Looks like we could be in for quite a harsh winter. Some nothern parts of the UK experienced snow at the beginning of November, with frost hitting all parts of the country as this is being written. As always advised, keep off frost affected turf; walking on it will cause the brittle leaves to break, thereby causing severe damage and, in some cases, death of the plant. If in doubt, stay off.
Recent winters have been variable and unpredictable; however, it remains clear that a keen eye on forecasts and advanced preparation for either mild and wet, or cold and dry periods will pay agronomic dividends
Key Tasks for December
- grass growth will have slowed down, but certainly not stopped altogether, so you should continue to cut weekly, ensuring that you take no more than a third off in any one cut
- 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 playing 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.
Remember – that the sun is at its lowest in December and daylight hours are at their shortest, so any shade problems you have will be exacerbated. These areas tend to take longer to warm up and dry out which, in turn, may affect maintenance operations and playability.
Hardening off the grass plant with applications of iron ahead of any forecasted cold nights and biting winds will serve to thicken the plants cell walls and make it more resilient. Equally, should soil temperatures remain above 8°C the plant will be requiring some nutrition, with low nitrogen options remaining relevant.The delicate balance will be to avoid turf stress where autumn feeds may be running low but without stimulating soft susceptible growth from any applications of nitrogen.
Applications of Carbendazim will continue to be required to areas which are subject to high levels of worm activity. Controlling the casting will also make a significant contribution to reducing greasy and smearing surfaces which helps to prevent turf wear.
As long as ground conditions are suitable aeration in any form is key to maintaining surface drainage and soil respiration.
As temperatures reduce and moisture is present on the leaf for longer, Microdochium patch is still likely to be virulent; the window for systemic fungicides has likely passed, with products containing a contact mode of action proving to be the most suitable method of control. Users should be aware that correct and high quality application is vital for the success of any spray operation. This is especially so with a contact fungicide where the idea is to effectively coat the leaf in a protective ‘jacket’ of the substance which will ward of disease attack. Ensuring sprayers are well calibrated, label recommendations are adhered to, nozzles are appropriate and in good condition are all factors crucial to success as 10-20% of spraying efficacy is down to spray quality. Nozzles should be replaced annually and when the cost of a set of nozzles is set against the cost of a fungicide, the final 10-20% of efficacy more than pays for them.
Turf managers should maintain good cultural methods of control for disease with timely removal of morning dews – to reduce periods of leaf blade wetness – and the considered use of liquid irons, phosphite and calcium – routinely applied to provide the plant with its own defences – all forming the backbone of an holistic approach to responsible Integrated Turf Management (ITM) .
Finally, maintaining oneself and team is equally important throughout periods of inclement weather, and investment in good clothing helps to maintain comfort, morale and productivity.
Earthworms may be a problem, so regular dragbrushing will be necessary. Brushing can be daily when conditions are right. Regular aeration to keep the surface open will aid drying. A drier surface may help towards reducing the effects of the earthworm activity near the surface. Diseases have been widely reported, particularly Fusarium. These outbreaks have been mainly due to the heavy dews and changing climatic air temperatures we have recently experienced.
The three disease factors: susceptible grass/host, pathogen, and environment, provide the evidence for disease diagnosis. Symptoms are the expression of the susceptible grass to the disease and can take on a variety of forms.
Symptoms may appear on the leaves as small, circular, tan-coloured lesions surrounded by brown or purple borders (leaf spotting); as yellow, red, or tan blotches over most or all of the leaf blade (blighting); stunting; wilting; or as a brown or black rot on the crowns and roots. The appearance of these symptoms will also vary depending on the type of disease, the severity of the attack and the developing stage of the disease.
The typical types of diseases you may come across are:
- Red Thread
- Dollar Spot
Please note: More information on these and many others can be found here: https://www.pitchcare.com/useful/diseases.php
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
Pitchcare provide a range of courses suitable for tennis clubs. In most cases, the courses can be held on site using the club's own equipment and machinery.
Some of the courses available are:
- Chainsaws - CS30 and CS31
- H&S Refresher Training on Combined Turf Care Equipment; Tractors and Trailers; All Mowers (Ride-on and Pedestrian)
- Machinery Courses on ATVs; Tractors: Brushcutters/Strimmers; Mowers (ride-on and Pedestrian)
- Pesticide Application (PA courses)
- Stem Injection of Invasive Species (Japanese Knotweed etc.)
- Basic Trees Survey and Inspection
More details about all the courses can be found here, or you can email Chris Johnson for information.
Other Key Tasks
- 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
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