Key Tasks for March
All maintenance work will be determined by your local soil and weather conditions. Some courts will be waterlogged, with some of the artificial surfaces possibly damaged by the rain and standing water.
Mowing should be delayed until surfaces have dried out, and hopefully becoming more frequent as the grass begins to grow, aiming for 2-3 cuts per week by the end of the month. Any increased mowing regime helps stimulate the grass plant and helps thicken up the sward.
The sward should be maintained at its winter height of cut between 12-18mm. The use of a rotary mower can be ideal for topping off and, at the same time, cleaning up any surface debris.
Usually, these renovation revolve around some light scarification work, which helps remove any dead moss and unwanted thatch, aeration, topdressing and overseeding.
Moss is generally the main problem at this time of year. Mosses are primitive non-flowering plants that have no root structure and rely on there being sufficient moisture in the environment for reproduction and survival. The majority of mosses are tolerant of acidic conditions and are stimulated by wet humid conditions. Rapid colonisation of moss and algaes usually occur during autumn and winter months when turf surfaces are lying wet and saturated for long periods of time, particularly when little or no aeration has been undertaken.
Remember, moss is the symptom of poor grass growth, and not the cause of it. If you make sure you have a tightly knit sward next year, and have maximised drainage with plenty of regular aeration, you should not have to deal with moss at all.
Daily brushing will help disperse early morning dews and help dry out the sward, thus reducing the amount of surface leaf moisture content that can initiate an outbreak of fungal disease. Brushing also helps stand the sward upright and increase air flow around the grass plant.
It is also important to try to keep the the top 50mm of the soil profile free draining, this is achieved by keeping the surface open to allow gaseous exchange, thus preventing anaerobic conditions prevailing. The surface is kept open by a programme of aeration techniques, varying the type and size of tines used.
With regard to aeration practices, any deep aeration of the courts should have been completed in January, so as not to incur problems later in the year. Deep aeration carried out in late March can lead to the tine holes/slits remaining in the soil profile well into the playing season, which can cause some surface deterioration when the clay soils begin to dry out.
Sarel rollers can still be used to keep the top 20-45mm open to aid surface water drainage.
There may still be some bare or thin sward areas; these can be oversown when weather conditions improve; the use of germination sheets will greatly improve success rates.
Inspect and remove debris from playing surface - litter or any wind blown tree debris, twigs and leaves. Leaf debris can be a problem during the winter months. It is important to sweep and clear the leaves off the courts as an accumulation of wet leaves will damage the grass surface.
Artificial tennis surfaces also need attention. Regular brushing is essential to keep them clean and free from contaminations. Sand filled/dressed carpet systems also require regular brushing to keep them clean and to redistribute sand infill materials.
American Fast Dry courts: Keep surface clean, rolling to consolidate surface, levelling and brushing of fast dry materials, brushing to clean lines.
Tarmac Courts: Now is a good time to clean your tarmacadam playing surfaces. Ideally, it pays to power wash the courts surface to remove any debris, moss and algae that will have accumulated and deposited itself on the courts during the winter months. Be careful when washing, using a too powerful washer can result in surface damage.
Keep surfaces clean, regular sweeping and brushing. Repair any hollows or damaged areas. Repaint lines.
Moss and algae can be a serious problem on tarmac tennis courts, especially if the courts are situated next to trees and hedges, the shading and damp conditions create a favourable environment for moss and algae to grow. Regular brushing and cleaning of the courts helps disturb the moss preventing it from taking hold. However, once established, the best methods of control are by a combination of chemical and washing activities. You should use approved chemical products when treating algae problems.
Clay courts: Keep surface clean, regular sweeping and brushing to restore playing levels using SISIS Trulute or similar equipment. Topdress any hollows or damaged areas. Repaint lines.
As you are reading this in early March, hopefully the horrendous rainfall we experienced from the last couple of weeks in February are now a distant memory. Up to that point, the winter had been fairly kind, with mild temperatures, conducive for small amounts of growth and recovery and the rainfall hadn’t been too significant, which meant that most sites were reasonably dry, given the time of year. Well, what we didn’t get over December and January, certainly came in February, with what has felt like storm after storm.
The recent wet weather has meant that many have had to delay significant maintenance work they may have had planned. There were some who took advantage of the favourable weather very early season and managed to get activities finished before the bad weather hit. Everyone else will have to wait until surfaces become suitable to get back onto the land to carry out the required maintenance. Patience is key here, as going early when conditions are not right can do more harm than good.
Looking ahead to March, more settled weather has been forecast. Typically for the time of year, there is still some rainfall to be expected, but as the month progresses temperatures look set to gradually increase, with night-time lows breaking away from just above freezing to a consistent 5/6 °C. We are already seeing the increase in daylight hours, which is only going to have a positive effect on turf growth as they continue to get longer.
March is often the month that is synonymous with the start of spring. There is a raft of maintenance work to be carried out ahead of the summer season. This could involve small scale ongoing maintenance, or it could be more heavy duty ‘corrective’ maintenance, it all depends on the site and the conditions. Crucial to the success of these types of maintenance is the recovery following the work being carried out. Applying a fertiliser with the most suitable nitrogen sources, with readily available nitrogen for plant uptake, will stimulate growth and recovery.
Nitrate and ammonium are both readily available nitrogen sources. Nitrate is freely available for plants to uptake and can therefore stimulate growth in cooler conditions; it is highly mobile and can reach plants’ roots quickly, providing a quick nutrient supply. Ammonium also provides a readily available form of nitrogen, making it a particularly good choice in the early season. Its ability to fix to soil minerals makes it less mobile than nitrate. As soil temperatures begin to increase, microbes will rapidly begin to convert ammonium to nitrate in the process of nitrification. Utilising a nitrogen source that is not readily available may not give the desired response and growth required. Methylene Urea (MU) is an example of a long release source of urea nitrogen fertiliser. MU’s rate of decomposition is determined by the action of microbes found naturally in most soils. The activity of these microbes, and therefore the rate of nitrogen release, is temperature dependent. Organic fertiliser is composed of natural materials derived from animals and plants. Relying on natural biological and chemical processes, nutrient content tends to be lower, less exacting and released much slower than conventional fertiliser products. As the nutrient release is slower, so is the turf response. For those not carrying out maintenance work where recovery from surface disruption is required, liquid applications of fertiliser to coincide with the increase in temperatures may be adequate to gently ‘wake up’ the turf and give the necessary response ahead of subsequent granular applications later in the spring, when temperatures have risen further.
As the plant’s internal factories start to become more active, until there is adequate light, moisture and temperature for the plant to produce enough of its own energy resources, applications of biostimulants, in the form of carbon rich products such as seaweeds, sugars and carbohydrates will be beneficial to the plant and soil as they can act as a readily available energy supply for the plant and help reduce any stress, such as that from any maintenance works carried out. Reducing stress at this time of year can have an impact on the presence of Poa annua and specifically the flowering seed heads that are produced when the plant is under stress. Across all sports, this is an undesirable grass due to its characteristics, therefore it is recommended that steps are taken to relieve stresses that may induce flowering. Suitable plant growth regulators may also be applied at this stage to regulate the growth and reduce seed head numbers.
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- Check and service any floodlighting systems; ensuring they are ready for the new playing season.
- It also important to replace any worn tines on your aeration equipment.
- Clean out the shed, sell off any old machinery and dispose of any junk that’s clogging up the shed.