Great summer but a late renovation
By Anthony Asquith
I've worked at the Chapel Allerton Tennis Club for six years as Assistant Head Groundsman to my father Gary Asquith. We work well together and more often than not are regarded as good mates instead of father and son. The club were a little apprehensive when we joined the club, because of the relationship, but the work that we have done has dispelled any early fears. We have continued to improve the facilities which include 9 natural grass courts, six artificial and three indoor courts.
We host a number of major tournaments each year including the Yorkshire Championships and the Yorkshire Veterans. The club are very good at underwriting our budget for whatever we need, and every year they find enough money for a couple of items of new machinery, as long as we have argued the viability for them.
We have recently purchased a new Groundsman aerator and a Dennis FT mower with the cassette system. The Dennis machine came with a series of cassettes including, the verticut reel, brush and scarifier. We have tended to find that the scarifier isn't man enough for the deep scarification that we require at the end of the season, so we also use a 'Bob Andrews' machine, but the other cassettes are extremely useful. The Groundsman aerator now gives us the ability to spike to a greater depth of up to 6" (150mm), it is a robust machine that is compact and allows us to get into the tight corners of a tennis court.
As we had such an exceptional summer we were able to carry out this autumn's renovations a little later. We started renovating the courts in pairs, taking two at a time out of play until next spring.
The first job was to irrigate the courts to a depth of 2"-3" (50-75mm) to soften them up a little bit.
We then scarified them, taking our time to remove as much debris as possible. In the past we've always been under pressure to get the remedial work done as quick as possible because of the imminent inclement weather, but this year's fine dry spell meant that we were under little pressure and we managed to clean out the sward very well.
Once we completed the scarifying we applied a pre-seeding fertiliser to each court, before seeding and top-dressing. Our clay content in the courts is about 18% so we use a suitable loam for the dressing.
We would have liked to spike the courts during the renovation, but because they were so hard after such a glorious summer, we decided to wait until the ground had softened up a little.
We finished our renovations in early October.
We are now just about to start spiking the courts, and hopefully we should be able to reach a full depth of 150mm. We should spike regularly now every two to three weeks, on a 35mm x 35mm pattern.
The seed take has been really good this year, although there are still a few bare patches. Using a 100% perennial Rye grass mix of Bareine and Bargold, which we've found to be hard wearing and quick to recover, the courts should fill out nicely once the warmer weather returns in the spring.
We use the Rye grass mix, because we've found that we have a more open sward, which allows the ground to dry much quicker. With regular verti-cutting we are able to keep the surface clean of debris, so there is very little thatch build up in the courts.
During the playing season we've maintained the height of cut at 8mm, but now we're keeping the grass to a height of 13mm. We have found this autumn, being warmer, that we have continued to mow the courts regularly.
The courts have played well this season and we get a lot of feedback from the members and try to take their comments onboard. There are nearly a thousand members of Chapel Allerton Tennis Club.
The main disease problem that we've had to deal with has been fusarium. We keep a close check for disease and monitor any outbreaks. Sometimes they are contained and die out, sometimes we may spray an application of Rovral Green. The only other complication that we tend to have is the resident worm population. We've just sprayed the courts with 'Ringer', a product that we purchase from Aitkins.
We try to watch the pH, brush the courts every morning and remove the worms source of feed by regular verticutting and scarifying thoroughly at the end of the season. We'd prefer not to use the chemicals at all, preferring the cultural practices that I've just mentioned.
The only time that we use any preventative spray is at Christmas time, like Eddie does at Wimbledon. It too gives us some piece of mind so that we can enjoy a few stress free days over the festive period.
We tend to use straight release fertilisers in our fertilising program, because we feel that we're more in control using these than slow release feeds.
As we move into the winter there are always more things to improve upon, the irrigation system being one of our agenda items. We're also looking at some covers to help during tournament times and a heavier roller to complement our existing machine.