Key Tasks for July
As with last month, you will need to be guided by your governing body regarding usage and procedures. However, signs are positive and a slow return to some form of normality appears to be on the way.
This month sees the continuation of regular maintenance tasks - grass cutting, grooming, brushing, aerating, feeding and watering. Particular attention should be made to your irrigation regimes, ensuring that all turf surfaces receive adequate amounts of water to maintain growth.
Groundstaff will also be trying to maintain the sward height at between 6-10mm, depending on the level of play.
The condition of the court will certainly contribute to how well it performs, particularly with reference to ball bounce and foot adhesion. Ideally, you should be providing a true, firm and level surface that is both safe for the player whilst, at the same time, providing an adequate consistent ball bounce.
Foot traction/ball bounce can be affected by several factors:-
- Amount of organic matter (thatch) present in the surface
- Moisture content of the playing surface
- Condition of sward
- Insufficient court rolling
- Uneven levels/worn areas
- Type of footwear worn and condition of balls
Excess thatch content (more than 8mm) will affect playing quality by the mere fact that it becomes a spongy layer. This spongy layer deadens ball bounce and can cause poor foot traction - no grip. Control the build up of thatch by regular verticutting/grooming.
The level of moisture on or in the soil profile will affect how the court plays; a wet, firm surface will, in fact, speed up the pace of the ball. The use of covers will help control the wetness and condition of your courts.
The amount of grass cover on your courts will also dictate how the courts play. Too much grass, especially if over 10mm in length and over fed (applying too much nitrogen fertiliser) will, in turn, affect ball bounce and foot traction.
Other tasks include:
Roll the courts to firm them up; rolling should be done during favourable weather conditions, ideally when the soil profile is malleable/moist enough to bind together.
Monitor the condition of the court and constantly repair any bare and uneven levels. Topdress with compatible loam soils/ rootzone materials and overseed with a good quality ryegrass at a rate of 35-40 grams per m2.
Ensure players are aware it’s their responsibility to ensure they’re wearing appropriate footwear and using balls that are not damaged.
Mowing. The mowing height on the courts should be lowered to around 6-10mm for the playing season, subject to local weather conditions, but remember not to remove more than 1/3 of total grass height in each cut.
Mowing frequency will be dependent on a number of factors, grass growth, sward type, level or standard of facility, resources (staff and machinery) but, generally, it may vary from daily, in the case of Wimbledon, to two to three days a week, or even weekly, depending on resources available.
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 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.
Grooming and verticutting are operations that remove unwanted side grass growth and reduce the amount of debris in the sward. These operations are carried out on a regular basis, often weekly or fortnightly, and providing you have sufficient watering facilities. These operations are completed in conjunction with your mowing regimes.
Aeration. A programme of aeration can be considered to alleviate any compaction from recent play. However, this needs to be done with an appropriate aerator, something like the Hydrajet, Dryject or SISIS Javelin Aeraid, which are able to penetrate the hard clay soil profiles without causing surface disruption, thus allowing some much needed air exchange to promote a second phase of grass growth.
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.
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 nothing 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.
June was a month where we saw warm and hot conditions give way to persistent rain and heavy thunderstorms in many areas, and with it much needed rainfall. Consequently, the dormant road verges and stressed sports turf surfaces at the end of May have given way to lush green vigorous growth. If April and May were challenging, then June has been a somewhat optimal month for plants, warmth, long daylight hours and plenty of rain; perfect.
Of course, even perfect weather is not without its challenges as heavy rainfall can wash nutrition through low CEC surfaces and humidity contributes towards the growth of fungal pathogens. Long range weather indications suggest July looks set to be a similar pattern of one extreme to another and back again. Therefore, keeping an eye on the upcoming forecast to best inform action today is vitally important when it comes to optimising windows of opportunity.
Facilitating water percolation rates by surface organic matter management, over the long term, helps water to penetrate into the surface rather than be held in the base of the plant, where it reduces the ability of life-giving oxygen to enter the rootzone and waste gasses to escape. Less water in the surface of the soil profile reduces humidity in this area, which helps to mitigate the ability of fungal diseases to proliferate. Facilitating water percolation and reducing surface humidity breaks the causative disease triangle in two ways: it promotes the overall health of the plant and limits conditions suitable for pathogen development. Practically speaking, little and often aeration from a sarrel tine aerator, in combination with regular deep tine aeration throughout the year, works to assist water’s passage down the profile, as well as helping maintain plant root health and organic matter decomposition via beneficial microbial action.
Aside from good aeration practices, useful tools in the product armoury, which will assist water management when weather conditions are wet, include penetrant wetting agents, which grab hold of water and pull it down through the soil profile faster and more effectively.
Plenty of excess moisture, combined with available warmth, are of course excellent conditions for germinating and establishing seed, so any areas requiring patching should infill quickly and easily.
The flipside of excess water is, of course, deficient water. Weather forecasts suggest that the trend for July is for the extremes of wet to be counteracted quickly by dry weather. With the sun high in the sky, long warm sunny days can very quickly push water levels in the opposite direction, as excessive moisture is replaced by moisture deficit. Keeping a close eye on weather forecasts, and intervening with timely applications of cold pressed liquid seaweeds, calcium and potassium silicate, prior to challenging conditions, are all inputs which assist the plant in preparing for and resisting the rigours of water deficit.
In advance of forecast hot and dry weather, ensuring irrigation systems are running optimally is sensible practice. Being able to objectively monitor the levels of water in the soil at different depths via a Thetaprobe water meter, and cross referencing this against local evapotranspiration rates, takes the guess work out of irrigation and facilitates applications which are appropriate for the plant, the environment and the budget. Investing in weather stations does not have to be an expensive course of action, and working with your irrigation supplier to understand the volume of water your system is supplying, in litres and millimetres, are core areas of knowledge for any sports turf manager at any level.
Allowing dry down periods in the soil following intensive irrigation is an important operation. This allows the soil to breathe, encourages the grass plant to develop roots to chase water and minimises surface humidity, which would otherwise lead to conditions favourable for fungal pathogens and other ailments such as cyanobacteria and algae which will colonise and clog the soil surface, impeding the passage of water and air.
Whilst conditions are wet and warm, growth levels are likely to be strong; in such circumstances, applications of the growth regulators, such as trinexapac-ethyl or the newly available prohexadione-calcium, can prove useful in checking growth, with the added benefit of increase tolerance to moisture deficit should conditions take a turn. Keep a close eye on nitrogen inputs and avoid applications if growth is strong, as promoting even softer growth will assist virulent fungal diseases to attack.
Warm and humid conditions will promote a number of diseases, but once temperatures exceed 28 degrees Celsius, anthracnose foliar blight will be become activated. Little and often applications of nitrogen have been shown to mitigate the spread of the disease as effectively as a fungicide.
An emergency authorisation for Acelepryn was issued on the 16th May for the treatment of chafer grubs only.
The treatment window for chafer grubs expires on the 30th August 2020. Note that a separate authorisation is actively being sought for Leatherjackets, but this is yet to be approved. As with previous years, all applications must be approved by a BASIS qualified advisor.
For anyone not able to apply Acelepryn, cultural and biological controls in the form of Entomopathogenic nematodes are the only legally authorised controls available. As with the specific restrictions of application for Acelepryn, these are in line with best practice Integrated Pest Management.
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