Having come through one of wettest and mildest Decembers on record, many parts of the country have experienced periods of heavy rainfall, which has resulted in saturated ground conditions. Heavy soils are prone to flooding, once saturated, and care should be taken not damage the playing surfaces whilst carrying out any maintenance tasks. It is best not to attempt any work while the ground remains in this condition.
However, some localised aeration (hand forking ) will help to remove surface water from your playing surfaces. Once the ground begins to dry out, the courts will benefit from some mechanical aeration, preferably using a pedestrian solid tine punch aerator to get some air back into the soil profile.
Ideally, you will have aerated in November with a suitable solid tine spiker achieving a depth of penetration between 100-150mm. This operation will have helped increase the porosity of your soil profile and will have aided surface drainage.
With soil temperatures hovering and remaining around 5-8 degrees C, there will be little or no likelihood of any grass growth until the spring. Also, these mild, wet conditions may have increased the incidence of some disease outbreak particularly fusarium and red thread.
January is a good time, whilst it is quiet, to plan and get yourself organised. What are your targets for this year? What do you want to achieve? Have you organised your spring renovation works? Have you ordered materials and machinery for the forthcoming season?
Daily brushing will help disperse early morning dews and help dry out the sward, reducing the amount of surface leaf moisture content that can initiate an outbreak of fungal disease. Brushing also helps stand the sward upright and increase air flow around the grass plant.
It is also important to try and keep the the top 50mm of the soil profile free draining; this is achieved by keeping the surface open to allow gaseous exchange, preventing anaerobic conditions prevailing. The surface is kept open by a programme of aeration techniques, varying the type and size of tines used.
Useful Information for Brushing
|The 'hallowed' turf of Germany at The Gerry Weber Stadium||Tennis Court Nets|
The sward should be maintained at its winter height of cut between 12-18mm. The use of a rotary mower can be ideal for topping off and, at the same time, cleaning up any surface debris.
Useful Information for Mowing
|A twenty year makeover of the tennis courts at Norton in Hales||Tennis Accessories|
For shallow aeration, the use of a sarell roller is sufficient, however you may need to go deeper by using either pedestrian or tractor mounted aerators fitted with longer tines, which can be selected to achieve depths of aeration from 100-300mm. Care should be taken when undertaking these tasks; trying to aerate when the soil is wet or saturated can cause greater problems, such as smearing and compaction.
Keep an eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. Any mild and wet weather will certainly provide the ideal climatic conditions for diseases. Regular brushing or switching off the dew in the mornings will reduce the chance of fungal attack.
Useful Information for Pest and Disease
|Chilling reminder of winter turf disease damage||Professional Fungicides|
Tennis structures: Inspect stored posts, nets, seating and notice/scoreboards. Replace with new equipment if required. Repair any damaged fencing.
Litter: Inspect and remove debris from playing surface - litter or any wind blown tree debris, twigs and 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 and maintenance: Service and repair damaged machinery. Maintain material stocks and order any other consumables required.
Artificial tennis surfaces also need attention. Regular brushing is essential to keep them clean and free from contaminations. Sand filled/dressed carpet systems also require regular brushing to keep them clean and to redistribute sand infill materials.
Algae can often be a problem at this time of the year on artificial playing surfaces. Regular brushing and fungicide treatments may be required to reduce and remove algae growth on the courts. You should use approved chemical products when treating algae problems.