Expected weather for this month:

A cold and showery start to February is expected, followed by rain and strong winds

Many sports facilities in the north of England, north Wales, the Borders and Scotland will have been affected by flooding. Stay off your courts if they are waterlogged. If you are one of those affected, then flood advice can be found here - https://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/flood-advice.html

The met office are reporting that the start of February looks likely to remain changeable with unsettled, milder spells interspersed with colder, showery interludes. The windiest and most unsettled weather is likely to occur in the north and northwest, whilst the south and southeast should see somewhat drier conditions overall, though even here some rain and strong winds are likely at times. Despite relatively mild conditions prevailing, some overnight frost and fog is quite probable in any quieter intervals.

As we move into the second half of February there are signs that pressure may build in the mid Atlantic bringing a more north to north-westerly airflow to the British Isles, thereby increasing the risk of colder conditions developing.

Key Tasks for February

Grass courts

The mild temperatures and wet weather will promote fungal disease. Use approved fungicides to treat any infected areas.

Leaf spot can be quite damaging at this time of year; keep the leaf blade relatively dry by regular brushing, and apply an approved fungicide to prevent further outbreaks

Red thread can develop at any time during cool, wet weather. It can develop on most turfgrasses, but ryegrasses, meadow grasses and fescues appear to be more commonly affected.

This disease is often referred to as an indicator of low fertility, and symptoms will often develop more severely if nitrogen or potassium is limited.

Usually a dose of fertiliser will help control an outbreak of red thread.

Always ensure that the disease is correctly identified prior to applying any plant protection product.

  • continue to cut as required, ensuring that you take no more than a third off in any one cut. Maintain a height of cut between 12-18mm
  • a cylinder mower may still be used, but it is more likely that a rotary mower will serve you better
  • box clippings to avoid the spread of disease
  • remove leaves and other debris as soon as possible – a rotary mower does a good job

Artificial 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

  • carry out regular sweeping and brushing to restore levels
  • topdress any hollows or damaged areas

Tarmacadam

  • carry out regular sweeping and brushing
  • repair any hollows or damaged areas

With many clubs allowing and, indeed encouraging, play on their artificial surfaces through the winters months (when weather conditions allow) it is imperative that these courts are completely free from moss, algae, leaves or anything else that might pose a slip hazard.

The extreme waterlogging is causing some problems. If you managed to undertake a decent renovation at the end of last year, the mild temperatures have been kind and this will have grown well, however the Annual Meadow-grass is typically dragging its heels at this time of the year and there’s a large disparity between the perennial species, i.e. Bent and Fescue and the ephemeral opportunist which is Annual Meadow-grass. The moist surface and low light levels is leading to high levels of moss, mainly Bryum argenteum, Silver Thread-moss, a tufted acrocarpous moss which is equally at home on tarmac, so maybe an indication that surfaces are compacted but, with little opportunity to get on the green with a machine, this is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. Aerating when ground conditions are unsuitable will lead to smearing the sides of the hole; lateral compaction means that the water is unable to percolate away from the hole.

Toadrush is also a problem as well as increased levels of thatch and black layer as anaerobic conditions continue to prevail.

Tough it out and aerate as much as possible as soon as conditions allow and, critically, NOT BEFORE. In the intervening time, be vigilant for Microdochium Patch and treat at the very first symptoms. As conditions improve, provide some much needed TLC and a good quality fertiliser to help the turf recover. In the long term, use biostimulants such as SeaAction liquid Seaweed and BioMass Sugar throughout the early part of the year to help the soil food web recover.

Particle Size Distribution (PSD). February is 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 year'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.

Soil pH. 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.

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.

Some clubs continue to apply wetting agents to help improve and enhance soil performance. A wetting agent is such a substance that reduces the surface tension of a liquid, causing the liquid to spread across or penetrate the soil profile more easily. These are usually applied on a monthly basis.

N:P:K: Keeping a balance of N P K nutrients within the soil profile is essential for healthy plant growth.

Brushing or switching of the playing surface keeps the green clean and removes any dew or surface water. Keeping the surface dry will aid resistance to disease.

The typical types of diseases you may come across are:

  • Fusarium Patch
  • Red Thread
  • Fairy Rings
  • Anthracnose

Use appropriate fungicides to control any further outbreaks, however, with the grass soon beginning to grow, it won't take long for these scars to grow out.

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

With some machines not currently being used, take the time to carry out an overhaul or send them away for a service.

  • inspect and clean machinery before putting away for the winter
  • replace worn and damaged parts as necessary
  • empty fuel tanks as petrol will go stale over winter
  • maintain a stock of consumables for your machinery
  • secure machinery nightly with good storage facilities and strong locks
  • record makes and models and take pictures of your equipment as additional reference
  • don’t leave it to the last minute when servicing dealers will be very busy

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.

  • repair and maintain fence lines
  • cut back any hedges and trees and prune shrubs
  • take down and store all tennis equipment, ensuring that it is clean and dry before doing so
  • repair/update equipment as necessary

Whilst many of the above actions may appear to be common sense, it is surprising how some things can get overlooked, often due to the lack of daylight hours. The more that club members, players and officials understand what you role involves, the better. You could use any spare time to provide a members newsletter/blog detailing what problems you are experiencing (disease outbreaks, algae and moss, waterlogging etc.) and to seek additional help as required

Articles you may find helpful

https://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/flood-advice.html

https://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/sport-england-makes-200k-available-for-storm-hit-facilities.html

https://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/refurbishing-existing-surfaces.html

https://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/synthetic-tennis-courts-dealing-with-migration.html

https://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/busy-time-at-the-priory.html

https://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/walmer-tennis-club-racquet-mallet-and-renovation.html

https://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/hard-surface-tennis-courts-take-them-seriously.html

https://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/a-game-to-love-but-is-grass-losing-it.html