As always, the month of June signals the start of the grass court tennis season, with many players looking forward to playing on grass, which again is stimulated by the world's best Tennis Tournament, Wimbledon, which starts its 127th Championship Tournament on the 24th June.
Most tennis clubs with grass courts usually open up for play in June. The recent warmer spell will have encouraged some much needed growth, however, there will be a need to water your courts to keep the grass plant in good health. Watering will be a priority during spells of hot, dry weather; timing of watering will be crucial before games.
You need the surfaces to be dry for play. Watering at night will prevent water loss by evaportranspiration (ET). Most fine turf surfaces can lose as much as 6mm of water a day through ET (the loss of water from both the soil profile and the grass plant). It is important to replenish these losses.
Linemarking, check that all court markings are accurate and set up correctly. Also check tennis nets and post sockets .
Continue to mow regularly and repair any damage from play.
Keep and eye on your feeding programme, ensure the courts are looking their best in terms of presentation and colour.
Keep the courts free of litter and surface debris, sweep on a daily basis.
If you have more than one court, try and rotate play to reduce wear
Monitor the performance of the courts, and water them when needed.
Rolling will still be a key maintenance regime in June, using a 1-1.5 tonne roller to periodically roll the courts, both down and across the line of play when conditions allow. Try to achieve between 6-10 hours of rolling in any one given week prior to matches.
The rolling, and the fact that soil profiles are now drying out, will produce firmer, faster courts. This month sees the continuation of regular maintenance tasks - grass cutting, grooming, brushing, aerating, feeding and watering.
Quality of cut is important; ensure your mowers are adjusted correctly and are sharp. Badly adjusted and blunt cylinder blades will cause a number of problems - tearing of the grass plant, ribbing and scalping, leading to poor presentation and the likelihood of plant stress or disease. Brushing and verticutting will help stand the sward up and improve the quality of cutting.
Mowing regimes will be dictated by the amount of play, the weather and what tournaments you may have. As a general rule of thumb, most courts should be cut a minimum of three times a week at a height of around 7-8mm.
Ideally, you should be brushing on a daily basis to remove early morning dew.
Keeping the sward dry helps prevent disease attack. Verticutting on a fortnightly, or even a weekly basis, helps thin the sward and remove lateral growth, thus allowing good air circulation around the leaf blade which, in turn, increases respiration and transpiration rates of the grass plant.
You may need to stop verticutting operations if the courts become too dry.
Useful Information for Rolling and Mowing
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It is essential to have water available for irrigation purposes. Irrigation is required for 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 irrigation process. Allowing surfacess to remain dry can lead to problems of dry patch, a condition that prevents water into the soil, 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 open for any fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat the infected areas.
Useful Information for Irrigation
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Most natural grass courts have a clay loam top soil profile, ideally with 18% clay content, which can become compacted under moist conditions.
It is essential to keep the playing surfaces open with adequate aeration regimes. During the playing season, however, it is best to refrain from using deep aerators and just use a sarrel roller to spike the top 4mm only. Aerating with deeper tines could lead to the courts drying out too quickly and cracking.
Useful Information for Aeration
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Many Groundsmen now undertake a number of testing procedures to assess their courts, generally these tend to be ball bounce and hardness.
Ball bounce is simple, you just measure the height of a rebounding ball dropped from a pre-determined height. Testing for hardness requires a specialist piece of equipment called the Clegg Hammer, which essentially consists of a hammer weighing 0.5kg to which an accelerometer is attached.
The hammer was developed for testing soft materials, such as turf or sand, and is ideal for testing sports surfaces such as golf greens, cricket pitches, tennis courts.
Recording and monitoring these two parameters will help have a better understanding of how your courts are performing.
Feeding:- Keep your turf fertilised, but sparingly, to help maintain vigour and colour. It is often best to use liquid products during the playing season, as you have more control over the application, and they work more efficiently. Applying a 12:0:7 product will suffice and give the results you desire. Overdosing with high N fertilisers will only lead to lush growth which, in turn, will affect traction and wear on the courts.
Marking Out:- Marking is important, lines need to be clean, straight and accurate; ensure your marking machine is cleaned and serviced, checking that all the components are working properly. There is northing worse than using a marker that drips and produces poor line quality. It will reflect on your workmanship. Remember to use string lines for accuracy.
Useful Information for Feeding and Marking Out
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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 by an application of chemical broadleaf selective weed killer.
Artificial Tennis Courts:- 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. Power wash the courts twice a year to clean off algae and moss, or use an approved pesticide product to kill off the spores.
Plexipave Courts:- Keep clean and free of debris by regular brushing.
American Fast Dry courts:- Keep surface clean, rolling to consolidate surface; levelling and brushing fast dry materials, brushing to clean lines.
Clay courts:- 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:- Keep surfaces clean, regular sweeping and brushing. Repair any hollows or damaged areas. Repaint lines.