July Football Diary 2012

Laurence Gale MScin Football

Well, what we can say about the weather! This prolonged wet weather front is certainly testing the patience of many groundsmen. It would seem we have had the wettest April, May and June since records began. The consequence of all this wet weather is that soils are at field capacity and struggling to take much more without causing problems of flooding.

With so much moisture in the ground and with soil and air temperatures likely to rise into double figures in July, the net result will be grass growth will be very vigorous. Also, having plenty of soil moisture will also help activate any soil conditioners and fertilisers that have been applied, in short there is going to be a real flush of growth while these temperatures and soil moisture are high.

A lot of groundsmen are now using electronic moisture meters to record the amount of moisture they have in the top 75-100mm of their pitches. The taking of regular readings soon builds up a data base (a record of information) that reflects the state of the pitch in terms of moisture content during different weather periods.

Soils dry out at different rates, so the ability to recognise at what state you must water is important. Ideally, you need to get your soil analysed to find out what the soil release curve is for your pitch. Once you know this information, you will be in a better position to control your watering needs for that particular pitch.

A dose of fertiliser will also encourage the sward to respond more quickly. Whilst air and soil temperatures remain high, there will still be a lot of water loss through evaportranspiration. No surprise really that, at this time of year, you would be looking to replace an evaporation rate of 5mm per day, which represents quite a loss of moisture in the ground.

Replacing this moisture can be quite a task if you are lugging around hose pipes or, worse still, have nothing at all in place to supplement any rain you are fortunate to receive. If you are faced with having no resources to water, you may need to develop a strategy to reduce plant stress. This can be achieved by reducing the frequency of cutting (chances are your grass will be slipping into dormancy in any case), secondly by letting your grass grow a little higher (raise the height of cut on you mower). If you normally cut with a box on, you could try letting the clippings fly to help reduce evaporation from the soil surface.

If you have had to oversow any thin areas, it is critical that you do not allow seedlings to dry out. Keep your seeded areas watered. If possible, and if you have them to hand, make use of your germination sheets to encourage the rapid establishment of your seeded areas. If using germination sheets, check underneath them regularly for disease.

Make sure your goal posts are painted and ready for deployment. Also, ensure your nets are checked for repairs or replacements are on hand if you haven't already done so.

Check you have enough line marking material to hand and enough to get you through your season. This is probably a good time to inspect your marker and ensure that it is in good working order for when you need it.

Continue to monitor the progress/success of your thin oversown areas to ensure that you have the best opportunity for the grass to be strong, with good coverage for the start of the next season.

An application of fertiliser can be applied late in the month to take the grass through the rest of July and into August. Avoid the use of fertilisers with a high salt content, as this will exacerbate the stress factors in the grass as it draws moisture from the grass plant. Use of liquid fertilisers are less likely to scorch grass, but may still need to be watered in. Consider, as an alternative, applications of seaweed or amino bio stimulants which have proved beneficial in helping grass through stressful periods. Another consideration is the use of calcium, an important ingredient for giving the plant rigidity and regulating root and shoot growth. There are a couple of products out there in the market that combine all these, specifically for incorporating into stress relieving programmes.

Key Tasks for July

Dragmatting/brushing:- Continue the work of brushing to keep the air circulating around the base of the plant, particularly important for removing early morning dew and controlling disease on watered areas.

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Mowing: Continue cutting regularly at 25-37mm to ensure a good sward density. It may, sometimes, be helpful with newly sown grasses to lightly roll the surface before cutting to ensure that the weakly held grasses in the surface do not get pulled out. Also, ensure that any equipment used is keenly set to cut without tearing.

Aeration: Spiking: Continue spiking when the conditions allow, alleviating built up compaction. Keep your spiking regime flexible. Surface spiking at this time of year and heading into a dry spell will help what rain you receive to move quickly down into the surface where it will be of benefit to your grass plants.

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If grass shows signs of stress (weak growth, discoloured), 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.

Most groundstaff will be applying a summer N P K fertiliser, perhaps something like a 12:0:9 or 9:7:7 to maintain grass colour and vigour. A slow release fertiliser could be applied to see you through July and August. The choice of materials and how well they work will depend on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and air temperature being the catalyst for growth.

Equipment and Linemarking
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Equipment cleaning/painting: Make sure that goal posts are cleaned and painted. There's nothing worse than rushing at the beginning of a season to get this job done, when you have a thousand and one other things to do before your first game. Check for replacement nets and spare parts; order them in, so they are on hand when needed.

Linemarking:- Ensure you have checked your linemarkers and that they are fit for purpose. Especially the spray jet markers, you may need to replace the nozzles and check the battery and water pump.

Also, remember to order your paint for your marker.

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Other Tasks for the Month
  • Keep your sheds and storage areas clean and tidy

  • Remember to keep a daily diary of all the activities you do on the pitch, record the weather, products used and maintenance regimes carried out. Also take some photographs to help record activities and what machinery you have.

  • If you are storing machinery outside, try and keep it covered up, and ensure it is safe and secure.

  • Keep an eye on your material stocks

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