Key Tasks for January
January is a good time to focus on the outfield (weather permitting). Regular brushing will help remove dew as well as lifting the sward. Aeration is a key activity that can be carried out too, along with some localised drainage/repair works to rectify any problem areas such as depressions you have identified. January is also a good time to carry out repairs and maintenance to resources such as sightscreens and other structures around the ground. You may get some favourable weather for painting and repairing these structures.
If you are in a part of the country not affected by frost, the following may be undertaken:
BRUSHING: Regular brushing in the mornings to remove the dew from the playing surfaces will reduce the likelihood of disease outbreak
MOWING: It may be necessary to mow during the winter. Allowing the grasses to grow too long will encourage a weak leggy sward. Mowing frequencies during the winter months are dependent on the need and condition of the facility. It is important to maintain a constant height of cut on both the square and outfield. The outfield should now be maintained at between 25-35mm. The square should be maintained between 12-20mm using a rotary pedestrian mower, as a cylinder could tear or rip out fragile growth.
AERATION: The use of a sarrel roller to keep the surface free draining will also be beneficial to the square. Some Groundsmen may still want to carry out some deeper aeration work on the square; however, this policy is effective only where shallow rooting is a main concern and where pre-season rolling is not introduced until late March or early April. As a rule of thumb, many do not aerate after January. The outfield can be aerated though, using solid or slit tines when conditions allow.
ARTIFICIAL PITCHES: Keep all surfaces clean, by regular sweeping and brushing to remove any algae and moss from surface. Sand filled systems also require regular brushing to maintain manufacturer's recommendations for sand levels and pile heights.
NET FACILITIES: Repair damaged structures and netting, order new if required. Strim and mow around structures.
STRUCTURES: Check and repair fences, scoreboards, covers and sightscreens. All removable structures should have been stored away for the winter. With very little activity seen on the ground during January, winter work can be dedicated to repairing and painting sightscreens, fences, and practice net structures.
DRAINAGE: Inspect drainage outlets, culverts, channels and ditches to ensure that they are working. Winter months are a good time for carrying out ditch clearing operations; blocked ditches may affect the performance of playing field drainage systems.
MATERIALS: Keep an adequate supply of materials such as loam and seed at hand for repairs and maintenance.
PLANNING: Winter months enables you to evaluate how well your maintenance regimes have gone, which in turn will help you plan the work for next season. You may need to seek quotations for machinery and materials. Be prepared for next season. Failure to prepare – prepare to fail. It is important to keep records and diaries of the activities carried out, and how well the facility and each pitch have performed. The advent of the digital camera is a great tool for recording information. January is an ideal time to contact sales reps to find out what products are available for spring renovations; do not leave it late to order materials.
The new year is among us and let’s hope with it we have a way through to getting back some “normality” in our lives. I would like to think that, although many will have just experienced a much different Christmas period, it has still been filled with happiness and good feeling, even if we haven’t been able to share it with all of whom we would have liked.
If fortunate enough to have had a Christmas break, this can be an excellent time for some to switch off from work and re-charge ready to go again in the new year. For others, it is some time to step back, away from the day to day duties and reflect on the previous year and start the planning process for the new year. Either way, hopefully the Christmas period has given everyone that much needed break and now 2021 can be tackled head on.
Early January looks forecast to have favourable conditions, moving away from the wet weather that is given for the end of December, rounding off a very wet end to the year, which has seen many sites saturated for lengthy periods of time. Temperatures appear to be moderate for the time of year with an absence of any extremely cold weather. Although grass growth has slowed down, the mild temperatures will still offer some growth, therefore keep monitoring growth potential data and plan accordingly.
At the start of a new year, attention inevitably turns to planning the year ahead. When considering nutritional programmes for the coming months, following an integrated approach will provide the most effective programme. It is not necessarily individual elements of a programme that will provide total success, rather how all the elements interact with each other and how they will achieve the overall goal together that needs to be considered and applied.
To gain an understanding of what’s going on within your soil, annual soil samples are a useful starting point, this provides data which can be monitored over time. Together with a soil’s physical properties, the chemical nutrient balance with the soil provides the basis of recommendations for an informed fertiliser programme. These recommendations are based on the sufficiency level of available nutrients (SLAN) (other methods are available). The level of nutrients present in the soil are measured through analysis and are compared to an optimal or guideline level. Adjustments to nutrient inputs can be made following the concentrations in the soil analysis. Other analysis methods available consider further factors such as soil properties and growth potential.
Building up data enables you to make more informed decisions. This data can be used within a monitoring system that can be cross referenced against previous results to help detect any trends and diagnose problems. This will ultimately improve quality and reduce costs.
Key factors for early 2021
There will typically be minimal requirements for nutritional inputs by the plant this month as growth will be limited by colder temperatures. Photosynthesis is controlled by enzymes and, as with other enzyme-controlled reactions, the rate of photosynthesis is affected by temperature. At lower temperatures, the rate of photosynthesis is limited by the number of molecular collisions between enzymes. If temperatures are mild, there may continue to be small amounts of growth and therefore applications of a suitable fertiliser may be applied in small amounts to support the requirements of the plant.
Applications of products containing calcium and silicon will assist the plant to withstand stresses from cold temperatures and harsh winds, and by strengthening the primary and secondary cell walls. Chelated iron can be used to add colour and will not contribute to the accumulation of problematic iron deposits in the soil over time. Pigments can also be used on surfaces where contact sport is not played, where transfer onto playing kit may be an issue. Pigments not only provide a natural healthy green appearance to turf without having to apply nitrogen or iron, but also improve turf quality and have been shown to increase surface and soil temperatures in small amounts.
When constructing an integrated nutritional plan, evaluate the products available and assess their merits and how they may benefit your situation and help you to achieve your goals. Products are not all the same and, where they may appear so, there may be subtle differences which can impact on results. Therefore, where possible dedicate time to research the full ingredients list on products rather than solely looking at headline figures. If you are still unsure, then Safety Data Sheets will sometimes list ingredients if they are contained at concentrations which have to be declared in the interests of environmental and human health. If not readily available, suppliers should also be able to provide you with the information you require to understand what is in the products you are considering using.
Favourable conditions of mild temperatures and continued leaf wetness will provide a suitable environment for the development of diseases such as Microdochium nivale. If required, a fungicide with an anti-sporulant, such as fludioxonil, which controls dormant spores residing in the sward and thatch layer in-between outbreaks of infection. As ever, monitor weather conditions and apply a preventative application if conditions are forecast to be conducive for disease development. Applications of penetrant wetting agents and dew dispersants will continue to assist in keeping surfaces dry.
If soil temperatures are low, then worms will be avoiding cold regions at the surface. If mild and wet, there will still be activity and will still be causing major issues due to casting on the surface. There is still no chemical available to provide control, therefore continue your cultural practices to minimise their impact as much as possible.
It is important to maintain machines by carrying out regular servicing and repairs.
With minimum work needed on the green, use the time to take some machines out of operation for an overhaul.
- Keep machines overhauled and clean
- Maintain a stock of consumables for your machinery, replace worn and damaged parts as necessary.
- Keep an eye on your material stocks (seed, topdressing, petrol, oil), remembering to replenish as required.
- Service machinery and equipment - changing oil / air filters and greasing up moving parts and sharpening mower blades.