In the early part of September, warmer temperatures are likely for southern parts of the UK as the jet stream settles into a more ‘normal’ pattern. This will though, create a north/south divide, with cooler, more showery weather north of its travels. Some of these showers may be heavy and prolonged. Average temperatures for the time of year are expected later in the month and there’s also a chance of one final ‘heatwave’ before the month is out.
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.
Key Tasks for September
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.
Other important tasks:
- Ensure 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.
- 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.
Mowing. 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.
Aeration. 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 Guide 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.
As the end of the summer season approaches for fine turf, thoughts will be on renovations.
The key things here will be:
Aeration especially deeper forms of solid tine such as verti-draining. It also presents a good time of the year to undertake rotary decompaction with something like an Imants shockwave. Hollow tine aeration is also commonly undertake at this time of the year.
It is always wise to use nature to one’s advantage, and over seeding into September is the best time of the year to undertake this operation; it is the natural time of the year that the grass plant would naturally be dropping its seed with plenty of available warmth and moisture leading to good germination and successful establishment. Good soil contact and appropriate planting depth are also key to success with seeding although one should be careful to avoid rolling seed into the surface too aggressively, much better to allow natures rainfall to gently caress and firm the soil around the seed. Where machinery and equipment is available to the end user, disc seeding is a very reliable method of increasing germination rates, as the precise planting depth can be more accurately controlled into the slots which then close up nicely behind to provide firm soil contact.
Agronomically all turf managers should be on the lookout for disease pressure, the key times for infection being when warmth and moisture coincide, so periods of warm humid nights and damp days are periods everyone should pay attention to. Reducing the period of continual leaf blade wetness to below ten hours through gentle brushing and switching are a key method of cultural control. Chemically, it is warm enough to use a fungicide with a systemic action such as Heritage, Heritage Maxx or Interface as a preventative in the lead up to any operations, especially if environmental factors are conducive to disease.
September provides a really good opportunity for weed control, due to plenty of available moisture and warmth leading to good growth. The choice here is Bayer’s Longbow, with its 4 active ingredients and application rate of 7.5 l/ha it will give excellent control of a large variety of turf weeds. Users need to ensure it is applied a good three weeks before over-sowing, as newly germinated grass plants are sensitive to selective herbicides.
For anyone intending to use Merit Turf for the control of chafer grubs, then you have until 31st October 2016 to use or dispose of existing stocks following its withdrawal by CRD. Similarly for leather jackets, the use-up and disposal period for Cyren Chlopyrifos was 31st August 2015. This leaves us with biological control as the only approved option for the control of these turf pests. This is where we turn to native microscopic worms in the form of entomopathogenic nematodes. Nematodes are a proven control over many years but it is important to have an understanding and respecting the life cycles of the pest and control organism if you are to achieve the desired result. With this in mind, we have produced material to help educate both the professional and amateur alike. All the relevant information and advice can be found on the Nemasys product pages and this video sets out to explain the mind-set change you need to employ for success.
In terms of fertiliser regimes, then selecting a fertiliser with a lower nitrogen and higher potassium content is the way to go. Whether it is the establishment of new seed with the Lebanon ProScape 16-25-12 +25% MESA Pre-Seed Fertiliser or a quality autumn/winter feed such as Lebanon Country Club 8-4-24, the Lebanon range of controlled release fertilisers are a very cost effective choice on a cost per week calculation, which will give lasting and consistent results for clients for up to three months, something which is increasingly important with the onset of climate change and the consistently milder winters this seems to be regularly producing.
For anyone over seeding bent and fescue species then equipping them with the mycorrhizal fungi they need to thrive from the outset is a no brainer of a decision in this instance Maxwell Turf Food Myco 2 4-6-12 +4MgO providing the answer.
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.
Regular brushing and sweeping are important tasks to keep the surface clean, open and dry. A dry surface will aid resistance to disease.
It now getting late into the season for selective systemic weed control; September may be the last opportunity for you to control weeds with a broad leaf selective herbicide. A dose of selective herbicide will help control any broad leaf weeds such as daisies, dandelions, clover, plantains and buttercups that may be populating your pitch. It may be cheaper and more economic to call in a specialist spray contractor who is licensed to appply selective herbicides.
Please note: More information on these and many others can be found here: https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php
- 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
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. Spend time cleaning and maintaining your artificial 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. 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.