As we left fairly settled weather behind at the end of September, the Met Office are promising more of the same for October, but with more persistent rain for the south of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland in the middle of the month. Depending on where you are in the UK, temperature will be either around or a couple of degrees below average.
This settled weather should allow groundsmen to complete any unfinished renovations, although many grass courts will have been put to bed already.
Key Tasks for October
- Grass growth will have slowed down, but certainly not stopped altogether
- Cut weekly, ensuring that you take no more than a third off in any one cut
- Depending on the weather a cylinder mower may still be used, but it is more likely that a rotary mower will serve you just as well
- Box clippings to avoid the spread of disease
- Remove leaves and other debris as soon as possible
- 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 - keep surface clean, rolling to consolidate surface, levelling and brushing of fast dry materials, brushing to clean lines
- Clay courts - regular sweeping and brushing to restore playing levels using SISIS Trulute or similar equipment. Topdress any hollows or damaged areas
- Tarmacadam - regular sweeping and brushing. Repair any hollows or damaged areas
Before you start, take a core sample from each of your grass court to ascertain their current state. A visual inspection of the core will allow you to see the level of thatch/organic matter (OM) you have and to what depth.
Target OM levels:
An excess of OM will lead to poor hydraulic conductivity, soft putting surfaces, increased disease problems, loss of green speeds and poor all year round playability.
Appropriate renovation work will help reduce and control thatch / OM levels in your swards.
With air temperatures still averaging around 10-12°C in most parts of the country, seeding is still a viable option.
The recent spell of dry weather may have prompted disease attacks, with red thread, fusarium, leaf spot and fairy rings being common. Use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.
Prior to mowing, remove moisture from the grass surface. This will help to stop the spread of disease and improve the quality of cut.
End of season renovations
If you have not completed your renovations, here is a reminder of what you should be doing :-
Once the playing season is over, take down nets and post and store away; replace broken or damaged tennis nets and posts.
Get organised for your end of season renovations, ensure you have ordered your materials to arrive on time. Check equipment, ensuring it is ready for the work entailed. Check all belts and drives on the scarifiers.
If you are intending to use a contractor to do your work, confirm start dates and be clear they understand what level of work you want.
Do not skimp on the quality of seed and fertilisers. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for. Just remember, it takes many years of research and development to bring many of our common materials to market.
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.
Mow the sward, preparing surfaces for renovation. Lower cutting height to about 3-4mm to clean and prepare courts.
Scarification - depending on the severity of the thatch, you may need to scarify several times in different directions. However, in most cases, if regular verticutting/grooming has taken place during the growing season, you would probably only be required to scarify in two directions. Do not scarify at right angles to the previous scarification line. Depth of scarification between 4-15mm, depending on depth of thatch to remove.
The rotary mower can then be used to clean up the courts after scarifying has been completed.
Aerate to relieve compaction and encourage root development. Aeration is the decompaction of soil, improving air and gas exchange in the soil profile. Depending on the turf's condition, you can choose to carry out hollow or solid tine spiking. Hollow tines are generally used on a bi-annual basis or when you have a severe thatch problem. Depth of aeration will be determined by the depth of your soil profile and what problems you want to rectify. Hollow tining is best achieved to a depth of between 75-100mm. Solid or slit tines can be set to penetrate deeper, ideally between 100-200mm.
Topdressing restores levels and improves surface drainage. Ensure you use compatible topdressing materials, sands, sand/soil mixes. Spreading 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. Best carried out in dry weather. It is important that the topdressings are spread uniformly. Brush to incorporate dressings and to help the grass stand back up. Brush in with a lute or drag brush/mat to restore levels.
Overseeding restores grass populations. It is important to ensure a good groove or hole is made to receive the seed; good seed to soil contact is essential for germination. Good moisture and soil temperatures will see the seed germinate between 7-14 days.
Fertilising provides nutrients for grass growth. Apply a low N nitrogen fertiliser product, something like an NPK 5:5:15, to help the sward through the autumn period.
It is essential to keep the sward watered after renovations to ensure your seed germinates.
If you have not already done this, it is a good time to take soil samples and get them sent off for analysis. Also, by taking regular core samples, you can see what root development you have.
Ideally, if you have not had one done before, you should have a full (PSD) Particle Size Distribution soil analysis 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.
A number of diseases may appear after the recent changing weather fronts; conditions have been ideal for disease. Favourable temperatures for incubation, overcast and moisture in the ground enables disease to spread quickly.
Red thread and a number of other turf grass diseases may be seen after the recent changing weather fronts, conditions have been ideal for this disease. Grass plants are under stress, favourable temperatures for incubation, overcast and moisture in the ground enables the disease to spread quickly. The disease has come in because the grass plant is under stress, quite often due to the fact that it may be under-nourished. In most cases, red thread can be controlled with an application of fertiliser.
Treat as appropriate with a curative or eradicant fungicide, preferably with a systemic action, although this should be a last resort, as the costs of annual applications of fungicides to large areas are very high and may eventually lead to pathogen resistance.
Control should be a mixture of good sward management, good observation and use of cultural controls. Occasionally, the bottle (or box) needs to be reached for to keep your sanity and the sward alive.
Worms may also be active this month. 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 may need to be assessed. Carbendazim is now the only active ingredient available for controlling worms.
With some machines not currently being used, take the time to carry out an overhaul or send them away for a service.
- Inspect and clean machinery before putting away for the winter
- Replace worn and damaged parts as necessary
- Empty fuel tanks as petrol will go stale over winter
- Maintain a stock of consumables for your machinery
- Secure machinery nightly with good storage facilities and strong locks
- Record makes and models and take pictures of your equipment as additional reference
- Don’t leave it to the last minute when servicing dealers will be very busy
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.
- Repair and maintain fence lines
- Cut back any hedges and trees and prune shrubs
- Take down and store all tennis equipment, ensuring that it is clean and dry before doing so
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