There will be plenty of groundsmen waiting for a favourable change in the weather, having had the wettest winter on record. Hopefully, soils and air temperatures will soon rise into double figures, allowing surfaces to dry out and giving the opportunity to get on with the planned spring work.
Clay soils will take longer to warm up than sandy soils, however, once temperatures get into mid teens, grass can beging to grow; it is important to get some spring fertiliser on to stimulate some early growth and improvment in colour. It is worth remembering to brush/dragmat the courts to remove early morning dew, thus helping to reduce the incidence of disease.
The present condition of the courts will also have a bearing on the 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.
Key Tasks for March
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.
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.
Mowing frequencies will gradually be more frequent as the grass begins to grow, going from a weekly cut into a 2-3 weekly cuts in April, with an increased mowing regime helping to stimulate the grass plant and thicken up the sward.
The sward should be maintained at its winter height of a cut between 12-18mm.
It is important to try and keep the the top 50mm of the soil profile free draining, which is achieved by keeping the surface open, allowing gaseous exchanges to take place, 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.
Spring renovations revolve around some aeration, topdressing, overseeding and light scarification work which helps remove any dead moss/ unwanted thatch.
Consult the new Grass Seed 2014 booklet to choose appropriate seed cultivars.
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.
Many groundsmen are returning to a balanced programme of feeds and applying on a 'little and often' approach, which is achieved with some base slow release granular feeds topped up with liquids, along with some organic material such as seaweed extracts.
In recent years, we have also seen the use of wetting agents to improve water movement through the soil profile; these can be applied on a monthly basis.
An application of iron sulphate will help kill off any moss; it will usually take a couple of weeks to die, enabling enable you to remove the moss during your spring renovation programme.
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.
I would recommend you apply the sulphate of iron in a liquid form; you will have better control over application rates.
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, however regular brushing or switching off the dew in the mornings will reduce the chance of fungal attack.
Keep all machinery in good working order, keep them regularly serviced, cleaned and set up for use.
Order relevant materials for the new season, seed, rootzones, sand and fertilisers need to be ordered in advance of your spring renovations.
Drainage: Inspect drainage outfalls, channels and ditches ensuring 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.
Artificial surfaces: Artificial tennis surfaces also need attention with regular brushing being 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.