Key Tasks for April
IHopefully, most of your aeration operations were 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.
With grass courts, 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.
- 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
April is already upon us and, although it only seems like yesterday that it was the start of the year, it seems like a distant memory back to last April. However, it is only then that we were opening venues for the return to sport at many places. It seems an age ago, as we have come so far from that point up to where we are now, and there have been hours of dedication from turf professionals and volunteers up and down the country poured into their sites for preparation of matches and activities. This month brings the ‘real feel’ of spring, with longer nights and increasing temperatures, which has now started to provide some essential turf growth and recovery; although there has been snow in April in the past, so we must not get too carried away.
The weather in March turned out to be a stark contrast to what we had experienced in February, which was a very wet month, that brought localised flooding to many areas. March on the other hand turned out to be a dry month for many with some high day temperatures for the time of year. The issue here for many was that because February had been so wet, there was an element of having to wait until the ground conditions were suitable for carrying out maintenance. Then, as the month progressed, conditions got too dry and watering was having to take place just to keep some moisture in the ground.
Temperatures look set to be more moderate over the course of April, but with some cold night-time temperatures at the start of the month. Rainfall is forecast for much of the start of the month, with conditions looking more settled towards the latter parts of the month. The rainfall will be welcomed from many who are waiting to make applications for encouraging some early season growth to achieve some recovery. With day temperatures still moderate and night-time temperatures still relatively low, applications of nutrition need to be made understanding how the environmental conditions will affect the efficacy of said applications. Growth can’t be rushed at this point of the season. Trying to do so will only result in unnecessary applications or spending, and potential issues further down the line.
These can be a useful tool throughout the season to ensure that moisture is distributed evenly throughout the profile. When using this technology, there is a benefit of ensuring applications are made early. This helps ensure the product is in the profile before issues can arise. Recent years have seen dry conditions early in the season, they can lead to playing catch up in terms of having consistent moisture within the profile. Managing moisture in this way allows the turf manager to have better control over the conditions. This can encourage rooting deeper in the profile, allow less water to be applied via irrigation systems and allow better uptake of nutrients by the plant, and therefore better efficacy of any product applications that have been made. Each site will be different and there are technologies within the market which will suit individual sites with individual needs.
British Summer Time (BST) started on the 27th March which brings an increase in daylight hours. This gives the plant more opportunity to carry out photosynthesis, more photosynthesis means more growth. Applications of simple sugars and carbohydrates can provide the plant with a readily available supply of energy, which can be much needed at a time when growth is commencing and can assist in reducing any additional stress. As temperatures begin to increase, so does the opportunity to use a wider range of fertiliser technologies. Again, each site will have its own specific requirements and it is important to find a solution which works best for you as it is not a case of one cap fits all. For those that want a slow release of nitrogen over a longer period of time, the conditions will become more suitable for this type of fertiliser technology as the month progresses. These come in many forms such as coated granules, organic based, Methylene Urea and Isodor and Crotudur to name a few.
Plant Growth Regulator
April can bring the first signs of annual meadow grass seeding, which can have an impact on playing quality, performance and overall aesthetics. Although grooming can be deployed to physically remove the seed, in some instances, depending on the surface you manage, this can provide the perfect seed bed for more annual meadow grass to develop. When growth becomes consistent, it is key to manage this to ensure even growth is achieved. An even sward increases the playing quality of the surface being managed and, in-line with this, plant growth regulators can be used to great effect to help regulate the flowering capacity of the Poa annua plant. Prohexadione- calcium (Class A late gibberellin inhibitor) can be used at cool temperatures and is active when sprayed onto the plant, therefore its regulatory effect is fast acting. Early applications, when seedheads are still in the root stage of development, ahead of stem dissection and flowering, will promote regulation through inhibition of the biosynthesis of the plant hormone gibberellin. A key benefit of this active ingredient is that it regulates Poa annua, closely aligned with the desirable perennial grasses in the sward. This restricts the ability of the Poa annua to pioneer the sward, by not giving it the advantage of being out of regulation whilst the perennial species are still being regulated.
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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