As the clocks go forward we can look back on a fairly dry March. Moving into April, there is an increased chance of below average temperatures and above average precipitation, until the end of the month brings drier and warmer than average weather. Early April will see most parts unsettled and rather cold at times. Showers or more persistent spells of rain are likely to affect all regions. It may still be cold enough at times for some wintry showers, which could bring sleet or snow, especially in northern areas. Nightly frosts are likely at times but, as the month progresses, there may be an increasing chance of drier and warmer spells of weather developing in southern and central regions.
Pre-season rolling should have begun, using your mower. Clay soils need a certain amount of moisture for effective rolling to be achieved with clay soils taking longer to warm up and, therefore, the grass will be slower to develop. If you are considering applying a worm suppressant, it may pay to wait until the soils have warmed up enough to stimulate worm activity, ensuring you receive better results when applying the pesticide.
Spring renovations will be at the forefront of any planned maintenance regimes followed by some regular mowing activities to improve sward density.
Key Tasks for April
Most of your aeration operations should have been completed during the winter period. Generally, we do not aerate clay soil profiles after January, as we do not want to encourage cracking of the clay surfaces. However, if there is a need to help remove surface water from the courts, we can utilise the sarrel roller which lightly aerates the top 25-30mm, allowing any surface water to drain down deeper into the soil profile. Carry out the following regular tasks:
- Continue to roll the courts
- Fortnightly light scarification or verticutting
- Seed sparse or bare areas
Rolling. It is essential to carry out an effective rolling programme in April. Continue to roll the courts, firstly across the line of play, followed by rolling down the length of play. Timing of this operation is vitally important. Trying to roll when soil conditions are wet or too dry will not achieve the desired effect.
Mowing. The mowing height on the courts should be lowered to around 8-10mm for the playing season, but remember not to remove more than 1/3 of total grass height in each cut.
Light scarification or verticutting can be carried out at fortnightly intervals pre-season. Removing horizontally growing grasses and surface organic matter are always beneficial for the onset of court preparation which, together with brushing, will improve the quality of cut.
Particle Size Distribution (PSD). April is still a good time to take soil samples and get them sent off for analysis, enabling you to get them back in time to start your new season's maintenance. Ideally, if you have not had one done before, you should have a full (PSD) Particle Size Distribution soil analysis done 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.
Carrying out these test also allows you to check other physical conditions of the green, such as root depth, levels of compaction and aerobic state of the soil.
N:P:K: Fertiliser treatment and turf tonic 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. Apply a spring fertiliser when conditions allow.
Fertilisers can be applied in liquid or granular forms. Most groundstaff will be applying something like a 12/0/9 or 9/7/7 to get the grass moving during April then, towards the end of April or early May, applying a slow release fertiliser to see you through to June/July.
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.
Some of the damage symptoms that insects and pests can cause are very similar to those caused by diseases, so it is very important to correctly diagnose the problem before treatment is applied.
Please note: More information on these and many others can be found here: https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php
You, should have had your mower serviced and sharpened ready for the new season.
- Inspect machinery and equipment
- Clean after use
- Remember to check air filters
- Inspect and reset mowing blades on cylinder mowers to ensure they remain 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.
- Ensure drainage outfalls, channels and ditches are clear
- Inspect stored posts, nets, seating and notice/score boards
- Inspect and remove debris from playing surface
- Regular sweeping and brushing
- Repair any hollows or damaged areas
- Repaint lines