Key Tasks for February
If the court is frozen, keep off; you will do more harm than good.
General maintenance, dependent upon weather conditions:
- continue to cut as required, ensuring that you take no more than a third off in any one cut. Maintain a height of cut between 12-18mm
- a cylinder mower may still be used, but it is more likely that a rotary mower will serve you better
- box clippings to avoid the spread of disease
- remove leaves and other debris as soon as possible – a rotary mower does a good job
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
- carry out regular sweeping and brushing to restore levels
- topdress any hollows or damaged areas
- carry out regular sweeping and brushing
- repair any hollows or damaged areas
With many clubs allowing and, indeed encouraging, play on their artificial surfaces through the winters months (when weather conditions allow) it is imperative that these courts are completely free from moss, algae, leaves or anything else that might pose a slip hazard.
As the last month of the norther hemisphere winter season, February heralds lighter evenings and brighter mornings, and as we head towards the end of the month the well-worn seasonal phrase - ‘it’s warm behind glass’.
From an agronomic perspective, February also represents the last opportunity for turf managers to sit and contemplate how they are going to maintain their surfaces during the growing season ahead.
This contemplation can result in one of three main outcomes;
Continuation – defined as the continuation of an habitual or time proven approach.
Alteration – defined as the refinement of established practices or the addition of new process into an established system.
Revolutionary – defined as a through change in direction and approach.
All of the above are equally valid depending on circumstance and, to some degree, turf managers will be preparing to embark upon various iterations of each of these outcomes to a greater or lesser degree across all practices within their remit.
There are no correct across the board answers with respect to how or why these outcomes are chosen to be implemented as each facility and each category of maintenance requirement is distinct to its own set of unique circumstances. Circumstances such as climate, soil type, construction type, previous maintenance, financial resources, labour resources, sport type and fixture pressure.
The current climate within the industry is one of change. Solutions which were previously effective are either being removed or superseded by enhanced understanding and refinement of existing methods.
Actively engaging with education via the attendance at seminars, talks and training is an incredibly valuable thing for each and every one of us to make the time to commit to at some point in the coming year.
In respects to the current climate and how that effects turf managers actions over the coming month, this overriding advice could be summed up as follows.
Make the most of windows.
If the weather conditions are favourable due to increasing warmth, sunlight and low humidity driving growth, introduce a small quantity of fertiliser on areas which are showing signs of sclerosis (yellowing); nitrogen in the form of nitrate or ammonium will be taken up by the plant the fastest. Be careful not to apply too much nitrogen and force lush growth, as cold winds will desiccate soft leaves, and fungal pathogens, fuelled by low temperatures and high humidity, will quickly take advantage.
Maintain applications of calcium to harden cell wall structure and provide a line of defence to both these challenges.
Moss is likely to be prevalent on surfaces at this time of the year. This is due to climatological conditions which favour it over grass. The end of February into early March is a good time to apply sulphate of iron to tackle moss, however try to time an application once the general trend in the weather is leaning towards the grass rather than the moss.
Soil sampling - now is the perfect time to undertake a broad spectrum soil analysis from which to make informed and cost effective decisions for the fertiliser programme ahead.
Speaking of programmes, surfactant, disease management and insect pest management plans and protocols are all necessities of sports turf management at all levels in 2019. Put together, they work towards an integrated approach with all the benefits that infers.
It’s important to maintain aeration when ground conditions allow. Helping the soil to expel carbon dioxide and drain water is absolutely vital when it comes to maintaining a healthy plant and soil. In water logged areas, be wary of anoxia which is when the plant starts to yellow due to a lack of oxygen around the roots.
Speaking of water, what is your soil reserve like? Dig a hole to check if the soil is dry more than 100-200 mm beneath the surface. If it is, then aeration combined with a penetrant wetting agent is critical to maximise rainfall ahead of the summer. If soil water reserves are low, then we won’t need a summer anywhere near as dry as 2018 to severely effect the quality of surfaces this coming year.
With some machines not currently being used, take the time to carry out an overhaul or send them away for a service.
- inspect and clean machinery before putting away for the winter
- replace worn and damaged parts as necessary
- empty fuel tanks as petrol will go stale over winter
- maintain a stock of consumables for your machinery
- secure machinery nightly with good storage facilities and strong locks
- record makes and models and take pictures of your equipment as additional reference
- don’t leave it to the last minute when servicing dealers will be very busy
- repair and maintain fence lines
- cut back any hedges and trees and prune shrubs
- take down and store all tennis equipment, ensuring that it is clean and dry before doing so
- repair/update equipment as necessary
Whilst many of the above actions may appear to be common sense, it is surprising how some things can get overlooked, often due to the lack of daylight hours. The more that club members, players and officials understand what you role involves, the better. You could use any spare time to provide a members newsletter/blog detailing what problems you are experiencing (disease outbreaks, algae and moss, waterlogging etc.) and to seek additional help as required.
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