Key Tasks for February
If the court is frozen or, more likely, waterlogged, keep off; you will do more harm than good.
General maintenance, dependent upon weather conditions:
- continue to cut as required, ensuring that you take no more than a third off in any one cut. Maintain a height of cut between 12-18mm
- 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 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.
- 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
January seems to have come and gone in a flash, in what has felt like a busy period. The heavy rainfall and freezing temperatures earlier in the month seem to have subsided and it has allowed many to be full steam ahead with projects and continued turf maintenance. It’s always nice to hit the ground running at the start of the year and make good progress, to set things up for the year ahead.
The long-term forecast looks favourable at the beginning of the February, but then towards the back end of the month things look likely to change, with much wetter conditions and low temperatures still no higher than 4°C. Suggesting that there won’t be any significant growth potential for most of the month, which is as expected. Although, in recent years there has been known to be almost a ‘false’ spring in February, which has allowed for more maintenance to be carried out and some recovery from winter wear. If this is to be planned in this year, tracking the forecast will be key to ensure the right window of opportunity is found, to get the best possible outcomes.
There is a significant difference in the amount of daylight available at the beginning of February compared to the end of the month, with approximately two hours more daylight and above 50% increase in the height of the sun (Mid-day). This can mean a turning point for areas of turf that have been cast in shade for long periods, which comes at the end of the month, and so will now benefit from this increase in light, improving the overall health of the turf. The increase in sunlight provides more opportunity for photosynthesis and the turf can begin to ‘wake up’, however this is not an immediate shift, given it’s following on from the colder winter weather from January and early February. Unless you are fortunate enough to have resources, such as undersoil heating and growth promoting lights, its’s best not to hastily try to force growth into action. This can lead to needless wastage of products and potential impacts on the environment from leaching of nutrients that can’t be taken up by the plant. Therefore, unnecessary applications should be avoided.
Monitoring current soil temperatures will give a good indication of when suitable and worthwhile applications can be made. Once soil temperatures start to reach 8-10°C, the rhizosphere will start to have sufficient warmth to support biological activity and influence soil respiration by increasing enzyme activity. At this point, you can start to encourage winter recovery and stimulate some early season growth; an application of a low % nitrogen granular fertiliser with a readily available source of nitrogen such as ammonium could be applied. Soil samples, if already carried out will provide useful information for planning future nutrient inputs. Supplementary applications of biostimulants such as seaweed, humic acids and sugars will start to stimulate soil activity and provide a much-needed carbon source as activity starts to increase.
Protecting the plant in February against potential oncoming stresses can maintain good plant health and will lessen any potential damage. The use of silicon and calcium will assist in strengthening cell walls; amino acids and harpin protein can help protect against cold weather damage. Where conditions may not be suitable for granular fertiliser applications, turf hardener type products, in the form of liquid applications, can also strengthen the plant ahead of these stressful situations.
Gains can be made in February, but nutrient applications should only be made to provide the plant with what it needs or what it can use. Applying excess amounts that can’t be utilised by the grass plant will only be wasted. The possibility then is to make further applications to try and encourage growth, and with a change in conditions there can be bountiful amounts of nitrogen in the soil which could lead to an undesired growth response later in the year.
Low temperatures should continue to assist in keeping disease pressure low. As ever, monitoring weather conditions is key, and any applications should ideally be made preventatively ahead of disease development. If required, an anti-sporulant fungicide such as fludioxonil is suitable for when growth is minimal.
There is still no chemical available to provide control, therefore continue your cultural practices to minimise their impact as much as possible. As conditions improve and surfaces dry out, brushing ahead of mowing may help clear the surface to keep the effect of smearing minimal.
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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
- 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