tennis 09 001.jpgThe recent wet weather will have no doubt caused a few problems with regard to maintaining tennis courts, particularly ones constructed of clay soils. Clay soils are difficult to manage when wet or indeed saturated.

Clay soils drain very slowly so surface water can be a problem, these soils will take longer to dry out. However, if you can get on with a sarrel roller and complete some surface aeration you will help the situation.

The more free draining sandy soils will also be suffering, soil nutrients are quickly leached out during spells of heavy rain. Rye grasses will quickly turn yellow and require feeding. Also, once the plant is in stress it is more likely to come under attack from diseases. We have seen a significant rise in red thread this month; the combination of wet weather and changing soil and air temperatures are ideal for inducing disease.

A dose of feed or, in some severe cases an application of fungicide will help treat the problem.

TennisCourts3.jpgAugust will be a busy time for most tennis clubs, not only fulfilling their fixture lists but catering for an influx of wannabe tennis players trying their hand after such a successful Wimbledon Tournament.

It is important to provide a safe and consistent playing surface. This will only be achieved with regular ongoing maintenance regimes. It is important to keep the surface clean and free from any debris; recent high winds may have brought down a fair bit of debris in the form of leaves and branches.

Regular brushing will help stand the grass up and remove any early morning dews.

Red thread and a number of other turf grass diseases have been prolific this summer, with conditions being very favourable for 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.

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.

If the outbreak is severe then treatment is likely to be necessary. Choice of a curative or eradicant fungicide, preferably with a systemic action, is most suitable. Protectant types can take time to work and seem less effective on aggressive red thread strains.

This must 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 sanity and the sward alive.

Your maintenance regime will continue in much the same vein as last month's - grass cutting, grooming, brushing, aerating, feeding, watering and marking out for matches.

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 dependent 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 weekly.

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.

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. 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.