Soil and air temperatures will soon rise once we get a few hours of bright March sunshine. Surfaces will, hopefully, dry out allowing you the opportunity to get on with your planned spring work.
The present condition of the courts will also have a bearing on what maintenance operations you should be doing. Coming out of this unseasonal wet and mild winter weather, there will be many clubs suffering from a build up of moss and algae problems.
Emphasis will be focused on getting your mowing programme up to speed, ensure your mowers are set up correctly, serviced and blades sharp. A number of Groundsmen are now using pedestrian rotary mowers for their initial cuts and then reverting to using their cylinder mowers that produce a finer cut. Other benefits of using a rotary mower is that it hoovers up any debris and helps the grass stand up.
With soil temperatures warming up, it is important to get some spring fertiliser on to stimulate some early growth and improve colour. Also remember to brush/dragmat the courts to remove early morning dew, thus helping to reduce the incidence of disease.
Undertake some aeration work to help get air back into the soil profile.
An application of iron sulphate will help kill off any moss; it will usually take a couple of weeks to die; this will enable you to remove the moss during your spring renovation programme.
The weather usually improves significantly from mid March when drying winds and outbreaks of warm sunshine become more regular (hopefully). In such conditions, an application of spring fertiliser is recommended to help stimulate grass growth.
Ideally, you should conduct a soil analysis to confirm the nutrient status of your soil and buy an appropriate fertiliser product to suit your requirements.
Get yourself prepared for your spring renovations, which tend to take place towards the back end of March early April when grass growth is more consistent to aid recovery from the spring renovations.
Usually, these renovation revolve around some light scarification work, which helps remove any dead moss/unwanted thatch, aeration, topdressing and overseeding.
A dose of slow release fertiliser can be applied to act as a base feed; this will keep the grass plant fed for a couple of months, which can be supplemented with some liquid feeds as and when required.
Mosses are primitive non-flowering plants that have no root structure and rely on there being sufficient moisture in the environment for reproduction and survival.
The majority of mosses are tolerant of acidic soils and are stimulated by wet humid conditions. Rapid colonisation of moss and algaes usually occur during autumn and winter months when turf surfaces are lying wet and saturated for long periods of time, particularly when little or no aeration has been undertaken.
Remember, moss is the symptom of poor grass growth, and not the cause of it. If you make sure you have a tightly knit sward next year, and have maximised drainage with plenty of regular aeration, you should not have to deal with moss at all.
If you are saddled with a turf situation that has a lot of moss present, there will be a requirement to kill off the moss. The only product now available to control moss in turf is sulphate of iron (Ferrous Sulphate), it is relatively cheap and effective. It can be applied in a liquid or granular formulation. The granular form is usually mixed with sand to provide a carrier for the active ingredient. Apply at recommended rates.
When using lawn sands, it is important you use a compatible sand product that matches your rootzone soil profile. You do not want to create a layering problem. Some club Groundsmen may not entertain the use of lawn sand, as they do not want to introduce a sand medium into the clay based soil structure.
For tennis courts I would recommend you apply the sulphate of iron in a liquid form; you will have better control over application rates.
For best results:-
• Apply when the turf is actively growing and the soil is moist
• Mow 3 days before treatment and do not mow for three days after treatment
• Water after 2 days if no rain forecast
• Rake out dead moss thoroughly 7-14 days after treatment
• Re-treatment may be necessary for heavy infestations
Any bare or sparse areas can be lightly tilthed and overseeded.
Daily brushing will help disperse early morning dews and help dry out the sward, thus 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, thus preventing anaerobic conditions prevailing. The surface is kept open by a programme of aeration techniques, varying the type and size of tines used.
For shallow aeration, the use of a sarrel 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.
Useful Information for Aeration and Brushing
|Why should we carry out aeration?||Tennis Court Nets|
Soil testing:- March is a good time to take soil samples and get them sent off for analysis, thus enabling you to get them back in time to start your new year's maintenance.
Ideally, if you have not had one done before, you should have a full (PSD) Particle Size Distribution soil analysis done to tell you the actual make up of your soil profile.
Soil is made up of percentages of clay, silt and sand. The PSD analysis will identify the ratio of these and confirm soil type, thus giving you a better understanding of what soil you are dealing with. Also, you can establish the amount of organic matter (OM) content as well as soil nutrient status and soil pH. With this information you will be able to identify the needs of your soil.
Pitchcare have recently launched a new independent Soil Anaylsis service that enable you to get specific results for the soils you manage. Soil analysis is a means to discover what levels of nutrients are available to plants. There is an optimum for each plant nutrient and, when coupled with other properties such as soil structure and particle sizes, determine how vigorous your plants are. Different nutrients undertake different tasks within the plant.
Fertiliser programme: If grass shows signs of stress (weak growth, discoloured). 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. Apply a spring fertiliser when conditions allow.
Useful Information for Soil testing and fertilisers
|A question of balance for your soil||Soil Testing|
Mowing heights: 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.
Diseases: 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 & Disease
|Top pest and disease threats present in Britain||Professional Fungicides|
Drainage: Inspect drainage outfalls, channels and ditches. Ensure that they are working. Renew or repair any damaged or problematic drainage systems.
Tennis structures: Inspect stored posts, nets, seating and notice/score boards. 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 & maintenance: Service and repair damaged machinery. Maintain material stocks and order any other consumables required.
Artificial surfaces: 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.