Following one of the driest Aprils on record, irrigation of the courts was a priority at the beginning of May and, notwithstanding the downpours in some areas a week or so ago, the lack of water is likely to be a continuing difficulty during June.
Consider raising the height of cut to minimise stress on the grass plant, and using wetting agents to ensure whatever water is applied goes down into the soil profile.
June is Wimbledon month, and court use will be at its maximum.
The All England Championships always reminds me of one of the very first projects Pitchcare undertook - building two tennis courts - one alongside Tower Bridge and one on a pontoon in the middle of the Thames, to be played on by John McEnroe and Monica Seles. It was quite a spectacle watching the two of them playing on the pontoon as it was towed along the river. That was 13 years ago! An article about this interesting challenge is on the Pitchcare website.
Key Tasks for June
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. Evapotranspiration rates should begin to rise in the coming month. Irrigate uniformly and ensure the right amount is applied. Watering in high, daytime temperatures will be less effective and could encourage shallow rooting as the water fails to get deep enough to stimulate the plant roots.
Rolling will still be a key maintenance regime in June, using a 1-1.5 tonne roller to periodically roll the courts, both down and across the line of play when conditions allow. Try to achieve between 6-10 hours of rolling in any one given week prior to matches.
The rolling, and the fact that soil profiles are now drying out, will produce firmer, faster courts. This month sees the continuation of regular maintenance tasks; grass cutting, grooming, brushing, aerating, feeding and watering. Other regular tasks include:
- Ideally, you should be brushing on a daily basis to remove early morning dew.
- It is essential to have water available for irrigation purposes.
- Keep an eye open for any fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat the infected areas.
- You may need to stop verticutting operations if the courts become too dry.
Mowing regimes will be dictated by the amount of play, the weather and what tournaments you may have. As a general rule of thumb, most courts should be cut a minimum of three times a week at a height of around 7-8mm, however some clubs do like to mow daily to maintain presentation and improve the quality of the sward.
Fertiliser. Keep your turf fertilised, but sparingly, to help maintain vigour and colour. It is often best to use liquid products during the playing season, as you have more control over the application and they work more efficiently. Applying Everris Greenmaster Spring & Summer 12+4+6 Liquid Fertiliser product will suffice and give the results you desire. Overdosing with high N fertilisers will only lead to lush growth which, in turn, will affect traction and wear on the courts.
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 northing 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.
Artifcial courts: 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 by an application of chemical broadleaf selective weed killer.
Surface clean with regular sweeping and brushing. Remove any algae and moss from the surface. Sand filled systems require regular brushing to maintain manufacturer's recommendations on sand levels and pile heights.
Power wash the courts twice a year to clean off algae and moss, or use an approved pesticide product to kill off the spores.
Plexipave Courts: Keep clean and free of debris by regular brushing.
American Fast Dry courts: Keep surface clean, rolling to consolidate surface; levelling and brushing 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.
Now is the time to get ahead of dry patch with a wetting agent; by applying them whilst the soil is still moist, is much better than cure on baked hard massively hydrophobic soils. Many groundsmen are now also using moisture meters to monitor soil moisture deficit (SMD); by keeping an eye on these losses, you can then apply the correct amount of water to replace the water lost by evaportransipration.
Feed-wise, you should be in the middle of your programmes now, but regular applications of SeaAction seaweed and Biomass Sugar are paramount to help plant function, stress tolerance and soil biology. Where granular feeds are ticking along as a base foundation, then liquids can be used to supplement growth at specific time, such as for competitions or in-between maintenance operations to give the turf professional fine control of the plant.
For anyone who has not checked their irrigation system for accuracy and function – now would be a really good time to do it.
Many Groundsmen now undertake a number of testing procedures to assess their courts, generally these tend to be ball bounce and hardness.
Ball bounce is simple; measure the height of a rebounding ball dropped from a pre-determined height. Testing for hardness requires a specialist piece of equipment called the Clegg Hammer, which essentially consists of a hammer weighing 0.5kg to which an accelerometer is attached. The hammer was developed for testing soft materials, such as turf or sand, and is ideal for testing sports surfaces such as tennis courts.This equipment can be hired from specialist suppliers. Recording and monitoring these two parameters will help you have a better understanding of how your courts are performing.
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.
Fair Ring and Dry Patch
Increased activity in soils of certain fungal species may lead to regions of the profile exhibiting hydrophobic behaviour. This is to say water repellency, similar to the manner in which water beads on the surface of a freshly waxed car. This may lead to dry patch or class one fairy ring damage, whereby the inability of water to adhere to the soil particles in these regions results in drought stress, wilt and finally grass dormancy (browning off). If drought conditions within a region of soil persist, then dormancy will be over taken by plant death.
The treatment for both is very similar;
- Identify the depth of the area of repellency by dropping a small amount of water onto a cross profile.
- Poke into the areas of repellency with aeration.
- Soak the areas with water combined with a penetrant wetting agent
Variation on the above occurs with respect to dry patch and hydrophobic activity due to the activity of Basidiomycota spp. fairy rings. In the case of class two fairy rings i.e. dark green rings, a fungicide containing azoxystrobin such as Syngenta’s Heritage Turf Disease Control applied alongside the wetting agent can assist in control.
One word of caution: there are two species of fungi relating to ring like diseases.
- Rhizoctonia spp. – this fungus results in a disease commonly referred to as either Brown Ring or Waitea patch and favours low nitrogen high, thatch conditions in times of moisture and humidity. Generally, it occurs only in the thatch layer.
- Basidiomycota spp. – results in the classic class one, two and three type fairy rings, resulting in various combinations of; hydrophobic soils, flushes of green growth and sporocarps (mushrooms). Generally, it occurs in soil horizon.
The key point here is in relation to water because rings occurring due to Basidiomycota spp. require wetting to relieve symptoms whilst rings occurring due to Rhizoctonia spp. will be made worse by wetting. A case of mistaken identity with these two diseases and, in particular mistaking Rhizonctonia spp. for Basidiomycota spp. which then results in applications of water, will only serve to promote the disease further.
You may be interested in this article on Fairy Rings - https://www.pitchcare.com/news-media/fairy-rings-the-subject-of-superstition.html
Please note: more information on Weeds, Pests & Disease can be found on the Pitchcare iGuide
Continue to keep on top of all machinery maintenance:
- Inspect and 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