Key Tasks for September
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.
Traditionally, September marks the beginning of autumn. A time when conditions can be more favourable for carrying out maintenance tasks such as seeding and turf recovery. The temperatures can be more generous without the extreme heat and long dry spells (location dependant) which can cause issues through the height of summer and there is typically more moisture around which really helps drive seed germination, establishment and growth.
The long term forecast for the month ahead currently looks favourable with a mixture of sun and showers. Average daytime temperatures in the late teens and average night-time temperatures in the low teens. Therefore, it should provide those who weren’t able to get any renovation work carried out in August the opportunity to take advantage of favourable conditions in September. Ultimately at this time of year attention also starts to focus on autumn nutrition and integrated pest management (IPM) plans. With a focus on disease management and keeping surfaces in quality condition as environmental conditions (such as dew formation) become more favourable for disease outbreaks. Therefore, at this time of year moisture and water management are key factors to build maintenance practices around.
When undertaking renovation activities that incorporate seeding, good contact with the soil will ensure the seed can utilise any moisture and use the favourable ground temperatures to establish. Applications of plant growth regulators, such as prohexadione- calcium and trinexapac-ethyl prior to the operation, can assist in holding back competition from the existing mature plants already in situ. Which would otherwise compete against the seedlings. A simple technique which helps freshly germinated grass plants to establish in a more favourable environment.
Establishment and recovery from any maintenance operations can be assisted from ensuring adequate nutrition is available, so that once the seed has depleted its own resources there is sufficient available to maintain growth and likewise for any turf recovery situation. An application of energy from phosphorous helps to synthesise ATP, the energy currency of all cells. Calcium will provide the raw ingredients to drive cellular generation at the growing tips of roots and within new leaves. Additionally, it will strengthen the primary cell wall, strengthening defences against pathogenic fungal attack, particularly as cooler nights coincide with warm days to produce heavy dews, an environmental factor mentioned previously.
Applications of high levels of nitrogen on fine turf surfaces should be avoided as this can lead to an increase in severity of a disease outbreak. Research has shown that balanced late autumn fertiliser applications can result in better spring performance. Essentially, avoid over applying readily available nitrogen which would result in excessive, soft top growth that is more susceptible to pathogen attack.
Worms will now start to become a focus for turf managers; as the moisture levels in the soil increase, it will coincide with an increase in activity. 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 which 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, leading to less negative lasting impression on the surface from the cast.
- 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