Expected weather for this month:

Another mixed and unsettled month, with average temperatures and rainfall

A good deal of bright weather is likely in early August, but with showers affecting western and northwestern parts. Southeastern areas will remain generally dry. Temperatures will be near or slightly below average, with some chilly nights, especially in the north. Later in the month it is expected to turn more unsettled generally, with a mixture of brighter but showery spells interspersed by cloudier conditions with outbreaks of rain. Northwestern parts will see the heaviest rain and strongest winds, whereas the southeast will get the best of the dry and bright weather. Temperatures should be around average, but sometimes cooler in the northwest.

August will be a busy time for most tennis clubs, not only fulfilling their fixture lists but also catering for an influx of wannabe tennis players trying their hand after another successful Wimbledon Tournament. It is important to provide safe and consistent playing surfaces. This will only be achieved with regular ongoing maintenance regimes. It is important to keep the surface clean and free from any debris. 

Key Tasks for August

Your maintenance regime will continue in much the same vein as last month's - grass cutting, grooming, brushing, aerating, feeding, watering and marking out for matches.

Prior to mowing, the surface should be thoroughly brushed. Continue to brush courts daily to remove moisture from the grass surface, stopping the spread of disease and facilitating an improved quality of cut on the dry grass.

Other important tasks:

  • It is important to roll the courts to firm them up; rolling should be done during favourable weather conditions, ideally when the soil profile is malleable/moist enough to bind together.
  • It is important to monitor the condition of the court and constantly repair any bare and uneven levels. Topdress with compatible loam soils and overseed with a good quality ryegrass at a rate of 35-40 grams per m2.
  • It is also the players responsibility to ensure they are wearing appropriate footwear and using balls that are not damaged.
  • This month sees the continuation of regular maintenance tasks - grass cutting, grooming, brushing, aerating, feeding and watering. Particular attention should be made to your irrigation regimes, ensuring that all turf surfaces receive adequate amounts of water to maintain growth.
  • Groundstaff will also be trying to maintain the sward height at between 6-10mm depending on the level of play. .

Mowing. The mowing height on the courts should be lowered to around 6-10mm for the playing season, subject to local weather conditions, but remember not to remove more than 1/3 of total grass height in each cut.

Mowing frequency will be dependent on a number of factors, grass growth, sward type, level or standard of facility, resources (staff and machinery) but, generally, it may vary from daily, in the case of Wimbledon, to two to three days a week, or even weekly, depending on resources available.

Grooming and verticutting are operations that remove unwanted side grass growth and reduce the amount of debris in the sward. These operations are carried out on a regular basis, often weekly or fortnightly, and providing you have sufficient watering facilities. These operations are completed in conjunction with your mowing regimes.

Aeration. A programme of aeration can be considered to alleviate any compaction from recent play. However, this needs to be done with an appropriate aerator, something like the Hydrajet, Dryject or SISIS Javelin Aeraid, which are able to penetrate the hard clay soil profiles without causing surface disruption, thus allowing some much needed air exchange to promote a second phase of grass growth.

Irrigation. 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.

Fertiliser. 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.

In recent years, we have seen a change in feeding habits in professional sport, with more groundsmen resorting to a more detailed feeding programme using a concoction of fertiliser products and soil conditioners to maintain plant health.

This has generally been achieved applying a range of different products in the form of granular and liquid forms.

We are now seeing granular products being used as base/slow release feeds and being topped up with a range of liquid feeds that include bio stimulants along with micro nutrients. To help improve the performance of these feeds, a number of soil additive products and wetting agents are in regular use.

However, for a majority of smaller clubs/facilities, they will be reliant on a trusted base fertiliser, a 12:0:9, 7:0:7 or similar compound blend, or apply a slow release fertiliser to see you through to August. The choice of material and how well it works will be dependant on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and soil temperature being the catalyst for growth.

The performance of slow release fertilisers can be influenced by the weather, often producing a flush of growth when you least expect it. Some grounds managers may use straight compound granular or liquid fertilisers which activate when in contact with moist soil conditions, effectively stimulating grass growth within days.

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 nothing 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.

August is a good time for another organic fertiliser application; with a two month longevity, an application in August will take you through to October, which is the perfect time for an autumn winter feed. Maxwell Turf Food Myco2 4-6-12+4%MgO provides a nice kick of phosphorous, potassium and magnesium for plant resilience and colour but without too much nitrogen so as not to encourage excessive soft lush growth. The mycorrhizal fungi combined with the phosphorus content means it is also especially good as a fertiliser when sowing seed.

The risk of severe drought stress has largely passed and August tends to produce substantial rain fall. Moisture combined with warmth and humidity is going to place stress on the plant from a number of directions. Aeration is vital to keep the soil oxygen ratio balanced, 8mm needle or 12mm standard tines down to a depth of 200-300mm with a vertical aerator will be particularly beneficial in allowing the soil to breath. Combining this with a weekly pass from a Sarel or Star Tine aerator will provide a large volume of aeration into the sward and thatch layer to provide a rounded approach to aeration.

Continued use of polymer and penetrant wetting agents will also help to manage soil water percolation and retention more effectively by moving rain fall away from the surface but holding it further down in the profile where it will be readily available during any hotter and sunny spells.

Disease pressure has been unseasonably high throughout July and this is likely to continue into August. With both microdochium patch and anthracnose forecast to be problematic. Heritage Maxx fungicide is a strong contender for use as a preventative and early curative with its systemic action making it an sensible option during the growing season and especially as a preventative prior to turf renovations. Red thread will also thrive in humid conditions and reducing total time of continual leaf blade wetness through switching and brushing is the first line of defence when aiming to minimise disease activity.

Seaweed is a fantastic way of boosting soil flora, priming the pant to resist environmental stress and extending the longevity of fertilisers. However, it is a fantastic fungal food and stimulator so applications need to be timed carefully to boost good fungi and not pathogenic ones. Keeping a close eye on weather trends combined with fungicide treatments is important, or put simply; do not apply it when fungal disease is active, apply it about a week after a fungicide application, ideally with some Chelated Iron to strengthen plant cell walls.

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 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.

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.

Please note: More information on these and many others can be found here: https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php

It is important to keep you mowers clean and sharpened, adjusting/checking your height of cut on a daily basis.

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.

Many artificial, sand filled courts are not cleaned regularly, mainly due to the fact that they were sold, mistakenly, as maintenance free facilities. However, these courts require regular brushing and cleaning to keep the pile upright and prevent contamination of the sand infill materials.

Artifcial courts. Keep surface 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. 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.