August will be a busy time for most tennis clubs, not only fulfilling their fixture lists but also catering for an influx of wannabe tennis players trying their hand after another successful Wimbledon Tournament. It is important to provide safe and consistent playing surfaces. This will only be achieved with regular ongoing maintenance regimes. It is important to keep the surface clean and free from any debris.
Your maintenance regime will continue in much the same vein as last month's - grass cutting, grooming, brushing, aerating, feeding, watering and marking out for matches.
Prior to mowing, the surface should be thoroughly brushed. Continue to brush courts daily to remove moisture from the grass surface, stopping the spread of disease and facilitating an improved quality of cut on the dry grass.
The courts may now need another feed to see them through the last period of play before the courts are closed for renovations. It is essential to have water available for fertiliser applications, 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. Allow to dry out and repeat the irrigation process. Allowing surfaces to remain dry can lead to problems of dry patch, a condition that prevents water infiltration into the soil and thus forming areas of non-uniform turf quality. To help overcome dry patch the use of wetting agents have now become an integral part of the maintenance regime, with applications being applied on a monthly basis throughout the summer
Plan and organise your end of season renovations, check you have all the equipment and materials in stock ready for the start of your planned work.
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 dependant 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.
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.
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 northing 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.
Fertiliser treatment and turf tonic can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested; try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results.
In recent years, we have seen a change in feeding habits in professional sport, with more groundsmen resorting to a more detailed feeding programme using a concoction of fertiliser products and soil conditioners to maintain plant health.
This has generally been achieved applying a range of different products in the form of granular and liquid forms.
We are now seeing granular products being used as base/slow release feeds and being topped up with a range of liquid feeds that include bio stimulants along with micro nutrients. To help improve the performance of these feeds, a number of soil additive products and wetting agents are in regular use.
However, for a majority of smaller clubs/facilities, they will be reliant on a trusted base fertiliser, a 12:0:9, 7:0:7 or similar compound blend, or apply a slow release fertiliser to see you through to August. The choice of material and how well it works will be dependant on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and soil temperature being the catalyst for growth.
The performance of slow release fertilisers can be influenced by the weather, often producing a flush of growth when you least expect it. Some grounds managers may use straight compound granular or liquid fertilisers which activate when in contact with moist soil conditions, effectively stimulating grass growth within days.
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.
It is important to 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.
It is important to monitor the condition of the court and constantly repair any bare and uneven levels. Topdress with compatible loam soils and overseed with a good quality ryegrass at a rate of 35-40 grams per m2.
It is also the players responsibility to ensure they are wearing appropriate footwear and using balls that are not damaged.
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.
Many groundsmen now undertake a number of testing procedures to assess their courts, generally these tend to be ball bounce and hardness.
Ball bounce is simple; measure the height of a rebounding ball dropped from a pre-determined height. Testing for hardness requires a specialist piece of equipment called the Clegg Hammer, which essentially consists of a hammer weighing 0.5kg to which an accelerometer is attached. The hammer was developed for testing soft materials, such as turf or sand and is ideal for testing sports surfaces such as golf greens, cricket pitches and tennis courts.
This equipment can be hired from specialist suppliers. Recording and monitoring these two parameters will help you have a better understanding of how your courts are performing.
Many groundsman are now also using moisture meters to monitor soil moisture deficit (SMD); by keeping an eye on these losses, you can then apply the correct amount of water to replace the water lost by evaportransipration.
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 an application of chemicals, usually a broadleaf selective weed killer.
Red thread and a number of other turf grass diseases may be seen after the recent changing weather fronts, conditions have been ideal for this disease. Grass plants are under stress, favourable temperatures for incubation, overcast and moisture in the ground enables the disease to spread quickly. The disease has come in because the grass plant is under stress, quite often due to the fact that it may be under-nourished. In most cases red thread can be controlled with an application of fertiliser.
If the outbreak is severe, then treatment is likely to be necessary. Choice of a curative or eradicant fungicide, preferably with a systemic action, is most suitable. Protectant types can take time to work and seem less effective on aggressive red thread strains. This must be a last resort, as the costs of annual applications of fungicides to large areas are very high and may eventually lead to pathogen resistance.
Control should be a mixture of good sward management, good observation and use of cultural controls. Occasionally, the bottle (or box) needs to be reached for to keep sanity and the sward alive.
A dose of feed or, in some severe cases, an application of fungicide will help treat the problem.
Keep machinery in good order, clean after use and top up any oil / fuel levels.
Check cutting cylinders are at correst cutting height and are sharp.
Many artificial, sand filled courts are not cleaned regularly, mainly due to the fact that they were sold, mistakenly, as maintenance free facilities. However, these courts require regular brushing and cleaning to keep the pile upright and prevent contamination of the sand infill materials.
Artificial grass systems:- Keep surface clean with regular sweeping and brushing. Remove any algae and moss from surface. Sand filled systems require regular brushing to maintain manufacturer's recommendations on sand levels and pile heights.
American Fast Dry courts:- Keep surface clean, rolling to consolidate surface, levelling and brushing of fast dry materials, brushing to clean lines.
Clay courts:- Keep surface clean, regular sweeping and brushing to restore playing levels using SISIS Trulute or similar equipment. Topdress any hollows or damaged areas. Repaint lines.
Tarmacadam:- Keep surfaces clean, regular sweeping and brushing. Repair any hollows or damaged areas. Repaint lines