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 begins this year on the 26th June and finishes on the 6th July.
Most tennis clubs with grass courts usually open up for play in June. 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.
Initial marking of the courts should have been completed in May, along with final court preparations that include mowing, feeding, marking out and erecting nets.
Key Tasks for June
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 verti-cutting 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, however some clubs do like to mow daily to maintain presentation and improve the quality of the sward.
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.
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 the irrigation process. Allowing surfaces 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.
Most natural grass courts have a clay loam top soil profile, ideally having 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 sarel roller to spike the top 4mm only. Aerating with deeper tines could lead to the courts drying out too quickly and cracking.
Keep an eye open for any fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat the infected areas.
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 Everris Greenmaster Spring & Summer 12+4+6 Liquid Fertiliser 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 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. Also invest in a good quality paint products, there are plenty to choose from that will suit your requirements and budget.
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.
Surface clean with regular sweeping and brushing. Remove any algae and moss from the 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.
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; 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 and tennis courts. This equipment can be hired from specialist suppliers. Recording and monitoring these two parameters will help you have a better understanding of how your courts are performing.
Many groundsman are now also using moisture meters to monitor soil moisture deficit (SMD); by keeping an eye on these losses, you can then apply the correct amount of water to replace the water lost by evaportransipration.
Keep an eye on fungal disease attack and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. Outbreaks of Red thread may occur, which often indicates your grass is in need of a feed. Usually an application of a nitrogen feed will be enough to control an outbreak of Red thread.
It is important to 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 controlled by the application of chemicals, usually a broadleaf selective weed killer. Best results are achieved when the soil has warmed up and the grass is actively growing.
It is important to keep you mowers clean and sharpend, adjusting/checking your height of cut on a daily basis.
Pitchcare provide a range of courses suitable for tennis clubs. In most cases, the courses can be held on site using the club's own equipment and machinery.
Some of the courses available are:
- Chainsaws - CS30 and CS31
- H&S Refresher Training on Combined Turf Care Equipment; Tractors and Trailers; All Mowers (Ride-on and Pedestrian)
- Machinery Courses on ATVs; Tractors: Brushcutters/Strimmers; Mowers (ride-on and Pedestrian)
- Pesticide Application (PA courses)
- Stem Injection of Invasive Species (Japanese Knotweed etc.)
- Basic Trees Survey and Inspection
More details about all the courses can be found here, or you can email Chris Johnson for information.