Expected weather for this month:

Fairly settled start with high pressure dominating; more unsettled later into the month

Key Tasks for October

General Maintenance

Grass courts

  • Grass growth will have slowed down, but certainly not stopped altogether
  • Cut weekly, ensuring that you take no more than a third off in any one cut
  • Depending on the weather a cylinder mower may still be used, but it is more likely that a rotary mower will serve you just as well
  • Box clippings to avoid the spread of disease
  • Remove leaves and other debris as soon as possible

Artificial courts

  • 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
  • Clay courts - regular sweeping and brushing to restore playing levels using SISIS Trulute or similar equipment. Topdress any hollows or damaged areas
  • Tarmacadam - regular sweeping and brushing. Repair any hollows or damaged areas

Before you start, take a core sample from each of your grass court to ascertain their current state. A visual inspection of the core will allow you to see the level of thatch/organic matter (OM) you have and to what depth.

Target OM levels:

0-20mm 6-8%

20-40mm 4-6%

40-60mm 2-4%

60-80mm 2-4%

An excess of OM will lead to poor hydraulic conductivity, soft putting surfaces, increased disease problems, loss of green speeds and poor all year round playability.

Appropriate renovation work will help reduce and control thatch / OM levels in your swards.

With air temperatures still averaging around 10-12°C in most parts of the country, seeding is still a viable option.

The recent spell of dry weather may have prompted disease attacks, with red thread, fusarium, leaf spot and fairy rings being common. Use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.

Prior to mowing, remove moisture from the grass surface. This will help to stop the spread of disease and improve the quality of cut.

End of Season Renovations

If you have not completed your renovations, here is a reminder of what you should be doing :-

Once the playing season is over, take down nets and post and store away; replace broken or damaged tennis nets and posts.

Get organised for your end of season renovations, ensure you have ordered your materials to arrive on time. Check equipment, ensuring it is ready for the work entailed. Check all belts and drives on the scarifiers.

If you are intending to use a contractor to do your work, confirm start dates and be clear they understand what level of work you want.

Do not skimp on the quality of seed and fertilisers. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for. Just remember, it takes many years of research and development to bring many of our common materials to market.

It is important to ensure that all materials (seed, fertilisers, topdressings) and any hired machinery have arrived, and are secured and stored safely on site ready for use. Often, when ordering materials late, you may be faced with delays on delivery or not being able to get the products you want in time for your planned works.

Mow the sward, preparing surfaces for renovation. Lower cutting height to about 3-4mm to clean and prepare courts.

Scarification - depending on the severity of the thatch, you may need to scarify several times in different directions. However, in most cases, if regular verticutting/grooming has taken place during the growing season, you would probably only be required to scarify in two directions. Do not scarify at right angles to the previous scarification line. Depth of scarification between 4-15mm, depending on depth of thatch to remove.

The rotary mower can then be used to clean up the courts after scarifying has been completed.

Aerate to relieve compaction and encourage root development. Aeration is the decompaction of soil, improving air and gas exchange in the soil profile. Depending on the turf's condition, you can choose to carry out hollow or solid tine spiking. Hollow tines are generally used on a bi-annual basis or when you have a severe thatch problem. Depth of aeration will be determined by the depth of your soil profile and what problems you want to rectify. Hollow tining is best achieved to a depth of between 75-100mm. Solid or slit tines can be set to penetrate deeper, ideally between 100-200mm.

Topdressing restores levels and improves surface drainage. Ensure you use compatible topdressing materials, sands, sand/soil mixes. Spreading can be achieved by several methods, utilising pedestrian or ride-on, disc or drop action top spreaders, or by hand using a shovel and a barrow. Best carried out in dry weather. It is important that the topdressings are spread uniformly. Brush to incorporate dressings and to help the grass stand back up. Brush in with a lute or drag brush/mat to restore levels.

Overseeding restores grass populations. It is important to ensure a good groove or hole is made to receive the seed; good seed to soil contact is essential for germination. Good moisture and soil temperatures will see the seed germinate between 7-14 days.

Fertilising provides nutrients for grass growth. Apply a low N nitrogen fertiliser product, something like an NPK 5:5:15, to help the sward through the autumn period.

It is essential to keep the sward watered after renovations to ensure your seed germinates.

The start of October promises to be fairly settled as high pressure dominates and clear skies promise low relative humidity and cold night time temperatures. The sun is still high enough in the sky that bright sunshine during the day will provide enough energy to drive continual recovery growth from post drought renovations. It is likely, however, that settled weather will not extend throughout the whole of the month; beware cloudy days, milder nights, still days and high relative humidity, for these are the conditions where Microdochium nivale will proliferate. With the withdrawal of the fungicide Iprodione in June of this year, autumn 2018 is the first year UK turf managers head into high periods of disease pressure without a get out of jail curative card. Furthermore, there is significant pressure on other active substances so don’t be surprised if autumn 2019 sees us with even less chemical options on the menu. Now then more than ever, all levels of the turf industry from top end professional to the hard working volunteers of the local amateur scene need to engage with a proactive mentality of Integrated Pest Management. If you are at all unsure of what this entails, then pick up the telephone and call one of the Pitchcare Technical Advisors who will be able to provide you with advice on cost effective solutions and practical steps to implement.

 

Nutrition

 

Regulating nitrogen inputs to maintain steady hardy shoot and leaf growth is a priority. Lush growth is more susceptible to attack by fungal pathogens so slow release nitrogen, either polymer coated or methylene urea in combination with straight urea, will give longevity through to the new year. Where conventional fertilisers are chosen, ensure the ammonium value is not above 4 or 5 percent.

 

A dose of micronutrients is a good idea to ensure the plant has a full menu of essential nutrition.

 

Iron – the traditional go to option for hardening the plant in the winter. However, there is no research to suggest iron plays a role in hardening the plant against pathogen attack. Calcium and silicon are the proven elements for this need. Sulphate of iron in particular will weaken the cell walls of the leaf due to the acidity, rather a fully chelated iron with a pH more towards neutral will be far less antagonistic towards cell wall integrity and beneficial leaf dwelling beneficial microorganisms.

 

Biostimulants

 

Carbohydrates - Applications of carbon energy in the form of sugar during the autumn will be sorted in the plant and soil over winter. The benefit of this is a more resilient and well developed plant in the early spring.

 

Seaweed – maintain seaweed applications during October, but avoid applications at times when environmental conditions favour fungal pathogens. Seaweed will illicit important beneficial defensive and stress responses in the plant and associated microorganisms when applied ahead of disease activity and when conditions favour the disease.

 

Amino acids – play an important role in abiotic stress tolerance, helping plants to prepare for and cope with autumnal and winter stress events.

 

Humates – continue applications to maximise nutrient availability and application efficiency as well as providing habitable zones for beneficial bacteria.

 

 

Fungal pathogens

 

Ø  Adequate balance nutrition of all plant essential elements not just NPK

Ø  Minimise stress by raising heights of cut and avoiding activities such as top dressing which weaken and damage leaf integrity

Ø  Look after the soil via regular light aeration

Ø  Reduce periods of leaf blade wetness by removing dews or using dew dispersants (apply only to a dry leaf)

Ø  Monitor disease forecasts via resources such as Syngenta’s Greencast

Ø  Plan, stock, apply beneficial nutrition as part of non-pesticidal disease management

Ø  Take advice on and plan strategic preventative fungicide applications using historic data, live weather forecasts and site specific conditions and protected maintenance operations which may cause abiotic stress.

 

Worms

 

There are no legal substances which can be applied for the control of worms. Any substance or products which act directly upon worms would never be approved by CRD for authorisation.

 

The only legal option is modification of the local surface soil environment via acidifying with specifically formulated solutions of ammonium sulphate or the application of straight sulphate.

 

Beware regular applications of sulphate of iron, they may well discourage surface casting activity, but the iron will accumulate in the soil causing long term imbalances and negative effects to plant health throughout rest of the year.

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.

More information

Some of the other 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.