bowring park tennis court

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.

The success of these renovations is dictated by a number of factors.
  • Timing of operations
  • Weather conditions
  • Type and often the condition of the machinery used (aerators, scarifiers, overseeders and top dressers).
  • Choice of materials
  • Knowledge and experience of the persons undertaking these works.
  • Budgets Available

If you do decide to use external contractors to carry out your renovations, ensure you have checked their credentials and they have the relevant skills, experience and machinery to do the job. Obtain references.

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.

Timing of operations

The earlier you can get on with your renovations the better (mid September through to mid October are usually optimal times for renovations). It is important to make good use of the warm soil and air temperatures that will aid seed germination.

Also there needs to be some moisture in the ground to allow adequate penetration of both the scarifiers and aerators.

Weather conditions

It is important to work with the weather conditions, particularly when applying and spreading top dressing materials the surface needs to be dry.
However, there needs to be adequate moisture in the soil profile when applying granular fertilizer products so that they become activated and made soluble enabling then to be taken up by the plant.

Types of machinery

Choice of machinery is vital for successful renovations; ensure that scarifiers and aerators are fit for purpose and that the blades and tines are sharp, clean and of correct length.

Also check that they are safe to use and have the appropriate guards fitted.

There are many different makes and models of machines available, all of which offer different techniques or modes of action. Some scarifies are more aggressive then others.

Ideally you need to take a soil profile of your green and measure the thatch layer present. If it measures 10mm you will need to ensure the scarifier is capable of operating to this depth, therefore being able to eradicate the thatch layer you have.

Aerators come in many different forms offering different tine spacing and depth and size of tines. Again you need to choose the appropriate aerator for your needs.

In most cases the biggest factor dictating the clubs choice of machinery is often what they have or what they can afford to hire?

Watering will be essential if you are faced with a dry period soon after seeding. Make sure you can water uniformly. The choice of sprinkler will be dictated by what water pressure you have on site.

Also do not over water. I have seen instances whereby some clubs switch on their water systems every night without fail, thus ending up with a waterlogged facility.

Choice of materials

It is important to ensure you use compatible top dressing materials. Changing materials can often have disastrous results. Layering of different materials can cause root breaks and interfere with the hydraulic movement of water through the soil profile.

Seed should be used from approved suppliers and be certified. The use of old seed (more than twelve months old) may decrease its germination rates.

Knowledge and experience of the persons undertaking these works.

Without doubt it is the experience and knowledge of the groundman that often dictates the success or failure of these renovations. The expertie and knowledge in choosing the right materials and methods of work are critical.


However, the overriding factor that nearly always dictates the level of renovations undertaken is what budgets are available. Materials alone topdressing, seed and fertilizers are likely to set you back £300 per court depending on the amount or quality of products chosen.


Mowing the sward, preparing surfaces for renovation. Lower cutting height to about 3-4mm to clean and prepare green for renovation operations. The mower can then be used to clean up the green after scarifying has been completed.

Scarification, removal of unwanted debris. Collect and disposal of arisings. 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. Depth of scarification between 4-15mm depending on depth of thatch to remove.

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 turfs 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.

Top dressing, restores levels and improves surface drainage. Ensure you use compatible top dressing materials, sands, sand/soil mixes. Spreading of the 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 top dressings are spread uniformly.

Overseeding, restores grass populations. Important to ensure a good groove or hole is made to receive the seed, good seed soil contact is essential for seed 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 Autumn Fertiliser NPK 5:5:15 to help the sward through the autumn period.

Brushing to incorporate dressings and to help the grass stand back up. Brushing in with a lute or drag brush/mat to restore levels.

Watering/Irrigation. It is essential to keep the sward watered after renovations to ensure your seed germinates.

September Maintenance Tasks

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

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).

Irrigation 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.

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.

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).

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 three 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 court. The last thing you want to encourage are rootbreaks in the sward.

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. You can still use systemic controls while there is still grass growth.

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. Keep surface clean, rolling to consolidate surface, levelling and brushing of fast dry materials, brushing to clean lines.

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.