Key Tasks for October
- Grass growth will have slowed down, but certainly not stopped altogether
- Cut weekly, ensuring that you take no more than a third off in any one cut
- Depending on the weather a cylinder mower may still be used, but it is more likely that a rotary mower will serve you just as well
- Box clippings to avoid the spread of disease
- Remove leaves and other debris as soon as possible
- 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
- Clay courts - regular sweeping and brushing to restore playing levels using SISIS Trulute or similar equipment. Topdress any hollows or damaged areas
- Tarmacadam - regular sweeping and brushing. Repair any hollows or damaged areas
Before you start, take a core sample from each of your grass court to ascertain their current state. A visual inspection of the core will allow you to see the level of thatch/organic matter (OM) you have and to what depth.
Target OM levels:
An excess of OM will lead to poor hydraulic conductivity, soft putting surfaces, increased disease problems, loss of green speeds and poor all year round playability.
Appropriate renovation work will help reduce and control thatch / OM levels in your swards.
With air temperatures still averaging around 10-12°C in most parts of the country, seeding is still a viable option.
The recent spell of dry weather may have prompted disease attacks, with red thread, fusarium, leaf spot and fairy rings being common. Use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.
Prior to mowing, remove moisture from the grass surface. This will help to stop the spread of disease and improve the quality of cut.
End of Season Renovations
If you have not completed your renovations, here is a reminder of what you should be doing :-
Once the playing season is over, take down nets and post and store away; replace broken or damaged tennis nets and posts.
Get organised for your end of season renovations, ensure you have ordered your materials to arrive on time. Check equipment, ensuring it is ready for the work entailed. Check all belts and drives on the scarifiers.
If you are intending to use a contractor to do your work, confirm start dates and be clear they understand what level of work you want.
Do not skimp on the quality of seed and fertilisers. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for. Just remember, it takes many years of research and development to bring many of our common materials to market.
It is important to ensure that all materials (seed, fertilisers, topdressings) and any hired machinery have arrived, and are secured and stored safely on site ready for use. Often, when ordering materials late, you may be faced with delays on delivery or not being able to get the products you want in time for your planned works.
Mow the sward, preparing surfaces for renovation. Lower cutting height to about 3-4mm to clean and prepare courts.
Scarification - depending on the severity of the thatch, you may need to scarify several times in different directions. However, in most cases, if regular verticutting/grooming has taken place during the growing season, you would probably only be required to scarify in two directions. Do not scarify at right angles to the previous scarification line. Depth of scarification between 4-15mm, depending on depth of thatch to remove.
The rotary mower can then be used to clean up the courts after scarifying has been completed.
Aerate to relieve compaction and encourage root development. Aeration is the decompaction of soil, improving air and gas exchange in the soil profile. Depending on the turf's condition, you can choose to carry out hollow or solid tine spiking. Hollow tines are generally used on a bi-annual basis or when you have a severe thatch problem. Depth of aeration will be determined by the depth of your soil profile and what problems you want to rectify. Hollow tining is best achieved to a depth of between 75-100mm. Solid or slit tines can be set to penetrate deeper, ideally between 100-200mm.
Topdressing restores levels and improves surface drainage. Ensure you use compatible topdressing materials, sands, sand/soil mixes. Spreading can be achieved by several methods, utilising pedestrian or ride-on, disc or drop action top spreaders, or by hand using a shovel and a barrow. Best carried out in dry weather. It is important that the topdressings are spread uniformly. Brush to incorporate dressings and to help the grass stand back up. Brush in with a lute or drag brush/mat to restore levels.
Overseeding restores grass populations. It is important to ensure a good groove or hole is made to receive the seed; good seed to soil contact is essential for germination. Good moisture and soil temperatures will see the seed germinate between 7-14 days.
It is essential to keep the sward watered after renovations to ensure your seed germinates.
We end September with what seems like more rainfall in the last few days of the month than we have seen over both August and September combined. Although looking back, there have been a few days of significant rainfall in these months, however this rain at the end of September feels much needed as there has been very little over the past weeks and most places are looking significantly dry, certainly for the time of year. Looking ahead at the forecasts, the unsettled end of the month carries on into the start of October. Although further into October appears more settled, those with renovations planned in early October may have to consider the option of drier but cooler conditions slightly later, or wetter but warmer soil temperatures slightly earlier.
As weather conditions change, October can be a high disease pressure month. Cooler temperatures, with increased leaf and soil wetness, mean that it’s important to constantly monitor the local environmental conditions with a view of the site’s previous history and patterns in disease outbreaks; knowing which areas are key indicators can help massively to stay ahead of damaging disease outbreaks. As conditions become more conducive for disease development, being aware of historic turf responses to certain weather conditions form a central part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach.
For many, the focus this month is Microdochium nivale (microdochium patch) control. There may still be some signs of the increasingly present Anthracnose, but as maintenance practices alter, raising heights of cut, reduced mowing etc… many of the stresses that contribute to this disease are eased slightly. Conditions in October can be ideal for Microdochium nivale outbreaks, and predicting when these outbreaks may occur is challenging. Gaining an understanding of what contributes to disease pressure reaching tipping point on your own site allows better informed decisions when selecting and timing any of the applications aimed at counteracting disease pressure. These may be fungicidal, nutritional or plant response applications.
As it becomes more difficult to rotate active ingredients, due to the decrease of new chemistry in the amenity market, the more information there is available then the easier it is to make accurate decisions on what, when and how to apply. Fungicide technology is only one part of an IPM approach, and increasingly it will be the other applications which will become more in focus as tools with which to reduce disease outbreaks and severity. Morning dews can lead to an increase in leaf wetness in October and this additional moisture on the surface can be the perfect vehicle for pathogens. Therefore, utilising dew dispersant technology can be a useful tool. Expectations need to be set to a realistic level in relation to longevity of the products compared to when using them in cool months when growth potential is low. When frequent mowing is still taking place, the longevity is going to be relatively short, however this can still be long enough to reduce the level of leaf wetness to get through a high disease pressure period.
With changes in temperatures and available sunlight, a shift in approach to nutrition should follow. The aim being to promote steady, hardy shoot and leaf growth, avoiding any flushes of growth that would be more susceptible to attack by fungal pathogens. Fertilisers with a slow release nitrogen source, such as IBDU or CDU will give longevity through the autumn and into winter. If slow release fertilisers are not suitable for a specific site, when using a conventional fertiliser ensure the ammonium value is not above 4 or 5 percent (to avoid the aforementioned flushes of growth) or use a suitable application rate.
Biostimulants applied at the right time will be beneficial to the plant and soil over winter. Applications of carbon energy in the form of sugar can assist the plant in being more resilient and well-developed in the early spring. Therefore, a well-planned autumn application can have benefits on the start of the following season.
Seaweed has been shown to elicit important beneficial defence and stress responses in plants and associated microorganisms. Amino acids play an important role in abiotic stress tolerance, helping plants to prepare for and to cope with autumnal and winter stress events, such as varying changes in temperature and volumetric water content.
Don’t forget the emergency authorisation for applicatons of Acelepryn for the control of leatherjackets is still available with an end date for sale and application being 29th November. A month later than previous years.
There has been plenty of activity recently reported, with some noting a particularly long hatch period. Applications of the product should continue to be made when peak activity of the adult crane fly on the wing are observed, if this has given satisfactory results previously. If satisfactory control is not been achieved, new research indicates applications can be made up to one month after peak flight. Adult flies commence egg laying almost immediately, with hatching and larvae emergence about two weeks later; Acelepryn is most active on the 1st and 2nd instar larval stages. As with an integrated approach to disease management, monitoring, record keeping and understanding of the pests organisms life cycle are key factors for success.
With the relatively dry August and September, worm activity has been minimal for most, however as moisture levels continue to rise, these may become a major issue to contend with. There are no legal controls for earthworms and any product which is applied to directly affect them is done so illegally. Cultural management is the only route currently available. There are many options available, but the result should be measured against the amount of input required to get those results and then whether it is justifiable to carry the practices out. Practices such as localised surface acidification, removal of grass clippings to reduce their food source and sanding of surfaces to assist in the drying out and dispersal of casts. This does not completely eradicate the problem, but it will lead to less negative lasting impressions on the surface from the casts. Sulphate of iron is often used as a surface acidifying agent, but it is worth using with caution to avoid over application which may lead to negative effects to plant health throughout the rest of the year.
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