Key Tasks for September
Now that clubs are back to playing again, it is important that you carefully evaluate the needs of your courts; the work required will be determined by the condition of the courts with regard to wear (bare areas), weed infestation, levels of thatch content, nutrient status and overall surface levels.
A soil analysis will determine a number of factors to help you decide on the appropriate treatments and choice of materials required for your end of season renovations.
By taking a soil sample, you can also identify the amount of thatch present. This will help you decide on the level of scarification required. One of the biggest problems during renovations is the fact that many clubs do not remove enough thatch from their swards. This is often due to either not enough passes with the scarifier at the correct depths, or using a machine that is not robust enough or engineered to cope with the work required.
Other important tasks:
- Ensure 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.
- Continue with weekly or twice weekly mowing regimes to maintain sward height.
- Maintain turf vigour and colour with an application of an autumn fertiliser.
- Once the playing season is over, take down nets and posts and store away, replacing any broken or damaged equipment.
- 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.
- Arrange to have your mowers serviced during the winter months.
Mowing. Mow the sward, preparing surfaces for renovation. Lower cutting height to about 3-4mm to clean and prepare courts.
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.
In recent years, we have seen a number of clubs fraise mowing the courts to remove surface vegetation. This method is more thorough and helps restore levels, however it comes at a higher cost than traditional scarifying methods.
Blowers / vacuums / power brushes and mowers can be used to clean up the courts after scarifying has been completed.
Aeration. 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.
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. Invest in good seed varieties, do not compromise the hard work by buying cheap grass seed, have a look at the current Turf Grass Seed Guide and see what varieties are recommended for Tennis.
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.
Brush to incorporate dressings and to help the grass stand back up. Brush in with a lute or drag brush/mat to restore levels.
It is essential to keep the sward watered after renovations to ensure your seed germinates.
Many artificial, sand filled courts are not cleaned regularly, mainly due to the fact that they were sold, mistakenly, as maintenance free facilities. However, these courts require regular brushing and cleaning to keep the pile upright and prevent contamination of the sand infill materials.
Artifcial courts. Spend time cleaning and maintaining your artificial playing surfaces, they are not maintenance free and require appropiate attention to keep them clean, safe and playable. We now have a lot of different playing surfaces to manage, so consult manufacturer's guidelines and regularly inpect and maintain these surfaces.
Inspect fencelines, net posts and netting. Also check floodlighting; you should have the lights inspected and certified for use annually.
Keep surfaces 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. 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.
Tarmacadam. Keep surfaces clean, regular sweeping and brushing. Repair any hollows or damaged areas. Repaint lines.
Traditionally, September marks the beginning of autumn. A time when conditions can be more favourable for carrying out maintenance tasks such as seeding and turf recovery. The temperatures can be more generous without the extreme heat and long dry spells (location dependant) which can cause issues through the height of summer and there is typically more moisture around which really helps drive seed germination, establishment and growth.
The long term forecast for the month ahead currently looks favourable with a mixture of sun and showers. Average daytime temperatures in the late teens and average night-time temperatures in the low teens. Therefore, it should provide those who weren’t able to get any renovation work carried out in August the opportunity to take advantage of favourable conditions in September. Ultimately at this time of year attention also starts to focus on autumn nutrition and integrated pest management (IPM) plans. With a focus on disease management and keeping surfaces in quality condition as environmental conditions (such as dew formation) become more favourable for disease outbreaks. Therefore, at this time of year moisture and water management are key factors to build maintenance practices around.
When undertaking renovation activities that incorporate seeding, good contact with the soil will ensure the seed can utilise any moisture and use the favourable ground temperatures to establish. Applications of plant growth regulators, such as prohexadione- calcium and trinexapac-ethyl prior to the operation, can assist in holding back competition from the existing mature plants already in situ. Which would otherwise compete against the seedlings. A simple technique which helps freshly germinated grass plants to establish in a more favourable environment.
Establishment and recovery from any maintenance operations can be assisted from ensuring adequate nutrition is available, so that once the seed has depleted its own resources there is sufficient available to maintain growth and likewise for any turf recovery situation. An application of energy from phosphorous helps to synthesise ATP, the energy currency of all cells. Calcium will provide the raw ingredients to drive cellular generation at the growing tips of roots and within new leaves. Additionally, it will strengthen the primary cell wall, strengthening defences against pathogenic fungal attack, particularly as cooler nights coincide with warm days to produce heavy dews, an environmental factor mentioned previously.
Applications of high levels of nitrogen on fine turf surfaces should be avoided as this can lead to an increase in severity of a disease outbreak. Research has shown that balanced late autumn fertiliser applications can result in better spring performance. Essentially, avoid over applying readily available nitrogen which would result in excessive, soft top growth that is more susceptible to pathogen attack.
The Emergency Authorisation for Acelepryn ends on the 31st of October for leatherjackets. Application of the product for control of adult Chafers has now passed and should have been completed by 31st August. However, this does not mean they should be forgotten about now until next year. Monitoring should continue, assessing areas of historic activity and check for both the presence of live grubs as well and dead ones before recording any findings to better help planning for next year is the cornerstone of successful (IPM).
Where chemical control is not authorised, entomopahogenic nematodes can be applied with warm soil temperatures and available moisture being ideal conditions to get the best out of an application. The entomopahogenic nematodes swim in the water film on soil particles in their bid to search out a larval host.
The adult crane fly typically emerge in late July to September. The adult flies commence egg laying almost immediately, with hatching and larvae emergence about two weeks later. You can check reported sightings of crane fly species on the Pest Tracker (https://www.greencast.co.uk/turf-pest-tracker) on the GreenCast website. To aid effective timing of treatment, ensure the product is in the soil at the optimum time for egg hatch and initial larvae activity.
Worms will now start to become a focus for turf managers; as the moisture levels in the soil increase, it will coincide with an increase in activity. There are no legal controls for earthworms and any product which is applied to directly affect them is done so illegally.
Cultural management continues to be the only route currently available which can include a combination of practices such as localised surface acidification, removal of grass clippings to reduce their food source and sanding of surfaces to assist in the drying out and dispersal of casts, leading to less negative lasting impression on the surface from the cast.
- 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