June maintenance at Chapel Allerton
By Anthony Asquith
We are coming up to a busy period in the grass court calendar with numerous tournaments and matches ahead. The workload is very intensive, our mowers are now out 5 days a week during the busy periods, not to mention the countless hours behind the marking machine.
The courts are being mowed at between 7-8mm every day, Monday - Friday, and are double cut at 6mm during major club tournaments. Once the tournament is over we raise the height of cut back to 8mm to relieve plant stress. The mowers are inspected before and after each cutting. Cleanness of cut is paramount. Ryes are notoriously difficult to cut cleanly due to the plants thicker cell walls, so poorly adjusted mowers will tear the plant, leaving white fibrous strands which are prone to fungal infection.
To minimize wear and tear we rotate the maintenance and usage of the courts, and occasionally by a relaxation in cutting height or giving the courts a thorough soak.
The verticutting machines are now at work gently "thinning out or cleaning" the sward. This will improve improve ball speed and bounce, however this operation is left out during times of stress i.e. drought.
I try to give the plant a foliar liquid feed during June and July. This enters the plant quicker and work more efficiently than granular products, giving more control with feeding during tournaments. I also apply an iron conditioner before major tournaments to green up the plant without promoting lushness. Traction would be a problem otherwise, the court could become slippery as the plant's leaf moisture content is increased.
Rolling is now only carried out if and when we have had rain and the courts have softened a little. Our courts have consolidated well this year and, by keeping an open sward with good air circulation, they have firmed up quickly, taking less rolling time to achieve consolidation.
We cannot, however, be complacent. I am now in my ninth year at Chapel Allerton and still want to see improvments. Even if I only achieve 1% improvement it means we are moving in the right direction, trying to produce the best playing surfaces for our members.