Expected weather for this month:

Expect a textbook July: very warm or hot; more dry spells

Key Tasks for July

This month sees the continuation of regular maintenance tasks - grass cutting, grooming, brushing, aerating, feeding and watering. Particular attention should be made to your irrigation regimes, ensuring that all turf surfaces receive adequate amounts of water to maintain growth.

Groundstaff will also be trying to maintain the sward height at between 6-10mm, depending on the level of play.

The condition of the court will certainly contribute to how well it performs, particularly with reference to ball bounce and foot adhesion. Ideally, you should be providing a true, firm and level surface that is both safe for the player whilst, at the same time, providing an adequate consistent ball bounce.

Foot traction/ball bounce can be affected by several factors:-

  • Amount of organic matter (thatch) present in the surface
  • Moisture content of the playing surface
  • Condition of sward
  • Insufficient court rolling
  • Uneven levels/worn areas
  • Type of footwear worn and condition of balls

Excess thatch content (more than 8mm) will affect playing quality by the mere fact that it becomes a spongy layer. This spongy layer deadens ball bounce and can cause poor foot traction - no grip. Control the build up of thatch by regular verticutting/grooming.

The level of moisture on or in the soil profile will affect how the court plays; a wet, firm surface will, in fact, speed up the pace of the ball. The use of covers will help control the wetness and condition of your courts.

The amount of grass cover on your courts will also dictate how the courts play. Too much grass, especially if over 10mm in length and over fed (applying too much nitrogen fertiliser) will, in turn, affect ball bounce and foot traction.

Other tasks include:

  • Roll the courts to firm them up; rolling should be done during favourable weather conditions, ideally when the soil profile is malleable/moist enough to bind together.
  • Monitor the condition of the court and constantly repair any bare and uneven levels. Topdress with compatible loam soils/ rootzone materials and overseed with a good quality ryegrass at a rate of 35-40 grams per m2.
  • Ensure players are aware it’s their responsibility to ensure they’re wearing appropriate footwear and using balls that are not damaged.

Mowing. The mowing height on the courts should be lowered to around 6-10mm for the playing season, subject to local weather conditions, but remember not to remove more than 1/3 of total grass height in each cut.

Mowing frequency will be dependent on a number of factors, grass growth, sward type, level or standard of facility, resources (staff and machinery) but, generally, it may vary from daily, in the case of Wimbledon, to two to three days a week, or even weekly, depending on resources available.

It is important to remove any weeds from the playing surface, as they can affect ball bounce and performance of the court. Weeds can be removed by hand, or controlled by application of chemicals, usually a broadleaf selective weed killer. Best results are achieved when the soil has warmed up and the grass is actively growing.

Grooming and verticutting are operations that remove unwanted side grass growth and reduce the amount of debris in the sward. These operations are carried out on a regular basis, often weekly or fortnightly, and providing you have sufficient watering facilities. These operations are completed in conjunction with your mowing regimes.

Aeration. A programme of aeration can be considered to alleviate any compaction from recent play. However, this needs to be done with an appropriate aerator, something like the Hydrajet, Dryject or SISIS Javelin Aeraid, which are able to penetrate the hard clay soil profiles without causing surface disruption, thus allowing some much needed air exchange to promote a second phase of grass growth.

Irrigation. It is essential to have water available for irrigation purposes. Irrigation is required for court preparation and repairs. Ensure that the water gets down into the rootzone, a minimum of 150mm, to encourage deep rooting. Check with a probe.

Fertiliser. Fertiliser treatment and turf tonic can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested; try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results.

In recent years, we have seen a change in feeding habits in professional sport, with more groundsmen resorting to a more detailed feeding programme using a concoction of fertiliser products and soil conditioners to maintain plant health.

These products come in both granular and liquid formulations, Liquids formulations tend to be more efficient and react much quicker than granular products. However, granular products tend to be easier to apply and use.

We are now seeing granular products being used as base/slow release feeds and being topped up with a range of liquid feeds that include bio stimulants along with micro nutrients. To help improve the performance of these feeds, a number of soil additive products and wetting agents are in regular use.

However, for a majority of smaller clubs/facilities they will be reliant on a trusted base fertiliser, a 12:0:9, 7:0:7 or similar compound blend, or apply a slow release fertiliser to see you through to August. The choice of material and how well it works will be dependent on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and soil temperature being the catalyst for growth.

The performance of slow release fertilisers can be influenced by the weather, often producing a flush of growth when you least expect it. Some grounds managers may use straight compound granular or liquid fert

ilisers which activate when in contact with moist soil conditions, effectively stimulating grass growth within days.

Marking is important. Lines need to be clean, straight and accurate; ensure your marking machine is cleaned and serviced, checking that all the components are working properly. There is nothing worse than using a marker that drips and produces poor line quality. It will reflect on your workmanship. Remember to use string lines for accuracy. Also invest in a good quality paint products, there are plenty to choose from that will suit your requirements and budget.

As the hot and dry conditions prevail into July the quality of turf areas as dictated by the health and vitality of grass plants will more than likely sit within one of the following:

 

  • Healthy – Adequate, evenly distributed soil water.
  • Stressed – Inadequate, unevenly distributed soil water.
  • Dormant – Parched areas with critically low soil water levels.

 

Whether or not each of those conditions is tolerable on any given area, of course depends on the value of the area and the scope of available turf management resources.

Let’s look at each of these areas in more detail.

 

Healthy – Adequate, evenly distributed soil water levels.

Most likely high value areas such as golf greens, golf tees, well maintained bowling greens, cricket wickets high level winter sports.

 

Contributing Factors

  • Well calibrated irrigation systems, monitoring of soil moisture levels, monitoring of evapotranspiration levels, targeted irrigation volumes designed to replace water losses.
  • Good soil structure, low compaction, adequate aeration.
  • Adequate nutrition, use of biostimulants.
  • Preventative wetting agent programmes which started in early spring.

 

Considerations

Where soil water levels are adequate then plants will be making the most of the high light intensity, high soil temperatures and adequate moisture and performing well.

Maintain adequate soil water levels by continuing quality targeted irrigation comprising night time programmes, syringing with short bursts through the heat of the day to cool leaf and soil surfaces, hand watering of areas known to be vulnerable to drying out such as high spots on greens.

The biggest concern will be heat stress during the warmest parts of the day due to prolonged periods of intense sunshine, use of Cold Pressed Seaweed will prime plant defences to better respond and conserve water. Adopting a little and often approach by perhaps taking a 20L a month target application of seaweed and splitting that into weekly applications of 5L accompanied by some sugar carbon for system energy and a small amount of foliar nitrogen and potassium for plant vigour and water loss regulation should help to maintain a positive status quo. Amino acids will also assist plant health and contribute positively towards maintaining the status quo.

Maintain wetting agent applications designed to aid water penetration and conserve soil water levels in the profile.

 

Stressed – Inadequate, unevenly distributed soil water.

Most likely a broad range of turf surfaces with some available irrigation.

 

Contributing Factors

  • Manual irrigation, areas without automatic systems, poorly calibrated sprinklers, estimated evapotranspiration losses, lack of measurable monitoring of soil moisture levels, via moisture meters.
  • Compacted soils, minimal aeration, high thatch levels.
  • Low potassium levels and low to zero us of biostimulants.
  • Inadequate or misdirected use of wetting agents.

 

Considerations

Apply curative granules to persistent dry patches and hand water with a wetting agent pellet gun. Increase intensity of irrigation where possible and seek advice in terms of monitoring evapotranspiration losses, then aim to replace lost water through watering.

Where thatch levels are high water in the morning when the sun is up but before temperatures increase. This is because water applied in the evening will act as a thermal blanket within the organic matter preventing overnight cooling.

Penetrant wetting agents will aid water percolation, preventing run off and thereby maximising the water which is applied.

Little and often applications of potassium, and cold pressed seaweed, will help the plant to withstand the stress, carbon energy and amino acids should also be considered.

Periods of hot dry weather activate anthracnose disease which will be lying in wait to pounce on susceptible stressed turf. Doing whatever you can to maintain plant and system health will be vital in fending off a severe attack as July and August develop. Where cultural strategies cannot be employed then consider well timed preventative fungicide applications.

Longer term strategies would include engaging with irrigation experts to correctly calibrate systems, invest in soil moisture meters, monitor evapotranspiration levels, reduce thatch, alleviate compaction and instigate preventative wetting agent programmes.

 

Dormant – Parched areas with critically low soil water levels.

Most likely golf tees without irrigation, fairways, surrounds and roughs, community sports pitches and cricket out fields.

Contributing Factors

  • The biggest contributing factor with regards to the drying out and dormancy of these areas is most likely scale, both of area and budgetary resources.

 

Considerations

Where possible areas that have had previous cultural maintenance practices such as compaction relief or, scarification to keep thatch levels healthy, will be able to withstand the stress for longer.

Any areas which had an application of wide area penetrant and block-copolymer wetting agent should have lasted longer and will recover faster once rain does arrive.

The biggest concern will be monitoring areas for signs of progression from plant dormancy into plant death. Grass plants are extortionately resilient to low soil moisture and go brown as a protection method. However, should conditions prevail plants may die, signs of this are a breakdown of the roots and shoots at and just below the soil surface.

Beware; moss and Poa annua will be lying in wait as they are the species evolved to respond and establish the fastest in these exact conditions. Therefore, begin to plan now for overseeing with amenity species and cultivars, the most likely window for doing this will be the end of august or early September when soil moisture levels and soil temperature will be optimal for seedling germination and establishment, just as nature intended.

 

Final Thought

One point of note to consider moving forward is that climate changes models for the British Isles predict an increasing frequency and extended periods of extremes, whether than be wet, dry or cold.

The question turf managers at every level should be constantly asking is; what plans do we have in place to ensure that when the extremes do come, there are the resources at hand to produce a surface which facilitates play?

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

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 on our new Grounds Training website, or you can email Carol Smith for information.

  • 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