Key Tasks for May
Most of your aeration operations should have been completed during the winter period. Generally, we do not aerate clay soil profiles after January, as we do not want to encourage cracking of the clay surfaces. However, if there is a need to help remove surface water from the courts, we can utilise the sarrel roller which lightly aerates the top 25-30mm, allowing any surface water to drain down deeper into the soil profile. Carry out the following regular tasks:
- Continue to roll the courts
- Fortnightly light scarification or verticutting
- Seed sparse or bare areas
Rolling. It is essential to carry out an effective rolling programme in April. Continue to roll the courts, firstly across the line of play, followed by rolling down the length of play. Timing of this operation is vitally important. Trying to roll when soil conditions are wet or too dry will not achieve the desired effect.
Mowing. The mowing height on the courts should be lowered to around 8-10mm for the playing season, but remember not to remove more than 1/3 of total grass height in each cut.
Light scarification or verticutting can be carried out at fortnightly intervals pre-season. Removing horizontally growing grasses and surface organic matter are always beneficial for the onset of court preparation which, together with brushing, will improve the quality of cut.
It has been a challenging spring for everyone in the turf industry. With weather patterns causing prolonged periods of cold temperatures which have restricted growth. Unseasonably warm period at the end of April encouraged much needed winter recovery growth across the country which helped with the start of summer sporting seasons, some of which had been delayed a week or two.
The long range forecast for May is rather more typical with indications of temperatures around average for the time of year and projections of warmer and drier spells towards the end of the month. However the old English proverb of 'Ne'er cast a clout till May be out' should be kept in mind as colder and wetter spells with low nighttime temperatures are likely to crop up.
As a result it is likely we will experience peaks and troughs in growth and consideration towards the timing of inputs for maximum uptake and effect when soil temperatures and moisture are suitable will produce the best results.
Growth will generate plant demand for nutrition. Nitrate and ammonia have been good nitrogen sources in the colder temperatures. Out of the two ammonia remains a constant favorite throughout the spring and summer but as soil temperatures consistently warm into double figures urea and the controlled release source methylene urea will come into play.
As a foliar application Urea is very effectively absorbed into leaf tissue over a period of 48 hours where it is then metabolized into free nitrogen by the plant very effectively. As a soil source of nitrogen urea first needs to be broken apart by the enzyme urease before then being converted into the plant available form of nitrogen ammonium and nitrate. This process is dependent on the presence and activity of soil microorganisms. Consequently urea makes nitrogen less available to the plant in colder soils with its availability increasing as soil temperatures rise. The full concersion process in good growing conditions can take between 7-10 days.
A similar process is at work with organic fertilisers as microbiology goes to work on degrading and mineralizing the nutritional contents of the organic matter. So an application of organics during the month is a good option for steady sustained results.
It seems like every month is a good month for biostimulants and in many respects this is true. The three key components are summarized below.
Seaweed – contains hormones (Gibberellic acids) which accelerate germination of seed and seedling maturity. Also acts as a chelate and growth
promotor and elicitor of plant protection mechanisms in response to heat, drough and cold (abiotic) stress
Humates – Chelation and enhanced root absorption of nutrients, improved nutrient retention in soils and bacterial habitat as well as stable carbon source.
Sugar - Provide carbon energy which is the base foundation of energy processing in all plants an soil life. Consequently supports greater soil biodiversity and efficiency of fertiliser use.
By understanding the numerous benefits of the key biostulants turf mangers can utilize them to support specific desired responses from other work.
For example: Overseeding?
Apply liquid seaweed over the seed to enhance germination before adding humates and carbon into the mix at the first feed 5 days post germination with the aim of driving and accelerate growth thanks to better response from fertilisers driven by increased availability and energy in the system.
As winter sport seasons reach their conclusion the pitch renovation season begins.
When over seeding opting for the best cultivars you can afford is a wise investment in the base foundation of your surface.
Taking a broad spectrum soil analysis prior to renovation allows the identification of deficient secondary macronutrients and micronutrients. All nutrients share equal importance and by identifying the weakest link in the chain you can maximise health and performance throughout a growing in period and beyond.
One trap which can occur is to apply vast quantities of phosphorous to drive establishment regardless of the soil sample result. This is questionable wisdom because a soil sample result details plant available nutrient. Where phosphorous is high it will inhibit the availability of copper, calcium, potassium, iron, and zinc and adding more P in to the system will not encourage the plant to uptake a greater quantity. The plant will take what it needs and no more, something which is true of all nutrients.
The same can be said of nitrogen, young seedlings cannot absorb large quantities of nitrogen, a base foundation of granular fertiliser is essential as a reserve once roots develop but, wherever possible little and often foliar applications accompanied by biostimulants will support their needs much more responsibly.
As a master variable water is the key ingredient to the successful health and performance of any turf surface. Residual polymer wetting agent programs hopefully started in March to give the chemistry time to build up in the soil ahead of likely drier periods and heat stress from the end of May into June.
Monitoring of literal hotspots and considered application of water onto these areas helps to keep consistency. Where irrigation is installed ensure you are aware of the liter per minute rates for your sprinklers (speak to manufacturers and installers if unsure) and monitor weather forecasts for local information on evapotranspiration rates. When irrigating during hot periods aim to replace 50% of daily ET loss in the form of millimeters of water applied rather than minutes of water applied. There are many resources to assist with this approach which is much more beneficial and accurate towards the plants needs rather than an arbitrary amount of sprinkler time.
Weeds, Pests and Diseases
Disease pressure is likely to be low throughout May with the plant being able to outgrow any pathogen attacks which do occur. Be mindful of any longer spells of cold damp weather which do occur but only apply fungicides if deemed absolutely necessary.
Active growth is the perfect time to apply herbicides, whether it be total weed killers to paths and paving or selective herbicides to turf areas. In the case of the latter consult label recommendations with regards to timing this around any seeding operations.
May would usually be a little late to treat mature leather jackets with Entomopathogenic nematodes however, with such a delayed spring applications may still be successful. Be aware that Steinernema feltiae is the preferential spring species being more active at colder temperatures of 10°C and upwards. That being said the primary window for control is August through to October. Spring applications require a double dose rate of nematodes and even then control is likely to be reduced from what would be expected later in the year.
There is no effective spring control for chafer grubs however chafer grub pheromone traps will collect adult males on the wing and form the basis of an integrated management plan of monitoring and recording the pest life cycle so you can better time nematode applications later in the year.
You should have had your mower serviced and sharpened ready for the new season.
- Inspect machinery and equipment
- 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
- Ensure drainage outfalls, channels and ditches are clear
- Inspect stored posts, nets, seating and notice/score boards
- Inspect and remove debris from playing surface
- Regular sweeping and brushing
- Repair any hollows or damaged areas
- Repaint lines