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.
Once you have completed the renovations and waiting for the seed to germinate, be mindful that this spell of heavy rain may cause a few problems in terms of washing out parts of the renovated courts. There may be a need for some small repairs and replacement of any seed being washed away.
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 around one 25kg bag of grass seed if you sow at a rate of 35g / m2.
Choice of grass seed is all too 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 (consult the Turfgrass seed booklet 2012 for information on relevant cultivars).
You also have to bear in mind what budgets you have available, top seed varieties are expensive.
Clubs can soon be reaping the benefits of a successful end of season renovation programmes, 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. 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.
If you have not completed your renovations, here is a reminder of what you should be doing :-
Once the playing season is over, take down nets and post and store away; replace broken or damaged tennis nets and posts.
Get organised for your end of season renovations, ensure you have ordered your materials to arrive on time. Check equipment, ensuring it is ready for the work entailed. Check all belts and drives on the scarifiers.
If you are intending to use a contractor to do your work, confirm start dates and be clear they understand what level of work you want.
Do not skimp on the quality of seed and fertilisers. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for. Just remember, it takes many years of research and development to bring many of our common materials to market.
It is important to ensure that all materials (seed, fertilisers, topdressings) and any hired machinery have arrived, and are secured and stored safely on site ready for use. Often, when ordering materials late, you may be faced with delays on delivery or not being able to get the products you want in time for your planned works.
Mow the sward, preparing surfaces for renovation. Lower cutting height to about 3-4mm to clean and prepare courts.
Scarification - depending on the severity of the thatch, you may need to scarify several times in different directions. However, in most cases, if regular verticutting/grooming has taken place during the growing season, you would probably only be required to scarify in two directions. Do not scarify at right angles to the previous scarification line. Depth of scarification between 4-15mm, depending on depth of thatch to remove.
The rotary mower can then be used to clean up the courts after scarifying has been completed.
Aerate to relieve compaction and encourage root development. Aeration is the decompaction of soil, improving air and gas exchange in the soil profile. Depending on the turf's condition, you can choose to carry out hollow or solid tine spiking. Hollow tines are generally used on a bi-annual basis or when you have a severe thatch problem. Depth of aeration will be determined by the depth of your soil profile and what problems you want to rectify. Hollow tining is best achieved to a depth of between 75-100mm. Solid or slit tines can be set to penetrate deeper, ideally between 100-200mm.
Topdressing restores levels and improves surface drainage. Ensure you use compatible topdressing materials, sands, sand/soil mixes. Spreading can be achieved by several methods, utilising pedestrian or ride-on, disc or drop action top spreaders, or by hand using a shovel and a barrow. Best carried out in dry weather. It is important that the topdressings are spread uniformly. Brush to incorporate dressings and to help the grass stand back up. Brush in with a lute or drag brush/mat to restore levels.
Overseeding restores grass populations. It is important to ensure a good groove or hole is made to receive the seed; good seed to soil contact is essential for germination. Good moisture and soil temperatures will see the seed germinate between 7-14 days.
Fertilising provides nutrients for grass growth. Apply a low N nitrogen fertiliser product, something like an NPK 5:5:15, to help the sward through the autumn period.
It is essential to keep the sward watered after renovations to ensure your seed germinates.
Useful Information for Renovations
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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.
Fertilisers:- 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, 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
Useful Information for Mowing and Fertilising
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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.
Useful Information for Disease
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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.
Useful Information for Artifcial courts
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A sarrel 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.