March Tennis Diary

By Laurence Gale MSc

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A very cold and wintry start to March this year, ground and air temperatures have been well below 4 degrees C, with many areas in the North receiving heavy falls of snow for prolonged periods. These poor weather conditions will certainly have an affect on your proposed spring maintenance regimes. With soil temperatures remaining so low, there will be no plant growth or fertiliser take up by the plant until favourable soil temperatures prevail above 8 degrees C.

It will be important to keep a look out for disease on your turf especially after snow cover. Ground conditions may also be very wet, with surface water lying on the courts. To help dry out the soil profile a programme of shallow aeration will be beneficial, the use of a sarel roller will aid surface water drainage.

However, the weather usually improves significantly from mid March when drying winds and outbreaks of warm sunshine become more regulr (hopefully). In such conditions an application of spring fertilisers is recommended to help stimulate grass growth. Ideally you should conduct a soil analysis to confirm the nutrient status of your soil and buy an appropriate fertiliser product to suit your requirements.tennis-diary2006-water.jpg

Brushing the courts daily will help keep the sward dry and improve air circulation around the grass plant, thus reducing the likelihood or incidence of disease attack. March will also see an increase in mowing frequencies from once to 2-3 times a week depending on growth. It is vital that the mowing machines cutting cylinders are kept sharp and set to correct heights of cut. Poorly cut swards will stress out the grass plant resulting in poor colour, vigor and verdure.

Remember to check that your tennis equipment posts and nets are in good order, replace any damaged equipment.

Your artificial courts will also need some remedial works to bring them into play for the new season. This will be in the form of brushing and cleaning off any surface debris that has accumulated during the winter period. They may also be a need to apply a herbicide product to kill off any algae, moss or weeds that may be found on the courts and surrounds.

Heavily contaminated sand dressed or sand filled carpet playing surfaces may lead to flooding. It is important to address these issues quickly to prevent any further deterioration of the courts.

Repair any damaged fence lines, particularly chain link fences, once they become damaged they easily lose shape and form. Also, remember to have your floodlights serviced by a competent electrician who will provide you with the necessary certificates for use.

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.

March Maintenance Tasks for Tennis

Natural Grass Tennis Courts

Task Frequency Reason
Aeration When conditions allow Hand or machine aeration to aid surface drainage, (varying depths of penetration to prevent the development of a soil pan) Use small/needle tines or slits (penetration down to 100mm), regular use of a sarrell roller will aid surface drainage.
Brushing / Sweeping Daily / Weekly Prior to mowing, the surface should be thoroughly brushed, every time. 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 including Moss & Algae Daily / Weekly Keep and eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.
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. Apply a spring fertiliser when conditions allow.
Frost and snow As required Keep people and equipment off playing surfaces when covered in frost and snow.
Inspect Tennis structures As required Check and repair fences, tennis posts, and nets.
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, prepare machinery ready for new mowing season.
Materials Inspection Estimate and order seed, loams and fertilisers for forthcoming season.
Mowing As required The mowing height on the courts should be lowered to around 12mm by the end of March, subject to local weather conditions, but remember not to remove more than 1/3 of total grass height in each cut. The less stress that is placed on the grass at this vital time, the better the results further on into the season.
Pest control As required Worm treatments can be carried out if needed, but please remember to ask yourself why do you have worms? Ph level, organic matter and your cultural practices on the square need to be assessed.
Rolling Daily / Weekly If rolling hasn't started, then this should be initiated no later than the middle of the month-again subject to local conditions. Firstly roll across the line of play to settle frost heave, 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 affect. Ideal rolling conditions would suggest the soil be in a state of plasticity-or "plasticine".

Gradually build up roller weight by moving onto the next size of cylinder mower and so on. Consolidation is your aim and the quality of pre season rolling will show when you produce your early season courts.

Scarification Fortnightly Light scarification or verticutting can be carried out at fortnightly intervals pre season. Removing horizontally growing grasses and surface organic matter are always beneficial for the onset of court preparation; along side brushing, this will also improve the quality of cut.
Seed bare & worn areas on Cricket square When conditions allow Seeding sparse or bare areas can be continued any rise in soil /air temperatures will help germination. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for diseases, remember that without good seed to soil contact the operation is useless.

Ensure you use new seed as old material may not give you the required germination rates.

Artificial Tennis Courts

Artificial Grass Systems Weekly Keep surface clean, regular sweeping and brushing. Remove any algae and moss from surface.

Sand filled systems require regular brushing to maintain manufacturers recommendations on sand levels and pile heights.

Clay Courts 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.