Successful end of season renovations - effective moisture management is key

Aquatrolsin Chemicals & Fertilisers

As sports turf managers, we know that managing moisture levels during the playing season is critical for turf health and, in turn, surface performance for sport.

Whether we are managing football or rugby pitches, tennis courts, cricket grounds or bowling greens, appropriate soil profile hydration is fundamental. Get it right and you are on the way to getting the best from the playing surface in question.

As we come towards the end of these playing seasons, be this late spring or late summer, turf managers complete renovations which are necessary for maintaining the quality and playability of the specific sports surface. The specific tasks and timings will vary depending on the type of sport, climate and the condition of the surface, but typically renovation work will include aeration, topdressing, fertiliser applications, overseeding and routine mowing alongside repairs of specifically damaged areas such as goalmouths or worn cricket ends.

End of season renovations are the time when many sports surfaces receive their greatest resource inputs, be this hired aeration machines or applications of fertiliser, seed, top dressing and sand. Getting the best results from these resources is essential if the quality of sports surfaces is, at the least, to be maintained and ideally improved for the following playing season. 

Managing moisture levels throughout this renovation and recovery period is not particularly costly nor time consuming but can have a significant impact on the results of the renovation work. 

If budgets permit, employ a dedicated sports turf moisture meter such as those available through POGO, Field Scout, Delta-T Devices or similar.  Real time, objective, reliable data will enable better informed decisions about the need, or not, for irrigation.

Why Is Moisture Critical?

  1. Seed germination and establishment

End-of-season renovations generally involve introducing seed to repair worn or damaged areas.  Seed can also be introduced at this time to bring about improvements to sward composition, and consequently turf surface performance in the longer term. This may be by introducing a greater amount of perennial ryegrass into a cricket table to improve wear tolerance, or fescue overseeding into a bowling green to provide better-quality species composition to improve drought tolerance.  With the cost of a 20 Kg bag of seed ranging from £100 - £400, depending on grass species and cultivar quality, it is important to get the best from any introduced new seed.

Moisture plays a crucial role in seed germination. Adequate moisture is essential for initiating and supporting the biochemical and physiological processes that result in the seed developing into a new seedling grass plant. Water is vital for the initial stages of seed germination, triggering the uptake of water by the seed, activating enzymes, supporting respiration, facilitating nutrient transport and enabling cell expansion. These processes need water for them to be completed successfully. Insufficient moisture can lead to poor germination rates and weak seedling development; too much water and seed rot or fungal diseases can occur, again leading to poor rates of establishment.

  1. Root development

Water is essential for cell expansion and elongation. As roots absorb water, the cells in the root tissues expand, allowing the roots to grow and explore a larger volume of soil. This growth is crucial for establishing a healthy and extensive root system. In turn, a healthy root system allows the plant to store water and withstand dry periods by tapping into these reserves.

Roots take up water from the soil. Sufficient moisture is necessary for the roots to be able to absorb water through root hair cells in a process called osmosis. Without an adequate water supply, the roots cannot function properly and may not be able to maintain plant health.

For many sports, this root system goes on to play a vital role in strengthening and reinforcing the soil structure and providing a more robust, wear tolerant surface.

  1. Nutrient uptake

Sometimes overlooked, water is key for nutrient uptake, with water serving as the vehicle for the transport of nutrients through the soil profile to the plant root and then into the plant through mechanisms including passive diffusion and active transport. These nutrients may have been applied in a specific fertiliser product or may occur naturally within the soil profile.

Either way, essential minerals and nutrients dissolve in water and are transported to the root surface, where they can be absorbed by the plant. Without sufficient moisture present in the soil profile, these processes cannot occur, potentially leading to nutrient deficiencies that may affect plant health and, in turn, turf surface performance.

  1. Turfgrass disease prevention

Maintaining appropriate moisture levels helps prevent the development of turfgrass diseases. Excessive moisture can create conditions favourable for diseases, while overly dry conditions will stress the turf and make it more susceptible to turfgrass pathogens. Seedling turf is particularly vulnerable to drought stress due to a shallow root system, limited water storage capacity and high transpiration rates as compared to mature grass plants.

The role of surfactants during renovation

From the turfgrass research completed by The Aquatrols Company over many years, we have been able to prove that the use of a good quality soil surfactant such as Revolution, Dispatch Sprayable or Primer Select will significantly improve soil profile hydration and, in turn, enhance the results from end of season renovation programmes.

Even if a surfactant programme is not being routinely used, there are proven benefits in using a surfactant in conjunction with renovation work. A soil surfactant will improve rates of seed germination and the establishment of seedling grasses by enhancing surface water infiltration, developing uniform soil profile hydration and making sure that applied water, rain or irrigation, wets the soil and seed evenly for faster, more uniform germination. For best results, soil surfactants should be applied two weeks before planned renovation and overseeding to prepare the soil and maximise results gained. All Aquatrols surfactants are safe to use on clay loam soils or sandy rootzones, and on seed or seedling turf.


Effective moisture management during end of season renovation programmes contributes to the long-term health and sustainability of sports turf playing surfaces. With sufficient moisture present through this critical period, a strong and resilient turf surface can be established that is better able to withstand the pressures of regular use.

By prioritising moisture management during these end-of-season renovations, turf managers can optimise the success of these practices, increase results from any introduced seed and achieve a healthier, higher quality sports surface for the next season.


The Aquatrols Company Mission

The Aquatrols Company develops technology to optimise soil – water - plant interaction, improve irrigation efficiency and thereby reduce water and energy inputs. We take seriously our responsibility to deliver products that will enhance water use, thereby helping protect the future of our water environment.

For more information, contact your local Aquatrols Account Manager.