The recent changing weather patterns are certainly testing the skills and patience of many Groundsmen up and down the country, one minute we are experiencing favourable soil temperatures that are beginning to stimulate some grass growth, followed quickly by a cold front and, in many parts of the country, heavy falls of snow.
Once the snow has gone , most grounds will remain in a saturated state until the soil water has had time to drain away usually between 2/3 days.
While the soil profile often remains quite cold and wet in February, it's best to keep off the courts, you do not want to risk damaging the surface as grass growth recovery is virtually non existent during these conditions. However, when the surface becomes drier the opportunity to spike/aerate in February will be of some benefit.
With regard to aeration practices, any deep aeration of the courts should have been completed in January, so as not to incur problems later in the year. Deep aeration carried out in late February or March can lead to the tine holes/slits remaining in the soil profile well into the playing season, which can cause some surface deterioration when the clay soils begin to dry out.
The use of the sarrel rollers can still be utilised to keep the top 20-45mm open to aid surface water drainage.
There may still be some bare or thin sward areas, these can be oversown when weather conditions improve, the use of germination sheets will greatly improve success rates.
Diseases may still be prevalent, especially after a period of snow or changing weather. Continue to keep the sward dry by regular brushing/caning the dew off the greens in the mornings. Preventative fungicide spraying may be necessary to control these diseases. There are a number of products on the market that can help with controlling turf diseases.
Scotts:- Daconil Turf and Heritage.
Rigby Taylor:- Mascot - Fusonil Turf,Rimidin and Systemic.
Bayer's Environmental Science supply:- Vitesse, Rovral Green,Mildothane Turf Liquid and Capricorn.
It often pays to use a selection of these products over time, rather than constantly using the same product year after year, as the disease can become resistant to the formulation if continually used.
Ideally, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies should be employed to deter disease attack in turf. IPM is all about putting into place good working practices that reduce and prevent the conditions that support and initiate turf diseases.
IPM is all about integrating a number of cultural practices that can break up the disease cycle and promote healthy, more vigorous growing turf, which in turn promotes a healthy sward than can be more resistant to disease attack.
Beneficial cultural practices are:-
- Brushing and switching to remove early dews off playing surfaces.
- Programmes of aeration/spiking to help reduce anaerobic conditions.
- Machines are well serviced and sharp, poor grass cutting results in leaf tissue damage that provides a good entry point for disease pathogens.
Aeration / As required :-
- Effective feeding programmes to keep the plant strong and healthy, so it can resist any disease attacks.
Aerating the playing surface helps keep grass surfaces free draining. A sarrel roller is often used to prick small holes in the surface down to a depth of 45mm. Deeper aeration should be avoided to prevent the likelihood of the courts cracking later in the year when the soils begin to dry out.
Drainage / Weekly :-
Inspect drainage outfalls, channels and ditches. Ensure that they are working. Renew or repair any damaged or problematic drainage systems.
Diseases / Daily/Weekly :-
Keep an eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. Regular brushing or switching off the dew in the mornings will reduce the chance of fungal attack.
Inspect tennis structures / As required :-
Inspect and prepare your tennis furniture (posts, nets, seating and notice/score boards) for the new season. Replace with new equipment if required. Repair any damaged fencing / structures Do not leave it too late to order new materials and goods.
Litter/debris / Daily/weekly :-
Inspect and remove debris from playing surface - litter or any wind blown tree debris, twigs an
d leaves. Leaf debris can be a problem during the winter months. 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. Ensure your machinery has been serviced and is ready for the forthcoming season.
Materials / Inspection:-
Maintain material stocks and order any other consumables required. Ensure materials (topdressings, seed and fertilisers) for forthcoming spring remedial works have been ordered and available for the beginning of March.
Mowing / As required :-
The mowing height on the courts should be 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. Remove any casts by switching.
Carbendazim is the only 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 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.
Tarmacadam tennis surfaces :-
February is a good time to clean your tarmacadam playing surfaces. Ideally it pays to power wash the courts surface to remove any debris, moss and algae that will have accumulated and deposited itself on the courts during the winter months. Be careful when washing, using a too powerful washer can result in surface damage.
Keep surfaces clean, regular sweeping and brushing. Repair any hollows or damaged areas. Repaint lines.
Moss and algae can be a serious problem on tarmac tennis courts, especially if the courts are situated next to trees and hedges, the shading and damp conditions create a favourable environment for moss and algae to grow.
Regular brushing and cleaning of the courts helps disturb the moss preventing it from taking hold. However, once established, the best methods of control are by a combination of chemical and washing activities.
Ideally tarmacadam courts should be power washed annually to clean off the moss, slime and grime that has accumulated.
Chemical control requires spraying the moss when it is growing with a herbicide having an active ingredient of dichlorophen. There are many products available, notably Scotts Enforcer, Rigby Taylor's Mascot and Bayer's Super Mosstox.
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.