I had the opportunity to visit Wimbledon this year spending last Friday (27th June) at the famous Tennis Club. It was the first time I had ever been to Wimbledon during the Championships.
I was very impressed with the atmosphere and the freedom of choice to watch so much tennis being played on the outdoor courts. The club provide 41 natural grass courts which were in a magnificent condition and playing very well.
With Wimbledon in full flow it's not surprising that tennis is very popular. Grass courts are in great demand and, as a result, we are bound to see some extra wear on the courts, so it will be important to dedicate some time and resources to repair any damage caused by play.
This month sees the continuation of regular maintenance tasks - grass cutting, grooming, brushing, aerating, feeding and watering. Particular attention should be made to your irrigation regimes ensuring that all turf surfaces receive adequate amounts of water to maintain turf growth. Groundstaff will also be trying to maintain the sward height at between 6-10mm depending on the level of play.
The condition of the court will certainly contribute to how well it performs, particularly with reference to ball bounce and foot adhesion. Ideally, you should be providing a true, firm and level surface that is both safe for the player while, at the same time, providing an adequate consistent ball bounce.
Foot traction/ball bounce can be affected by several factors:-
* Amount of organic matter (thatch) present in the surface.
* Moisture content of the playing surface
* Condition of sward
* Insufficient court rolling
* Uneven levels /Worn areas
* Type of footwear worn /condition of balls
Excess thatch content (more than 8mm) will affect ball bounce and foot adhesion by the mere fact that it becomes a spongy layer. This spongy layer also deadens ball bounce and can cause poor foot traction - no grip. Control the build up of thatch by regular verticutting/grooming.
The level of moisture on or in the soil profile will affect how the court plays, a wet firm surface will in fact speed up the pace of the ball. The use of covers will help control the wetness and condition of your courts.
The amount of grass cover on your courts will also dictate how the courts will play. Too much grass, especially if over 10 mm in length and over fed (applying too much Nitrogen fertiliser), will in turn affect ball bounce and foot traction.
It is important to roll the courts to firm them up; rolling should be done during favourable weather conditions, ideally when the soil profile is malleable/moist enough to bind together.
It is important to monitor the condition of the court and constantly repair any bare and uneven levels. Topdress with compatible loam soils and overseed with a good quality ryegrass at a rate of 35-40 grams per m2.
It is also the players responsibility to ensure they are wearing appropriate footwear and using balls that are not damaged.
A programme of aeration can be considered to alleviate any compaction from recent play. However, this needs to be done with an appropriate aerator, something like the Hydrajet, Dryject or SISIS Javelin Aeraid, which are able to penetrate the hard clay soil profiles without causing surface disruption, thus allowing some much needed air exchange to promote a second phase of grass growth.
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 lowered to 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 generally it may vary from daily in the case of Wimbledon to two to three days a week, or even weekly, depending on resources available.
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 application of chemicals, usually a broadleaf selective weed killer. Best results are achieved when the soil has warmed up and the grass is actively growing.
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.
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 July you would be looking to use a 12:0:9, 7:0:7 or similar compound fertiliser blend, or apply a slow release fertiliser to see you through to August. The choice of material and how well it works will be dependant 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 irrigation purposes. Irrigation is required for court preparation and repairs. It's important to 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. Any rise in soil or 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.
Artificial Tennis Courts
There is no such thing as maintenance free facilities, they all need a certain level of maintenance to keep them in good condition and safe for play.
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. Topdress any hollows or damaged areas. Repaint lines.
Tarmacadam - Weekly - Keep surfaces clean, regular sweeping and brushing. Repair any hollows or damaged areas. Repaint lines.