Key Tasks for December
- grass growth will have slowed down, but certainly not stopped altogether, so you should continue to cut weekly, ensuring that you take no more than a third off in any one cut
- a cylinder mower may still be used, but it is more likely that a rotary mower will serve you better
- box clippings to avoid the spread of disease
- remove leaves and other debris as soon as possible – a rotary mower does a good job
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
- carry out regular sweeping and brushing to restore playing levels
- topdress any hollows or damaged areas
- carry out regular sweeping and brushing
- repair any hollows or damaged areas
With many clubs allowing and, indeed encouraging, play on their artificial surfaces through the winters months (when weather conditions allow) it is imperative that these courts are completely free from moss, algae, leaves or anything else that might pose a slip hazard.
Remember – that the sun is at its lowest in December and daylight hours are at their shortest, so any shade problems you have will be exacerbated. These areas tend to take longer to warm up and dry out which, in turn, may affect maintenance operations and playability.
Other Key Tasks
- repair and maintain fence lines
- cut back any hedges and trees and prune shrubs
- take down and store all tennis equipment, ensuring that it is clean and dry before doing so
- repair/update equipment as necessary
As we head into the festive period, we can hopefully look forward to spending quality time with friends and family, resting and taking stock ahead of 2022. It has been a tough year for many as we continue to navigate through the pandemic and try to overcome the challenges we all face. Whether we ever return to ‘normal’ or what the new normal is, we will get there, wherever ‘there is’, in time.
Early December is forecast to remain cold, with daily temperature lows consistently below 4 degrees Celsius. This is amongst a mixture of clear days and forecasted rain, which could also lead to snow showers and overnight frosts as low temperatures drop around freezing, which is set to continue through to the end of the month. The decrease in temperatures has meant that growth potential has now decreased, and growth will be limited. Consequently, this will inform any decisions around what inputs to apply to the plant. The low temperatures should minimise the probability of disease outbreaks, notably Microdochium nivale (Fusarium patch). However, that shouldn’t mean that this turf disease is forgotten about. Also, as light becomes less available to the plant, a low sun trajectory means shade and damp environments become more of the norm, which is ideal for the development of mosses and algae, not only on turf surfaces but hard surfaces too, which can require careful management.
The rain which is forecast in the middle of the month may lead to surfaces becoming saturated, therefore it is essential to try and maintain an aerobic soil for as long as possible. This is best achieved by carrying out aeration practices at the appropriate time and in the most suitable ground conditions. Taking machinery over surfaces when conditions aren’t suitable will cause more damage than bringing benefits, and sometimes the hardest decision is to stay off the turf. Subsequently, poorly timed operations can lead to surfaces being wetter, through water being held in the soil profile rather than being allowed to drain away. Where fertilisers containing sulphur have previously been applied, ensuring aeration work has been carried out will avoid ground conditions sitting too wet for a period of time, which can lead to anaerobic conditions and the formation of black layer, which will have a negative impact on turf conditions and health.
With soil temperatures dropping lower, there may be a limited requirement for plant nutrition, unless in an environment where you can create more artificial growing conditions with extra light and soil temperatures. Nitrogen applied should only be to encourage recovery from wear, and should contain the correct nitrogen source, which will be plant available. Biostimulants, seaweed, fulvic acid and amino acids may still be used to elicit a beneficial defence and stress response from the grass plant, although when temperatures are low, soil applications should be evaluated for their effectiveness, and consideration for foliar application for more efficient uptake.
The recent increase in soil moisture, after a relatively dry November, means that worm casts continue to be one of the most damaging issues for turf managers. The mild weather has meant growth has continued, but areas have been uncut for concerns over creating what could only be described as a mud bath. Activity may slow as temperatures decrease which would provide some relief; however, with still no legal controls for earthworms this is hopeful thinking. Any product which is applied to directly affect them is done so illegally. The advice continues to be, to carry on with cultural management where possible.
2021 has been a year of getting back on track, adjusting to new ways of working and pressing on. 2022 will throw more challenges at us, particularly with expected price increases across the board, not only in our industry but also in our lives, alongside continued supply and delivery constraints. But as we have seen it 2021, we will as an industry and individuals meet these challenges head on and continue to provide excellent playing surfaces for the sports industry.
Enjoy the Christmas period, and a well-deserved break where possible. Take time to reflect on moments from the last year and what’s ahead in 2022.
Have a great Christmas and New Year!
B.Sc (Hons) | BASIS | FACTS
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