Key Tasks for July
The sight and sounds of Wimbledon fortnight is the perfect indiction that things are getting back to normal - fingers crossed! The courts look immaculate - all thanks to Neil Stubley and his team - and gives all grounds staff pride and an incentive to aim for that same standard.
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.
As we approach halfway through the year, this brings about a familiar feeling of, “Where has the time gone?” and “Is it nearly July already?” It was unfortunate that we had the news that further easing of restrictions was to be delayed, but hopefully that will happen this month. Fortunately, many sports are in full swing, to name a few we have seen Test cricket, the Euros and Wimbledon start.
June finally brought us some consistent temperatures, which actually continued on from the last week in May. This provided more suitable growing conditions compared to previous fluctuating weather which was challenging to manage. This was long overdue and has meant that everything has seemed a little bit later this season in comparison to other years. Although the average rainfall for June is currently at 40mm, which is nearly half of what fell up to the same point last month (average 75.2mm), it wasn’t until the 25th June that the average monthly rainfall went above 10mm, which gives an indication of how little water has fallen since the back end of May. This has proven challenging for those without or with limited and restricted irrigation systems. As such, the recent rainfall has been much needed by many across the different regions.
July temperatures look set to continue to be decent, with most days around 19°C or above. Rainfall is forecast to be sporadic which should help prevent surfaces drying down too much. With warmer temperatures comes the possibility of an increase in humidity. When temperature is higher, the air can hold more water vapour, meaning that when climate conditions are warmer the humidity level can be higher. As an example, at 28°C a densely saturated amount of air may contain 28 grams of water per cubic metre, but only 8 grams of water per cubic metre of air at just 8°C. Higher humidity can increase the likelihood of the development and growth of fungal pathogens.
Water management is a key tool for maximising overall plant health, ensuring there is enough to support nutrient uptake and growth whilst ensuring there isn’t too much that will restrict root growth, prevent gaseous exchange and reduce available oxygen. Following a water management programme is one way to help ensure water is distributed evenly across the whole area and reduce any localised dry patches. When using products to achieve this, the earlier in the season they are applied can have an impact on the results they achieve. Therefore, ensuring applications are made well in advance of drought conditions is recommended. Having less water around the soil surface and base of the plant helps reduce humidity in this area, which helps to mitigate the ability of fungal diseases to proliferate. This restricts the conditions that are suitable for disease development. Regular aeration, using a variety of tine depths help maintain pathways for water to enter the rootzone and pass through it.
The forecasted conditions for the month will provide strong growth. As such, the application of a plant growth regulator alongside any nutrition is a useful management tool with a range of benefits. Reduced clipping yield is a notable advantage, plus many others including increased rooting, regulated growth of different grass species, improving surface conditions, better turf colour through an increase in chlorophyll content and lower ET rates. Where growth is strong, nutrition may only need to be applied to provide enough recovery from wear. All forms, liquid, granular and soluble are suitable and each site will have their own preference. Liquid applications allow greater control in applications supplying little and often, and further beneficial stress relieving biostimulants such as amino acids and sugars can easily be added to the spray solution.
For Anthracnose (Colletotrichum cereale), warm, humid weather and increased light intensity are the primary environmental factors controlling the development of conidia. Laboratory studies indicate that Colletotrichum cereale produces conidia at temperatures between 24‑32°C with increased maturity of conidia observed at 28°C compared with lower temperatures. Once conidia have been excreted from the acervuli in a water‑soluble matrix, they can be spread by wind, water or human activity, but need continued leaf surface moisture to establish. Little and often applications of nitrogen have been shown to mitigate the development of the disease, as has minimising any stresses on the plant. Applied preventatively fungicides are available as a method of control, although some will find the above measures sufficient when dealing with this disease.
Emergency authorisation for Acelepryn has been issued for the treatment of chafer grubs only. The purchase window for chafer grubs expires on 4th August and the storage and application window ends on the 31st August 2021.
A separate authorisation is awaiting approval 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