Natural grass tennis courts will be coming to the end of their playing season, with groundstaff organising and preparing for the end of season renovation works, which often starts mid September, with the aim of completing all works before the end of the month.
It is important that you carefully evaluate the needs of your courts; the work required will be determined by the condition of the courts with regard to wear (bare areas), weed infestation, levels of thatch content, nutrient status and overall surface levels.
A soil analysis will determine a number of factors to help you decide on the appropriate treatments and choice of materials required for your end of season renovations.
By taking a soil sample, you can also identify the amount of thatch present. This will help you decide on the level of scarification required. One of the biggest problems during renovations is the fact that many clubs do not remove enough thatch from their swards. This is often due to either not enough passes with the scarifier at the correct depths, or using a machine that is not robust enough or engineered to cope with the work required.
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.
Key Tasks for September
Continue with weekly or twice weekly mowing regimes to maintain sward height.
Maintain turf vigour and colour with an application of an autumn fertiliser
Once the playing season is over, take down nets and posts and store away, replacing any broken or damaged equipment.
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.
Arrange to have your mowers serviced during the winter months.
End of season renovations
Mow the sward, preparing surfaces for renovation. Lower cutting height to about 3-4mm to clean and prepare courts.
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.
In recent years, we have seen a number of clubs fraise mowing the courts to remove surface vegetation. This method is more thorough and helps restore levels, however it comes at a higher cost than traditional scarifying methods.
Blowers / vacuums / power brushes and mowers can 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.
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. Invest in good seed varieties, do not compromise the hard work by buying cheap grass seed, have a look at the current Turf Grass Seed Giude 2014 and see what varieties are recommended for Tennis.
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.
Brush to incorporate dressings and to help the grass stand back up. Brush in with a lute or drag brush/mat to restore levels.
It is essential to keep the sward watered after renovations to ensure your seed germinates.
Spend time cleaning and maintaining your artifcial playing surfaces, they are not maintenance free and require appropiate attention to keep them clean safe and playable. We now have a lot of different playing surfaces to manage, so consult manufacturer's guidelines and regularly inpect and maintain these surfaces.
Inspect fencelines, net posts and netting. Also check floodlighting; you should have the lights inspected and certified for use annually.
Keep surfaces 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. Repaint lines.
Tarmacadam - regular sweeping and brushing. Repair any hollows or damaged areas. Repaint lines.
If you have not already done this, September is a good time to take soil samples and get them sent off for analysis. Also, by taking regular core samples, you can see what root development you have.
Ideally, if you have not had one done before, you should have a full (PSD) Particle Size Distribution soil analysis 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.
Red thread and a number of other turf grass diseases may be seen after the recent changing weather fronts, conditions have been ideal for this disease. Grass plants are under stress, favourable temperatures for incubation, overcast and moisture in the ground enables the disease to spread quickly. The disease has come in because the grass plant is under stress, quite often due to the fact that it may be under-nourished. In most cases, red thread can be controlled with an application of fertiliser.
If the outbreak is severe, then treatment is likely to be necessary. Choice of a curative or eradicant fungicide, preferably with a systemic action, is most suitable. Protectant types can take time to work and seem less effective on aggressive red thread strains. This must be a last resort, as the costs of annual applications of fungicides to large areas are very high and may eventually lead to pathogen resistance.
Control should be a mixture of good sward management, good observation and use of cultural controls. Occasionally, the bottle (or box) needs to be reached for to keep sanity and the sward alive.
A dose of feed or, in some severe cases, an application of fungicide will help treat the problem.
Keep machinery in good order, clean after use and top up any oil/fuel levels.
Check cutting cylinders are at correct cutting height and are sharp.
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.
Maintain fencelines, cut any hedges, prune shrubs
Take down and store all tennis equipment.
Maintain machinery, organise winter services