability leads to worm casts appearing on the playing surface. These worm casts can be very problematic, they tend to smear the surface, which in turn can affect surface water drainage capacity as well as providing a seed bed for weed germination.

Historically, earthworms have been controlled chemically, killing all earthworms in the turf. The most widely used chemical was chlordane, an organochloride, now banned due to it's wide ranging toxic effects and persistence in the environment. Other chemicals such as benomyl, carbendazium, thiabendazole and thiophanate-methyl (all of which are primarily fungicides) have an effect on earthworm populations. Research has shown that thiophanate-methyl is the most effective at reducing casting. All these fungicides are considerably less effective at earthworm control than chlordane.

There is still time to overseed and repair damaged grass areas. There may be a need to over sow recently repaired areas especially if the seed has not germinated very well. Rye grasses will still germinate in favourable temperatures in November.

November Maintenance Tasks for Tennis

Natural Grass Tennis Courts

Task

Frequency

Reason

Aeration

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As required

Keep the surface open by the use of aerators, a sarel roller is often used to prick small holes in the surface down to a depth of 45mm.

Other solid tine aerators can reach greater depths. Spiking between 100-200mm is beneficial to encourage deeper rooting and gaseous exchanges in the soil profile.

Drainage

Weekly

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

Diseases

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Daily/Weekly

Keep an eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. During November there is the 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 ring and fusarium.

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

Inspect tennis structures

As required

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

Litter/debris

Daily/weekly

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

Leaf debris can be a problem during November. It is important to sweep and clear the leaves off the courts as an accumulation of wet leaves will damage the grass surface.


Machinery, repairs & maintenance

Daily/weekly

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

Materials

Inspection

Maintain material stocks and order 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 weekly/fortnightly 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. Carbendazim is the only permitted / approved active ingredient available left to control worms. Comply to all safety data sheets when using this pesticide product.

Soil tests

Ideally once or twice a year, or as required.

Soil sampling is an important part of Groundsmanship. 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.

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.

References: Worm information provided by Mark Bartlett, National Soil Resources Institute, Cranfield University 2005.