Sweepfast's Sam Breedon questions the productivity of brushing
I'm gradually coming to realise that brushing on artificials can often be counterproductive. Very often the state of a pitch, or tennis court, after a number of years, bears no relationship to the amount of in-house brushing and maintenance that has taken place.
One tennis club we visit experiences a fairly common problem. They have a small tractor equipped with brushes front and rear and brush their courts regularly and religiously. The result, courts that are so badly compacted you can hardly push a screwdriver into them.
Another club with the same courts, who hardly do any routine maintenance, only experience this problem in areas of highest foot traffic.
This problem seems to occur on certain makes of carpets and, I believe, is caused by a combination of three factors.
Firstly, the way the carpet defibrillates. When looking at samples of badly compacted carpet under magnification, the fibres appear to defibrillate into a "fern" like structure. These, I then feel, locks together under heavy traffic. Some carpets tufts defibrillate into stands and do not suffer from this problem.
Secondly, brushes pulled or pushed by tractors on these carpets may need to be made of stiffer bristles, i.e. stiff enough to stand the pile up behind the tractor wheels rather than just moving surface sand around. Where does the dividing line come between aggressive brushing and fibre damage?
Thirdly, tyre size; it seems ridiculous that some manufacturers and installers stipulate weight restriction for maintenance machinery on their surfaces, when tyre size and pressures can have a greater impact on compaction than overall weight. A small sweeper running on small tyres can cause more compaction than a tractor on wider tyres with low inflation pressures.
Another point to consider when brushing. I see so many people dragbrushing pitches when there is debris present, brushes break debris into smaller particles which penetrate further into the infill. And the worst culprit of all is the upturned pallet covered in artificial turf! If I had to design a tool to clog up sand filled and sand based pitches this would be the machine for the job
So, the golden rules: first and foremost clean the surface of debris; cleansweep and greensweep mats are designed for this purpose and will groom the surface at the same time. Consider tyre size and pressure, as well as machinery weight and bristle stiffness on dragbrushes. And throw that turf covered pallet away or only use it once the surface has been completely cleaned.
If anyone reading this article has experience of badly compacted artificial turf please would they contact me firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can correlate findings and find out why this happens.