Most tennis clubs should be now undertaking or, better still, have completed their end of season renovations. If you are still renovating, try and complete the work as quickly as possible, making good use of the warm air and soil temperatures to aid seed germination. The use of germination sheets are becoming increasingly popular and may be the only way of ensuring seed germination at this time of the year.
It is important you are thorough with your renovations, do not skimp on materials and time spent on the job. You will need about four tonnes of topdressing per court and about one 25kg bag of grass seed if you sow at a rate of 35g / m2.
Choice of grass seed is all to often driven by budgets, however, first consideration should be - what do I want from my seed in terms of performance, colour and vigour?
There are hundreds of varieties to choose from. However, the most popular species used for tennis on clay soils are perennial rye grasses with cultivars Aberimp and Aberelf being widely used. (Consult The Turfgrass seed booklet 2009 for information on relevant cultivars).
You also have to bear in mind what budgets you have available, top seed varieties are expensive.
See the Pitchcare Shop for seed , topdressings and fertilisers for your renovations.
Scarify in three directions, overseed and topdress working material into the sward using trulutes/dragmat or brushes.
Clubs will soon be reaping the benefits of a successful end of season renovation programme, with particular regard to achieving some successful germination of newly sown seed. The first 2 to 3 cuts should have been completed using a hover rotary mower cutting at a height between 20-25 mm. It is detrimental to allow the sward to become too long, as it may flatten over and obscure any worm casts.
Mowing frequency will be dependent on a number of factors, grass growth, sward type, level or standard of facility, resources (staff and machinery). Generally, it may only need mowing on a weekly/fortnightly basis to keep tidy during the winter months. The mowing height on the courts should be maintained between 12mm and 18mm.
Newly sown courts can attract birds that feed on the seed, it may pay to install a bird scarer to help keep them at bay.
As for the use of fertilisers this will be solely dependent on the nutrient status of the soil and the needs of the grass plant. Generally, an autumn/winter fertiliser product will have been applied during or just after the end of season renovations to help sustain the grass plant through the winter months.
Fertiliser treatment and turf tonics 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. Most groundsmen will be looking to use an autumn winter feed, something like a Scotts Greenmaster Prolite 6:5:15 +6% Fe, applied at 35g per square metre.
There are many products on the market, the best advice is to seek guidance from the manufacturer or enlist the help of a qualified agronomist.
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 topdressing 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 feeding and maintenance programmes.
Keep an eye on fungal disease attack and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. During October there is the 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 fungal attack.
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 may need to be assessed. There is only one chemical available to suppress worms, carbendazim.
A sarel roller can be used to keep the courts aerated. However, it will also benefit from some deeper spiking using a punch action solid tine aerator that can penetrate to a depth below 100 mm. The depth of penetration will be governed by the type of machine being used and the ground conditions at the time of spiking. Generally, the ground becomes moist enough by late October. Ideally, you should achieve at least four deep spiking operations at 100 to 200mm from end October to January. Spiking after January may lead to the slits/holes reopening when the soils dry out.
The winter months allow groundstaff time to catch up with some much needed structural repairs and servicing of equipment, such as posts and nets and court fencing.
Many clubs do tend to neglect their artificial playing surfaces. They all need to be kept clean; regular brushing and the odd application of algaecide will keep artificial surfaces clean.
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 - keep surface clean, rolling to consolidate surface, levelling and brushing of fast dry materials, brushing to clean lines.
Clay courts - regular sweeping and brushing to restore playing levels using SISIS Trulute or similar equipment. Topdress any hollows or damaged areas.
Tarmacadam - regular sweeping and brushing. Repair any hollows or damaged areas.