Key Tasks for May
Most of your aeration operations should have been completed during the winter period. Generally, we do not aerate clay soil profiles after January, as we do not want to encourage cracking of the clay surfaces. However, if there is a need to help remove surface water from the courts, we can utilise the sarrel roller which lightly aerates the top 25-30mm, allowing any surface water to drain down deeper into the soil profile. Carry out the following regular tasks:
- Continue to roll the courts
- Fortnightly light scarification or verticutting
- Seed sparse or bare areas
Rolling. It is essential to carry out an effective rolling programme in April. Continue to roll the courts, firstly across the line of play, followed by rolling down the length of play. Timing of this operation is vitally important. Trying to roll when soil conditions are wet or too dry will not achieve the desired effect.
Mowing. The mowing height on the courts should be lowered to around 8-10mm for the playing season, but remember not to remove more than 1/3 of total grass height in each cut.
Light scarification or verticutting can be carried out at fortnightly intervals pre-season. Removing horizontally growing grasses and surface organic matter are always beneficial for the onset of court preparation which, together with brushing, will improve the quality of cut.
- 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
Spring 2019 has thus far been more favourable for the turf manager than the spring of 2018. Disease pressure had been relatively low and, whilst April has seen the cool nights and warmer days which are typical of this month, there has been good growth windows to get surfaces moving and recovering across much of the country. Concerningly for turf managers, water reserves both in reservoirs and within the soil profile remain low across much of the country. This provides potential for drought stress on grass plants much sooner than in the spring and summer of 2018.
The weather forecast for May currently suggests there may be some periods of rainfall. Taking opportunity of these precipitation events by maximising the penetration of water into the soil, via aeration events such as sarel tine and star tine rolling, combined with the use of penetrant wetting agents, will enhance the passage of water down into the soil profile. Such action applies to fairways, outfield areas and pitches as much as it does fine turf surfaces such as greens. The application of surfactants to larger areas of land is often perceived as being expensive, but modern product formulations mean wetting agents can be applied to larger areas of land cost effectively.
Combining the advantages of a penetrant with the water retention properties of a block co-polymer surfactant will help to hold water which has soaked into the ground and keep it available for roots.
Seaweed is well proven to mitigate plant stress response as well as promote post drought recovery; again, cost effective applications of a cold pressed seaweed to larger areas are sensible and achievable for many.
As winter sport seasons reach their conclusion, the pitch renovation season begins.
When overseeding, opting for the best cultivars you can afford is a wise investment in the base foundation of your surface.
Taking a broad spectrum soil analysis prior to renovation allows the identification of deficient secondary macronutrients and micronutrients. All nutrients share equal importance and, by identifying the weakest link in the chain, you can maximise health and performance throughout a growing-in period and beyond.
One trap which can occur is to apply vast quantities of phosphorous to drive establishment, regardless of the soil sample result. This is questionable wisdom because a soil sample result details plant available nutrient. Where phosphorous is high, it will inhibit the availability of copper, calcium, potassium, iron, and zinc, and adding more P in to the system will not encourage the plant to uptake a greater quantity. The plant will take what it needs and no more, something which is true of all nutrients.
The same can be said of nitrogen; young seedlings cannot absorb large quantities of nitrogen, a base foundation of granular fertiliser is essential as a reserve once roots develop but, wherever possible, little and often foliar applications accompanied by biostimulants will support their needs much more responsibly.
Biostimulants are vital ingredients for turf health and offer many benefits during renovation. Apply liquid seaweed over seed to enhance germination before adding humates and carbon into the mix at the first feed, 5 days post germination. The aim being to driving and accelerating growth thanks to better response from fertilisers driven by increased availability and energy in the system.
Seaweed: Contains hormones (Gibberellic acids) which accelerate germination of seed and seedling maturity. Also acts as a chelate and growth promotor and elicitor of plant protection mechanisms in response to heat, drought and cold (abiotic) stress.
Humates: Chelation and enhanced root absorption of nutrients, improved nutrient retention in soils and bacterial habitat, as well as stable carbon source. Enhances germination and establishment.
Sugar: Provides carbon energy which is the base foundation of energy processing in all plants and soil life. Consequently, supports greater soil biodiversity and efficiency of fertiliser use.
With soil temperatures exceeding 10 degrees Celsius on a consistent basis through May, organic fertilisers can be applied with confidence; particularly moss suppression products, now that the warmer temperatures enable the bacteria within to degrade the moss.
Weeds, Pests and Diseases
Disease pressure is likely to be low throughout May with the plant being able to outgrow any pathogen attacks which do occur.
Following widespread die-off from last year’s drought. weeds have made the most of the opportunity and colonised areas of bare ground. Strong active growth in May is the perfect time to achieve maximum uptake of applied herbicides, whether it be total weed killers to paths and paving, or selective herbicides to turf areas. In the case of the latter, consult label recommendations with regards to timing this around any seeding operations. 2019 may also be a good time to consider opting for rotation of Active Substances as part of an integrated weed management plan. Areas where substances such as 2,4-D, MCPA, mecoprop-P and dicamba have been used for a number of years would benefit from being rotated with alternative active substances, such as clopyralid, florasulam and fluroxypyr.
Also consider that not all active substances are equally effective against all weeds. 2,4-D for example is useless against yarrow (Achillea millefolium) because the plant is able to metabolise it. Similarly, weeds such as Slender speedwell (Veronica filliformis) or Field Woodrush (Luzula campestris) are best controlled with fluroxypyr. Consideration of such issues and accurate identification of weeds present represents responsible management, both from a financial, environmental and resistance perspective. If in doubt, contact a BASIS qualified advisor for advice on how to manage such considerations effectively.
There is no effective spring control for chafer grubs; however, chafer grub pheromone traps deployed in May will collect adult males on the wing and form the basis of an integrated management plan of monitoring and recording the pest life cycle, so you can better time nematode applications later in the year.
Continue to keep on top of machinery maintenance:
- 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
Drainage: Inspect drainage outfalls, channels and ditches. Ensure that they are working. Renew or repair any damaged or problematic drainage systems.
Tennis structures: Inspect stored posts, nets, seating and notice/score boards. Replace with new equipment if required. Repair any damaged fencing.
Litter: Inspect and remove debris from playing surface - litter or any wind blown tree debris, twigs and leaves.