The majority of us are enjoying a welcome break from the persistent run of inclement weather and, though likely to have produced a flurry of activities on grounds up and down the country, there is an expected return to inclement weather for the beginning of this month.
The long term forecast including October suggests that the month will be mixed with some dry periods. Right at the beginning of the season as we are, it may seem strange to start talking about risk assessments but I think that it would be a good idea for you to start thinking about the risks involved with not being able to carry out maintenance due to weather, not to mention how you will cope with possible cancelled fixtures and how that will effect the backlog of matches needing to be played later in the season.
Work out a plan now of how you will deal with any problems, with surface drainage issues particularly if you know that you have had problems in the past in particular areas. Some thoughts in this area may help you to stay one step ahead of Mother Nature. Check your drainage outlets for signs of possible drainage problems.
Already we have experienced the appearance of some heavy dewy mornings that will bring with it the increased chance of a fungal outbreaks. Though some outbreaks will need treatment with a fungicide, prevention is better than the cure and this can be aided by the reduction of stress on your turf through good cultural practices.
Early This Month
Applications of autumn/winter fertilisers low in nitrogen that would suppress the production of soft sappy top growth susceptible to fungal diseases and, high in phosphate and potash that will help the grass to maintain a healthy root structure and ensuring the overall health of the grass plant. The choice of fertiliser will be largely based around your soil tests but may be influenced by whether you choose to use a conventional type fertiliser or a slow release product that will release the nutrients over a period of time based on soil temperature and moisture.
Applications of tonics can also be applied in accordance with your annual program to help harden your turf against damage and the ingress of turf diseases.
Keep an eye out for disease and treat at the early signs
Worm activity is starting to become noticeable and brushing the surface when dry will help to dissipate the casts, reducing the problem of smearing.
Later This Month
Now is probably a good time to start thinking about your machinery service programme and start formulating a plan of what service requirements are needed for which machine and a time when you will be sending your mowers out for sharpening etc. Look at the overall condition and check for any extra requirements needed to keep it compliant with current health and safety legislation. Check also for things that may cause a problem in the future such as fatigue fractures on handle bars or on grass box carriers etc.
Keep your machinery in tip top condition. Grease were you find a grease nipple, oil were you see a metallic moving part, check the oil, check the water. If in doubt consult the owner's manual. Clean it when you've finished. All this may seem mundane but will keep your mower going when you need it and save you money in costly down time.
Keep casual play out of goal mouth areas. This can be easily achieved if you have a set of portable goals that can be moved around to different parts of your field or pitch. However, if you have socket goals then your task may be a little more difficult.
Cutting: Continue cutting regularly 25 -37mm to ensure a good sward density. It may be 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 cutting equipment used is keenly set to cut without tearing.
Drag matting and 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. This will also help to reinforce the presentation of the pitch.
Verticutting: will help to ensure that the sward is kept clean of lateral growth that may be appearing and also help to ensure that good circulation of air around the base of the plant.
Spiking: Continue spiking when the conditions are right (This should only be carried out if the soil is suitably moist.) to augment your deep spiking carried out to alleviate built up of compaction. Keep your spiking regime flexible, alternating between surface spiking, deep spiking and slitting.
Marking out: Take your time over this as rushed lines will invariably wander. This creates a false impression, lowering the overall standard and vision of an otherwise perfect surface. An accurate line makes such a difference.
Divoting:This is an obvious but start as you mean to go on. At this part of the season a little addition of seed mixed with a little topsoil will soon germinate and help to repair any deep scars
Check weekly goals for loose bolts and tighten as necessary.
Check nets (make sure the net is properly supported at the back of the goal and isn't sagging).
Check team dugouts are stable and anchored securely. Make sure that they are tidy and free from litter
By Malcolm Gardner