Heavy morning dews are often prevalent at this time of the year. It is important to remove the dew by brushing or switching the surface to displace the water droplets, thus allowing the surface to dry quickly. Keeping the sward dry is essential to prevent disease taking hold and spreading.
Mowing frequencies will be reduced, and any mowing undertaken will tend to be done with a rotary mower, which helps clean up any surface debris and stand the grass up. There is still time to overseed and repair damaged grass areas.
There may be a need to over sow recently repaired areas, especially if the seed has not germinated very well. Rye grasses will still germinate in favourable temperatures in November. The use of germination sheets (covers) will help speed up the germination of newly sown seed.
Leaf litter can be a problem during the month of November; there will be a need to regularly brush, blow and or vacuum playing surfaces to prevent leaves from smothering the grass or creating a slip hazard on artificial courts.
Earthworm activity usually increases in November, if you have a heavy infestation of casting worms you can treat with a timely dose of carbendazim when conditions are favourable.
Key Tasks for November
The mowing height on the courts should be raised and maintained at a winter height of between 12-18mm. Mowing frequency will be dependant on a number of factors, grass growth, sward type, level or standard of facility, resources (staff and machinery). However, generally it may only need mowing on a weekly/fortnightly basis to keep tidy during the winter months.
Soils can become saturated after spells of prolonged rainfall. A saturated soil is a condition where the air spaces in the soil become predominantly filled with water. When soils remain in a saturated condition, they can easily be damaged and de-structured by traffic or use of machinery. It is essential you keep off playing surfaces when saturated.
A programme of aeration will aid surface drainage. It is essential you keep the surface open and free draining, aerating the playing surface with a sarrel roller or some solid tines will be beneficial. However, only use machinery on the surface if you can operate without causing any smearing or damage.
Solid punch type aerators are considered the best method of aeration, using tines of different depths and diameters. Ideally, you would want to try and achieve a depth between 100-200mm. A sarrel roller is often used to prick small holes in the surface down to a depth of 45mm.
If you have not already done this, it is a good time to take soil samples and get them sent off for analysis and, by taking regular core samples, you can see what root development you have.
Soil tests should be taken once or twice a year, or as required. Soil sampling is an important part of Groundsmanship. The results will enable the manager to have a better understanding of the current status of their soil and turf. There are many tests that can be undertaken, but usually the main tests to consider are:
- Particle Size Distribution (PSD): This will give you accurate information on the soil type and its particle make up, enabling you to match up with appropriate top dressing materials and ensuring you are able to maintain a consistent hydraulic conductivity (drainage rate) of your soil profile.
- Soil pH: It is important to keep the soil at a pH of 5.5-6.5, a suitable level for most grass plants.
- Organic matter content: It is important to keep a balanced level of organic matter content in the soil profile.
- Nutrient Levels: Keeping a balance of N P K nutrients within the soil profile is essential for healthy plant growth.
Once you have this information you will be in a better position to plan your season's feeding and maintenance programmes.
Keep an eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. During November 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 ring and fusarium.
Red thread Laetisaria fuciformis (Pathagen)
Red thread is often seen during the summer/autumn months, but may persist into the winter months if conditions remain mild, temperature range 15-24°C.
Identification of the disease is relatively easy with the turf grass having, irregular tan coloured shaped patches of damaged or necrotic grass varying in size 20-350mm with a pink/red colour cast caused by the fine red filaments/needles (10mm long) of the mycelium of the pathogen. Severe attacks will damage/kill grass.
Red fescues: slender and strong creeping red fescues (Festuca spp.), Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) are the main susceptible species affected by red thread. Other grasses which can be affected are bentgrasses (Agrostis spp.) and annual meadowgrass (Poa sp.) The above grasses are used in most sport turf situations including golf, bowls, cricket, and winter games pitches.
Fungus spores can remain viable for up to 2 years, survive temperature as low as -20°C or as high as 32°C, This fungus is capable of growth at pH 3.5 -7.5; this means that the disease can occur on almost any amenity turf rootzone.
Red Thread spores (sclerotia) and (arthroconidia) are spread by wind, water and by traffic, and it is during these periods of mild, cool, wet weather, with temperatures 0-25°C and heavy dews, that an outbreak of disease takes place. Attacks appear during summer/autumn months but can persist into winter if weather remains mild. These spores germinate into mycelia, infecting new plant tissue, then reproduce to form fruiting bodies red threads (sclerotia).
Turf grass is susceptible to disease attack when damaged or under stress from low fertility, slow growth (insufficient Nitrogen), drought and compaction. Keeping the sward healthy and using resistant turf grass species will reduce the incidence and severity of disease attacks. Apply a balanced fertiliser programme with emphasis on nitrogen input, ensuring not to over fertilise in autumn as this may lead to other pathogens attacking the sward.
Maintain an open sward, by aeration and scarification which will, in turn, reduce thatch. Maintaining mowing machinery and removing morning dew by brushing are all good cultural practices in keeping Red Thread at bay. As a last resort, an application of an approved fungicide can be used. Approved manufacturer products available for application are contact and systemic pesticides, with the following active ingredients Iprodione, Thiophanate-methyl, Thiabendazole and Carbendazim.
With the correct Integrated Pest Management programme (IPM) in place, Red thread will not be a major disease problem on turf. Grass generally recovers well from this disease after treatment.
Fusarium (Pink Snow Mold) Microdochium nivale (Pathagen)
Fusarium patch disease is becoming very widespread on amenity sports turf facilities, particularly during the winter months. Its symptoms are more easily seen on fine turf situations of bowling and golf greens. The disease appears as small orange/brown colour, circular dead patches/spots up to 25-50mm in diameter.
Fusarium patch is often seen during the late autumn/winter months when cool and wet weather and moist surfaces persist. The pathogen can be active across a broad range of cooler temperatures. Identification of the disease is relatively easy, with the turf grass having irregular tan/orange coloured shaped spots of damaged or necrotic grass varying in size 20-350mm, with a pale pink/white colour mycelium. Seen when the disease is active, the initial symptoms are small brown spots, which will rapidly enlarge and cause scarring of the turf when conditions are favourable. These scars will be difficult to heal and repair during the winter months, so early recognition and treatment is important to reduce scarring of the turf surface.
All mature amenity and sports turf containing the following grass species will be susceptible to an attack of fusarium: Agrostis spp. (Bent grasses), Festuca spp (Fescue grasses), Loluim spp (Rye grasses), Poa spp (Annual meadow grasses).
With Poa species being the most commonly attacked, however, this grass is able to recover easily after an attack because of its seed bank presence in the soil. The above grasses are used in most sport turf situations including golf, bowls, cricket and winter game pitches.
Fusarium patch spores (sclerotia) and (arthroconidia) are spread by wind, water and by traffic, and it is during periods of mild, wet weather and heavy dews that an outbreak of disease takes place, with attacks appearing during late autumn and through the winter. These spores germinate into mycelia, infecting new plant tissue (pale pink and white mycelium), which can be seen around the edge of the patches, indicating that the disease is active.
Turf grass is susceptible to disease attack when damaged or under stress, and when the soil surface remains wet during prolonged periods of wet cool weather. In severe infections, the fungus may penetrate as far as the crown, but will usually not kill the plant. If the plant does die, it is more likely from subsequent winter injury or another cause. Infected turf will recover when the plant becomes more active in the spring and is able to produce new healthy leaves, restoring its vigour and colour.
Keeping the sward healthy and reducing the conditions that favour this disease will be the first priority to keep it from your turf. There are a number of UK approved fungicides that can be used for treating fusarium; all should be applied in accordance with manufactures recommendations, product data sheets and COSHH regulations (Control Of Substances Hazardous to Health).
Good cultural practices may be the only option for disease control in the future, especially as there are moves to reduce the amount of chemicals and fungicides available for use in the coming years. However, at the moment, we are still able to reduce fungi pathogen populations by applying fungicides which either kill off the pathogen or slow down the production of fungal spores.
Earthworm activity usually increases in November. Earthworms can survive in a wide range of conditions, but most activity is dependent on the quality of food available.
Worms like plenty of Organic Matter (OM), therefore courts with a high thatch problem tend to encourage worm activity. Soil pH also affects where earthworms are found. In strongly acid or alkaline soils, earthworms are rarely seen (pH less than 4.5 or greater than 8). The soil texture will also affect the number of earthworms found; they prefer clay soils and are less frequently found in sandy soils. Earthworm casts result from the deposition of earth and decomposing matter. There are 25 commonly found species of earthworm in the UK, only three of these are responsible for the majority of casts.
Casts are produced seasonally, during the spring and autumn where conditions such as moisture and temperature are suitable. As much as 50 tonnes of earthworm casts can be deposited per hectare in unmanaged grassland. Casts effect ball roll, and the aesthetic appearance of the playing surfaces.
Worm activity inevitability leads to worm casts appearing on the playing surface. These worm casts can be very problematic, they tend to smear the surface, which in turn can affect surface water drainage capacity as well as providing a seed bed for weed germination.
Historically, earthworms have been controlled chemically, killing all earthworms in the turf. The most widely used chemical was chlordane, an organochloride, now banned due to it's wide ranging toxic effects and persistence in the environment. Currently, there is only available for controlling worms and only works as a suppressant.
November is a good time to spray to suppress any worm activity.
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.
Artifical 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.