Expected weather for this month:

Reasonable mid-teens temperatures forecast, with average rainfall

October tends to be a month that can swing either way from prolonged dry spells and resultant dry patch to distinctly autumnal wetter days. Key things to keep an eye on will be night time temperatures, relative humidity and periods of leaf blade wetness. 

Warmth and available moisture are the keys to both grass and fungal pathogenic growth. If night time temperatures fall, growth rates will start to drop off, however lower night time temperatures will lead to heavier morning dews, prolonged periods of leaf blade wetness and increased risk of attack from fungi.

If your local conditions are at the drier end of the spectrum, water stress can quickly creep in, especially on windy days when evapotranspiration rates are higher. This is something which represents a particular risk to newly sown seed which may be in the initial stages of early germination and establishment.

Nutrition and Disease Management

Nitrogen applications will still be required but favouring products with more slowly available forms such as the methylene urea contained with the Lebanon range is both sensible and a cost effective way of feeding. Ammonium sources should be applied with care so as not to force too much soft growth which is susceptible to disease.

However, readily available ammonium is useful in maximising establishment of sown areas ahead of the winter, but be sure to really keep on top of mowing and remove dews whenever possible so to avoid rapid spread of fungal diseases.

Ensure you take the time to look at the break down of the nitrogen component of any fertilisers you buy and don’t just simply make a judgement based upon the overall headline figure.

In terms of protecting soft young growth, then an application of a preventative systemic fungicide such as Bayer’s Interface® or Dedicate®  and Syngenta’s Instrata® will help to guard the plant against infection during times of high susceptibility.

Potassium is required in a higher proportion as we enter the autumn winter period. Magnesium is the element at the centre of the chlorophyll molecule and applications of this secondary macro element as the days draw in will help the plant to maximise photosynthesis efficiency.

For anyone looking to be in fine control of nutrition, the combining little and often applications of a soluble or liquid fertiliser with a straight liquid nutrient is a key tactic in marinating plant health. Phosphite is particularly useful at this time of the year when it comes to providing the plant with an easily accessible form of phosphorous which also helps to resist the spread of fungal diseases. Calcium and Chelated Iron are also vital nutrients when it comes to toughening up the plant and increasing cell wall thickness. Different elements don’t always mix cleanly together, so it is worthwhile performing jug mixing tests and then alternating little and often applications either every two weeks or once per month depending on disease pressure arising from environmental factors.

Finally; a tonic of trace elements will help to sustain levels that may have reduced over the growing season and facilitate the plant with  abroad spectrum diet moving inot the winter period.

 

Key Tasks for October

General Maintenance

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Grass courts

  • Grass growth will have slowed down, but certainly not stopped altogether
  • Cut weekly, ensuring that you take no more than a third off in any one cut
  • Depending on the weather a cylinder mower may still be used, but it is more likely that a rotary mower will serve you just as well
  • Box clippings to avoid the spread of disease
  • Remove leaves and other debris as soon as possible

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 - regular sweeping and brushing to restore playing levels using SISIS Trulute or similar equipment. Topdress any hollows or damaged areas
  • Tarmacadam - regular sweeping and brushing. Repair any hollows or damaged areas

Before you start, take a core sample from each of your grass court to ascertain their current state. A visual inspection of the core will allow you to see the level of thatch/organic matter (OM) you have and to what depth.

Target OM levels:

0-20mm 6-8%

20-40mm 4-6%

40-60mm 2-4%

60-80mm 2-4%

An excess of OM will lead to poor hydraulic conductivity, soft putting surfaces, increased disease problems, loss of green speeds and poor all year round playability.

Appropriate renovation work will help reduce and control thatch / OM levels in your swards.

With air temperatures still averaging around 10-12°C in most parts of the country, seeding is still a viable option.

The recent spell of dry weather may have prompted disease attacks, with red thread, fusarium, leaf spot and fairy rings being common. Use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.

Prior to mowing, remove moisture from the grass surface. This will help to stop the spread of disease and improve the quality of cut.

End of Season Renovations

If you have not completed your renovations, here is a reminder of what you should be doing :-

Once the playing season is over, take down nets and post and store away; replace broken or damaged tennis nets and posts.

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.

Do not skimp on the quality of seed and fertilisers. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for. Just remember, it takes many years of research and development to bring many of our common materials to market.

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.

Mow the sward, preparing surfaces for renovation. Lower cutting height to about 3-4mm to clean and prepare courts.

Scarification - 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.

The rotary mower can then 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. Brush to incorporate dressings and to help the grass stand back up. Brush in with a lute or drag brush/mat to restore levels.

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.

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.

It is essential to keep the sward watered after renovations to ensure your seed germinates.

If you have not already done this, it 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.

Diseases 

Particularly fusarium, are often prevalent during the autumn, mainly due to the heavy dews that are present at this time of the year. Moisture on the leaf will allow diseases to move and spread easily.

The typical types of diseases you may come across are:

  • Fusarium Patch
  • Red Thread
  • Fairy Rings
  • Anthracnose

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

Pests

As soil moisture increases worm casting will become a problem on surfaces. With some sports the relative period where worm casts coincide with the playing season is relatively short, in such cases where casting density is not too severe then the best options are cultural controls such as brushing or switching prior to play and maintenance operations. Longer term forms of discouragement include lowering of soil pH if it is on the high side or sand top dressings which serve to discourage the worms in the soil as well as help the castings to dry out faster and disperse more easily.

The only legally approved and properly researched control of worms is Carbendazim. Using a pH buffer can improve results if your water is compromising the efficiency of this active ingredient.

October represents the last chance for you to be Pro-active not Re-active in regards to the control of both leatherjackets (end of the month) and chafer grubs (middle of the month) with entomopathogenic nematodes. If you fail to treat this year’s grubs when they are young and instead choose to let them grow over the winter there will be NO Way to control them in the spring once the crows and badgers start digging them up,  as the now mature larvae rise to the surface with the warming soil temperatures to pupate.

Weeds

As long as soil temperatures are warm then turf weeds will still be actively growing. As a result, the early part of the month represents the last opportunity to control weeds going into the winter; something which will not only improve presentation now but give facilities a head start with this issue next spring.

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.