Key Tasks for October
- Grass growth will have slowed down, but certainly not stopped altogether
- Cut weekly, ensuring that you take no more than a third off in any one cut
- Depending on the weather a cylinder mower may still be used, but it is more likely that a rotary mower will serve you just as well
- Box clippings to avoid the spread of disease
- Remove leaves and other debris as soon as possible
- 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 - regular sweeping and brushing to restore playing levels using SISIS Trulute or similar equipment. Topdress any hollows or damaged areas
- Tarmacadam - regular sweeping and brushing. Repair any hollows or damaged areas
Before you start, take a core sample from each of your grass court to ascertain their current state. A visual inspection of the core will allow you to see the level of thatch/organic matter (OM) you have and to what depth.
Target OM levels:
An excess of OM will lead to poor hydraulic conductivity, soft putting surfaces, increased disease problems, loss of green speeds and poor all year round playability.
Appropriate renovation work will help reduce and control thatch / OM levels in your swards.
With air temperatures still averaging around 10-12°C in most parts of the country, seeding is still a viable option.
The recent spell of dry weather may have prompted disease attacks, with red thread, fusarium, leaf spot and fairy rings being common. Use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.
Prior to mowing, remove moisture from the grass surface. This will help to stop the spread of disease and improve the quality of cut.
End of Season Renovations
If you have not completed your renovations, here is a reminder of what you should be doing :-
Once the playing season is over, take down nets and post and store away; replace broken or damaged tennis nets and posts.
Get organised for your end of season renovations, ensure you have ordered your materials to arrive on time. Check equipment, ensuring it is ready for the work entailed. Check all belts and drives on the scarifiers.
If you are intending to use a contractor to do your work, confirm start dates and be clear they understand what level of work you want.
Do not skimp on the quality of seed and fertilisers. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for. Just remember, it takes many years of research and development to bring many of our common materials to market.
It is important to ensure that all materials (seed, fertilisers, topdressings) and any hired machinery have arrived, and are secured and stored safely on site ready for use. Often, when ordering materials late, you may be faced with delays on delivery or not being able to get the products you want in time for your planned works.
Mow the sward, preparing surfaces for renovation. Lower cutting height to about 3-4mm to clean and prepare courts.
Scarification - depending on the severity of the thatch, you may need to scarify several times in different directions. However, in most cases, if regular verticutting/grooming has taken place during the growing season, you would probably only be required to scarify in two directions. Do not scarify at right angles to the previous scarification line. Depth of scarification between 4-15mm, depending on depth of thatch to remove.
The rotary mower can then be used to clean up the courts after scarifying has been completed.
Aerate to relieve compaction and encourage root development. Aeration is the decompaction of soil, improving air and gas exchange in the soil profile. Depending on the turf's condition, you can choose to carry out hollow or solid tine spiking. Hollow tines are generally used on a bi-annual basis or when you have a severe thatch problem. Depth of aeration will be determined by the depth of your soil profile and what problems you want to rectify. Hollow tining is best achieved to a depth of between 75-100mm. Solid or slit tines can be set to penetrate deeper, ideally between 100-200mm.
Topdressing restores levels and improves surface drainage. Ensure you use compatible topdressing materials, sands, sand/soil mixes. Spreading can be achieved by several methods, utilising pedestrian or ride-on, disc or drop action top spreaders, or by hand using a shovel and a barrow. Best carried out in dry weather. It is important that the topdressings are spread uniformly. Brush to incorporate dressings and to help the grass stand back up. Brush in with a lute or drag brush/mat to restore levels.
Overseeding restores grass populations. It is important to ensure a good groove or hole is made to receive the seed; good seed to soil contact is essential for germination. Good moisture and soil temperatures will see the seed germinate between 7-14 days.
It is essential to keep the sward watered after renovations to ensure your seed germinates.
As we come to the end of September and start looking ahead towards October, it appears from the forecast that it will be an unsettled start to the month. This could be an unwanted disruption for those who still have renovation work to carry out. The average rainfall for September was 70mm (region depending), with highs of 20oC or above. This allowed many to make the most of the good ground temperatures and moisture available, with only a steep drop in temperatures towards the end of the month causing some challenges.
The middle of the coming month looks to be more settled and it will be important to monitor the local environmental conditions with a view of the site’s previous history and patterns in disease outbreaks. As conditions become more conducive for disease development, checking historic information against current conditions and also factoring in what is expected ahead is key to increasing the probability of successful turf grass pathogen management in autumn 2020. Principles and actions which collectively form part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach.
At this juncture in the calendar year, Microdochium nivale (microdochium patch) control is key for many turf managers. Predicting the likelihood of disease expression can seem about as easy as predicting the winning lottery numbers, however, knowing what has happened, what is happening now and what could be about to happen is essential when attempting to determine the likelihood of disease expression. Understanding these elements then allows better informed decisions when selecting and timing any inputs aimed at counteracting any outbreaks of disease, whether they be fungicidal, nutritional or plant response applications. As we adapt to the newer chemistry and modes of action available, the more information gathered to make accurate well-versed decisions on what, when and how to apply, the increased likelihood of success there will be. Success will look different for each turf manager, with varying budgets, resources and club expectations. For some, it will be blemish free surfaces, for others it will better control than the previous year and different again for others. There is no fixed target, however, having a target and planning around it increases the chances of success.
As temperatures and available sunlight changes, so must the approach to the applications of nutrition, mainly nitrogen. The aim being to promote steady, hardy shoot and leaf growth, with any lush, flushes of growth being more susceptible to attack by fungal pathogens. Fertilisers with a slow release nitrogen source, such as methylene urea or polymer coated urea, perhaps used in combination with straight urea, will give longevity through the autumn and into winter. If slow release fertilisers are not suitable for a specific site, when using a conventional fertiliser (to avoid the aforementioned flushes of growth), ensure the ammonium value is not above 4 or 5 percent.
Nitrogen is not the only important nutrient to be applied this month; micronutrients and biostimulants are a good idea to ensure the plant has a full suite of essential nutrition available.
Iron, calcium and magnesium – the traditional go to options for hardening the plant and providing colour through the winter. A fully chelated iron with a pH more towards neutral will be far less antagonistic towards cell wall integrity and beneficial leaf dwelling microorganisms than Sulphate of Iron. Required Magnesium and Calcium can be applied as part of a nutritional application when factored into a well-balanced fertiliser programme.
Biostimulants applied at the right time will be beneficial to the plant and soil over winter. As the rate of photosynthesis changes in line with the seasons, applications of carbon energy in the form of sugar can assist the plant in being more resilient and well-developed in the early spring.
Applications of seaweed will elicit important beneficial defensive and stress responses in the plant and associated microorganisms when applied ahead of disease activity, before conditions favour the development of disease.
Consideration should also be given to amino acids and humates, with the former playing an important role in abiotic stress tolerance, helping plants to prepare for and cope with autumnal and winter stress events, such as varying changes in temperature and volumetric water content. Humates assist in maximising nutrient availability as well as stimulating and providing habitable zones for beneficial bacteria.
- Use a programmed approach to maximise plant health, through balanced nutrition of all plant essential elements not just NPK as part of an IPM plan.
- Raise cutting heights to minimise stress with a reduction in stress invoking practices such as top dressing which weaken and damage leaf blades.
- Ensure cutting units are sharp to provide a clean cut to minimise weakened points for pathogen attack.
- Well timed aeration to maintain movement of water away from the surface and down through the profile.
- Reduce periods of leaf blade wetness by removing dews or utilising dew dispersant technology (apply only to a dry leaf)
- Monitor disease forecasts via resources such as Syngenta’s Greencast
- Use biostimulants and plant response promoters to maximise plant health.
- Take advice on and construct a preventative fungicide application plan, using historic data, live weather forecasts and site-specific conditions, for applications ahead of when conditions favour the development of disease.
Worms have been a focus for turf managers throughout the last month with the increase in soil moisture levels. There are no legal controls for earthworms and any product which is applied to directly affect them is done so illegally.
Cultural management continues to be the only route currently available. This can include a combination of practices such as, localised surface acidification, removal of grass clippings to reduce their food source and sanding of surfaces to assist in the drying out and dispersal of casts. The above does not completely eradicate the problem, but it will lead to less negative lasting impressions on the surface from the casts. Sulphate of iron is often used as a surface acidifying agent but it is worth considering that over application may lead to an accumulation in the soil causing long term imbalances and negative effects to plant health throughout the rest of the year.
B.Sc (Hons) BASIS FACTS
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