Expected weather for this month:

Generally unsettled throughout Ireland with above average temperatures particularly in the south east

Key Tasks for August

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.

Other important tasks:

  • 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.

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.

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.

Fertiliser: 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.

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.

Entering August signals the start of late summer, and with it shorter days and cooler nights than the long days of June and warm sticky nights of July.

August regularly offers periods of heavy rainfall and storms. Generally, conditions for growth are good during August but, as ever, it is extremes which challenge the grass plant and the turf manager in equal measure.

Nutrition

Strategic application of nutrition aimed at providing the grass plant with the means to maintain consistent health are as important as ever.

Calcium is a key nutrient to regulate water use efficiency, as well as increase tolerance to biotic and abiotic stress via thickening of the plant cell wall.

Disease

Towards the end of the month, dews will become heavier potentially providing conditions for Microdochium patch; at the start of the month, the risk of high temperatures combining with high humidity will promote disease such as Rhizoctonia. High temperatures during July’s hot periods will have activated Anthracnose. Other diseases such as Take-all patch and Waitea patch and Dollar spot may occur.

The key here is to understand the environmental and cultural triggers, and then employ nutritional and cultural strategies to counteract the risks. Increasingly, with the withdrawal of chemical fungicides the turf manager is responsible for seeking out the knowledge to understand the drivers of each disease and then employ multiple tactics to combat the risk. For example; Take-all patch attacks the base of the plant and root system, acidification in the rhizosphere helps to combat this; something which can be achieved via the regular application of Manganese. Anthracnose; it’s a saprophyte, which means once triggered by hot temperatures it lies in wait for senescent (dying) plant material to trigger its attack into full blow foliar blight. Avoiding the stress, mitigates the pathogens ability to pounce. Therefore, adequate moisture, consistent appropriate nitrogen levels and the avoidance of other diseases (Anthracnose often occurs as a secondary infection) will help to keep it at bay.

Pests and Diseases

Effective integrated pest management necessitates monitoring of local target pest populations as a precursor for taking action. Chafer beetle lures set out in May will have given an indication of hot spots for adult activity. Lifting back turf in zones identified to be high risk for grubs allows turf managers to eyeball larvae and take action. The same can be said of leatherjackets, simply sheeting the surface with a 1m2 sheet of plastic overnight may encourage larvae to rise to the surface. Knowing what your high risk areas are, and then identifying the level of pest incidence, allows for targeted treatment with Entomopathogenic nematodes. This biological control requires warmth and moisture in the soil to be most effective. Targeting this year’s larvae when they are small and susceptible gives your army of microscopic worms an increased chance of success. With chafer and crane fly larvae hatching out in August and September, these are the key months to gain preventative control and prevent problems in spring and early summer 2020.

Renovation

Preparation for end of season renovations should be in full force; the prime aim being to manage organic matter accumulation and promote recovery of the grass plant in time for autumn and winter. Biostimulants, such as liquid Seaweed and humic acids, will promote seed germination and establishment in combination with the usual fertilisers.

Start of Season

As some sports engage in renovations, winter sports start their playing season. Maximising pitch quality through late summer and early autumn is critical to keeping you ahead of the curve when things turn against the grass plant in the winter. A good quality slow release NPK feed now will keep things moving in the right direction over the next few months. It will also help to showcase surfaces at their best as the first matches of the season begin.

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
  • Ensure drainage outfalls, channels and ditches are clear
  • Inspect stored posts, nets, seating and notice/score boards
  • Inspect and remove debris from playing surface
  • Regular sweeping and brushing
  • Repair any hollows or damaged areas
  • Repaint lines