Preparations start at Wimbledon
The official start of the season is the 19th May, so we have some time to go yet. We are on a countdown to the Members opening day, which is good for us because we have a target to get everything ready for this day. With construction of new stands still ongoing, there is obviously a lot of tidying up to be done as well as the continual preparation work of the courts.
There has been a lot of out of season work at the venue, rebuilding of stands and courts, and parts of Wimbledon have resembled building sites during this winter. I have spent much of my time in management and planning meetings but these are coming to an end and I feel that we are getting on schedule for the championships now.
We haven't started to roll the courts yet, although we anticipate starting shortly.
In fact apart from the mowers and the verti-cutters, the only machinery that has been on the courts is the hydra jet. We use this machine for our aeration program as we move into the spring, because it avoids the ground opening up as the weather improves and gets hotter. More traditional forms of aeration tend to cause problems on a clay-based medium as the courts dry out. The hydra jet enables us to relieve compaction and get some oxygen into the profile without surface disruption. We will use the hydra jet again nearer the Championships as we prepare the courts, because the jet uses very little water.
The courts are being mowed twice a week to a height of 12mm, which has been reduced from 14-15mm, which is the height we maintained the courts at during the winter. In addition to mowing, our verti-cutting program has started in earnest, there is some Poa on the courts and by regular verti-cutting we have been able to reduce and even eradicate it. Some of the courts have been verti-cut three to four times a week, but as we reduce lateral grass shoots and the Poa, we have been able to settle down to a once weekly operation on most of the courts and this will probably continue for the next three to four weeks. After that I suspect we will be able to get away with using grooming combs on the front of the mowers.
Once the verti-cutting started we also over-seeded the courts with a 50:50 Perennial Ryegrass mix of 'Aberelf' and 'Aberimp'. This seed mix was applied at 35gms/metre. It is a full seeding rate, but we find that although the courts are in good shape after the winter, the grass has thinned in places. While 35 grams/metre is a heavy sowing, we require a dense population of grass to produce the top quality surfaces expected at the venue. We also have the equipment and personnel to keep on top of the new grasses once they establish. The newer grasses also establish far quicker these days, so it's not too late to over sow the courts.
The courts were all sprayed with a selective herbicide about three weeks ago; this has reduced the weed population considerably, particularly with the fine weather that we have been enjoying recently. Any further weeding that is required will be done by hand over the coming weeks.
Ten days ago all the courts had a spring/summer feed of Scotts granular 14:0:5 with 2% Iron which has brought the colour up nicely. The next application will be a light feed in five or six weeks time just prior to the Championships. If the weather allows, we will be starting the first application of a primer as part of our build up of wetting agents to avoid dry patch through the summer.Finally the European clay courts require a lot of time consuming work, we hope to have them in play at the back end of next week. We are digging them over, raking them level and consolidating them. Then they will be marked out ready for play.