The weather has certainly taken its toll on outdoor courts in recent weeks. With very little sunshine to shout about and the persistent rain we have all been having it is little wonder that many grass courts have failed to play to their potential. Ball bounce and pace has been affected by the saturated state of soil profiles.
The combination of poor light levels, high humidity and slow grass growth has exacerbated moss growth on many courts.
And, also, the sheer amount of rain has leached out much needed nutrients from the soil, thus leaving the grass plant devoid of essential nutrients to enhance vigour and healthy growth.
Red thread and a number of other turf grass diseases have been prolific this summer, with conditions being very favourable for disease outbreaks. Red thread has been commonly seen on most grass sports surfaces. Conditions have been ideal for this disease. Grass plants are under stress, favourable temperatures for incubation, overcast and so much moisture in the ground enables the disease to spread quickly.
Also, many regularly maintenance regimes have been affected by the weather so, all in all, it's been a tough time for most Groundsmen.
Once we get some favourable weather we can get back on track with some regular maintenance regimes.There will be a need to carry out some surface aeration work using a sarel roller, this will help the surface dry and drain more efficiently. A dose of summer fertiliser will then help bring back some much needed vigour and colour to the grass plant.
Regarding the moss problem this can be under taken as part of your end of season renovations, although you will first have to treat the moss with a selective herbicide some weeks before to kill it.
As with cricket, loam for renovations is likely to be in high demand this year, so book up your loam requirements early.
Your maintenance regime will continue in much the same vein as last month's - grass cutting, grooming, brushing, aerating, feeding and watering.
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.
The mowing height on the courts should be around 6-10m for the playing season, subject to local weather conditions, but remember not to remove more than 1/3 of total grass height in each cut. Mowing frequency will be dependant on a number of factors - grass growth, sward type, level or standard of facility, resources (staff and machinery), but in the main it will vary from three times a week to a weekly frequency.
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 an application of chemicals, usually a broadleaf selective weed killer.
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.
Assuming you have access to water, 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. In August you would be looking to use a 12/0/9, or similar compound fertiliser blend, or apply a slow release fertiliser to see you through to September. The choice of material and how well it works will be dependent on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and soil temperature being the catalyst for growth.
The performance of slow release fertilisers can be influenced by the weather, often producing a flush of growth when you least expect it. Some grounds managers may use straight compound granular or liquid fertilisers which activate when in contact with moist soil conditions, effectively stimulating grass growth within days.
It is essential to have water available for fertiliser applications, court preparation and repairs. Ensure that the water gets down into the rootzone, a minimum of 150mm, to encourage deep rooting. Check with a probe. Allow to dry out and repeat the irrigation process. Allowing surfaces to remain dry can lead to problems of dry patch, a condition that prevents water infiltration into the soil and thus forming areas of non-uniform turf quality. To help overcome dry patch the use of wetting agents have now become an integral part of the maintenance regime, with applications being applied on a monthly basis throughout the summer.
Keep an eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.
Seeding sparse or bare areas can be continued, again assuming you have a water source. The good soil and air temperatures will help germination. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for disease. 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.
It is vital to keep tennis playing surfaces clean and free from debris to avoid possible injury to players.
Many artificial, sand filled courts are not cleaned regularly, mainly due to the fact that they were sold, mistakenly, as maintenance free facilities. However, these courts require regular brushing and cleaning to keep the pile upright and prevent contamination of the sand infill materials.