Wimbledon update (13/04/02)
We had left the grass longer in the cooler areas on some of our courts where the ends are in permanent shade through the winter; because the grass leaf is left longer it therefore has more chance for photosynthesis with whatever light there may be available.
There are about seven weeks to go before the Championship, so we have now cut these areas down, scarified them quite heavily, over seeded and fertilised. We have had the frost covers on to help the new grass seed germinate.
I tend to keep the covers on to aid establishment, but also to keep from prying eyes. The press can occasionally latch on to what, you or I would regard as a routine task but they see as an interesting story.
I find that with the new grass cultivars the young grasses tend to perform better than the older ones, and I no longer worry about the courts looking a little thin in the Autumn, because I know that in the spring there will be enough time to thicken the courts in time for the season.
In the Autumn we can get germination on the warm courts in as little as three days, the soil is probably at its warmest in August/September, and as long as we keep the surface moist we can be cutting the new grass within a week. At this time of year, the soil is much cooler and it can take up to ten days to get germination. But this is still a far cry from the old days when we could be waiting upwards of three weeks for the old Fescues and Bents to germinate. We now use dwarf perennial Rye cultivars, which tolerate the close mowing and display fantastic wear qualities.Technology has moved on considerably and as an Industry we have to move forward with the progress made by the scientists at the seed breeding grounds and the chemists at the fertiliser plants. I will still be on this learning curve when I retire. At Wimbledon we keep making steps forward, trialling new products and machines and trying new methods of working practice.
If we wish to retain natural grass as the first choice for sport then it is very much in our hands to make it so.