This month sees the continuation of regular maintenance tasks – grass cutting, grooming, brushing, aerating, feeding and watering. Particular attention should be made to your irrigation regimes, ensuring that all turf surfaces receive adequate amounts of water to maintain growth.
Groundstaff will also be trying to maintain the sward height at between 6-10mm, depending on the level of play.
The condition of the court will certainly contribute to how well it performs, particularly with reference to ball bounce and foot adhesion. Ideally, you should be providing a true, firm and level surface that is both safe for the player whilst, at the same time, providing an adequate consistent ball bounce.
Foot traction/ball bounce can be affected by several factors:-
- Amount of organic matter (thatch) present in the surface
- Moisture content of the playing surface
- Condition of sward
- Insufficient court rolling
- Uneven levels/worn areas
- Type of footwear worn and condition of balls
Excess thatch content (more than 8mm) will affect playing quality by the mere fact that it becomes a spongy layer. This spongy layer deadens ball bounce and can cause poor foot traction – no grip. Control the build up of thatch by regular verticutting/grooming.
The level of moisture on or in the soil profile will affect how the court plays; a wet, firm surface will, in fact, speed up the pace of the ball. The use of covers will help control the wetness and condition of your courts.
The amount of grass cover on your courts will also dictate how the courts play. Too much grass, especially if over 10mm in length and over fed (applying too much nitrogen fertiliser) will, in turn, affect ball bounce and foot traction.
Other tasks include:
Roll the courts to firm them up; rolling should be done during favourable weather conditions, ideally when the soil profile is malleable/moist enough to bind together.
Monitor the condition of the court and constantly repair any bare and uneven levels. Topdress with compatible loam soils/ rootzone materials and overseed with a good quality ryegrass at a rate of 35-40 grams per m2.
Ensure players are aware it’s their responsibility to ensure they’re wearing appropriate footwear and using balls that are not damaged.
Mowing. The mowing height on the courts should be lowered to around 6-10mm for the playing season, subject to local weather conditions, but remember not to remove more than 1/3 of total grass height in each cut.
Mowing frequency will be dependent on a number of factors, grass growth, sward type, level or standard of facility, resources (staff and machinery) but, generally, it may vary from daily, in the case of Wimbledon, to two to three days a week, or even weekly, depending on resources available.
It is important to remove any weeds from the playing surface, as they can affect ball bounce and performance of the court. Weeds can be removed by hand, or controlled by application of chemicals, usually a broadleaf selective weed killer. Best results are achieved when the soil has warmed up and the grass is actively growing.
Grooming and verticutting are operations that remove unwanted side grass growth and reduce the amount of debris in the sward. These operations are carried out on a regular basis, often weekly or fortnightly, and providing you have sufficient watering facilities. These operations are completed in conjunction with your mowing regimes.
Aeration. A programme of aeration can be considered to alleviate any compaction from recent play. However, this needs to be done with an appropriate aerator, something like the Hydrajet, Dryject or SISIS Javelin Aeraid, which are able to penetrate the hard clay soil profiles without causing surface disruption, thus allowing some much needed air exchange to promote a second phase of grass growth.
Irrigation. It is essential to have water available for irrigation purposes. Irrigation is required for court preparation and repairs. Ensure that the water gets down into the rootzone, a minimum of 150mm, to encourage deep rooting. Check with a probe.
Marking is important. Lines need to be clean, straight and accurate; ensure your marking machine is cleaned and serviced, checking that all the components are working properly. There is nothing worse than using a marker that drips and produces poor line quality. It will reflect on your workmanship. Remember to use string lines for accuracy. Also invest in a good quality paint products, there are plenty to choose from that will suit your requirements and budget.
As we approach the halfway point of the year, we can hopefully afford ourselves a brief moment to look back at the past six months and reflect on the accomplishments and challenges we have overcome. Although June has provided some excellent warm weather, which has meant we have been able to enjoy being outdoors, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it has been good for managing turf. Evenings and mornings were cold right up to the end of May, which has affected growth.
Looking ahead to July, there is little sign of what will now be, for many, much needed rainfall. Where rain is forecast, it doesn’t appear it will be anything substantial enough to make a significant impact. Of course, where irrigation systems are in place, these can be deployed to reinstate the moisture that has been lost through the day, but where these are not available, managing drought conditions may become a major priority. Where irrigation is available, managing the resource effectively to adhere to extraction licenses etc. will continue to be important. Daily temperatures look set to be around average for July, with 29 days at 18°C or above. Notably, there aren’t many days forecast above 24°C, which may be important for those who are regularly managing anthracnose disease outbreaks.
July temperatures look set to continue to be decent, with most days around 19°C or above. Rainfall is forecast to be sporadic which should help prevent surfaces drying down too much. With warmer temperatures comes the possibility of an increase in humidity. When temperature is higher, the air can hold more water vapour, meaning that when climate conditions are warmer the humidity level can be higher. As an example, at 28°C a densely saturated amount of air may contain 28 grams of water per cubic metre, but only 8 grams of water per cubic metre of air at just 8°C. Higher humidity can increase the likelihood of the development and growth of fungal pathogens.
Water management is a key tool for maximising overall plant health, even more so in periods of prolonged dry weather as those we are currently experiencing. It is important to ensure there is enough moisture to support nutrient uptake and growth whilst trying not to over apply to areas of turf where more is not required. Moisture meters are an excellent tool, particularly in these situations, as they provide factual data as opposed to a visual interpretation which is variable from person to person. Guidelines can be set for optimal readings and selective or hand watering can be implemented to only irrigate those areas where there is a requirement, thereby reducing over-watering the plant and reducing overall water usage. Wetting agents are useful for managing water and ensuring it enters to soil profile, where it is needed. Regular aeration, using a variety of tine depths, also helps to maintain pathways for water to enter the rootzone and pass through it.
Applications of seaweed will elicit important beneficial defensive and stress responses in the plant and associated micro-organisms when applied at times of turf stress. Ascophyllum nodosum is a good seaweed source as it has to deal with tidal stresses. Half its life is spent under water and half its life out of water. Amino acids also play an important role in abiotic stress tolerance, helping plants to prepare for and cope with additional stresses such as varying changes in temperature and volumetric water content. They are also excellent at ensuring nutrients get into the plant, therefore, through dry periods where every part counts, they can be a useful addition to tank mixes to ensure efficient uptake of products. Calcium and Potassium are both key nutrients when considering biotic and abiotic stress due to their role in cell walls and water regulation. Therefore, look out for these when selecting your fertiliser.
For Anthracnose (Colletotrichum cereale), warm, humid weather and increased light intensity are the primary environmental factors controlling the development of conidia. Laboratory studies indicate that Colletotrichum cereale produces conidia at temperatures between 24‑32°C, with increased maturity of conidia observed at 28°C compared with lower temperatures. Once conidia have been excreted from the acervuli in a water‑soluble matrix, they can be spread by wind, water or human activity, but need continued leaf surface moisture to establish. Little and often applications of nitrogen have been shown to mitigate the development of the disease and helps to minimise any stress on the plant. Applied preventatively fungicides are available as a method of control, although some will find the above measures sufficient when dealing with this disease.
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You should have had your mower serviced and sharpened ready for the new season.
- 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