April Football Diary
By Laurence Gale Msc
The recent fluctuating weather is certainly testing the skills of our Groundsmen up and down the country. The changing ground conditions will certainly be influencing what work can be achieved. Be careful when working during saturated ground conditions. You could do more harm than good especially when operating heavy tractor mounted implements or machinery.
Wheel tyre marks can cause surface damage, often resulting in smearing and, in worst cases, rutting of the playing surface. Also the use of heavy machinery will cause compaction of soil structure, reducing air spaces in your soil profile. Lack of air in soil leads to anaerobic conditions. which in turn reduces the vigour and health of your grass plant.
April is always regarded as a busy month for groundsmen. Generally warmer soil, air temperatures and increased light levels will have begun to stimulate grass growth, which in turn means more activity and inputs required when managing your sward.
Verticutting / scarifying
Repairs / divoting / Overseeding
Cut at a height between 25mm-45mm. Continue to mow on a regular basis, although frequency of mowing will be dependant on growth, ground conditions and presentation requirements.
Cutting grass in very wet conditions can be detrimental to the playing surface. Mower vibration can cause the finer particles in the soil/rootzone to migrate to the surface, allowing air pores to become blocked. This will inevitably help to seal the surface, making it difficult for water and air to enter the ground. The mower will also smear and damage the surface especially when turning. Quality of cut can be affected if the grass is very wet.
Quality of cut will be dependent on what type of mower is used. Cylinder mowers can offer different cutting qualities, which are governed by the amount of blades on the cylinder. A five bladed cylinder will give you a fine quality cut on rye grasses.
April is a good time to test your soils, measuring for soil nutrient levels, soil Ph and Organic matter content. These tests will allow you to analyse the current state of your soil to find out what deficiencies you may have. Why spend money on fertiliser compounds you do not need?
Generally in most loamy soils, Potash and Potassium levels will be ok, with the need to apply some additional Nitrogen to give the grass a kick start. However, some soils may and can be lacking in trace elements such as Magnesium and Zinc. Knowing your soils nutrient status is vital for planning maintenance regimes.
Keeping an eye on your soil pH and organic matter content is also an important issue. High soil pH and organic matter can increase worm activity, which will help improve soil structure. However, a large increase in worm populations will induce the problem of worm casts. A problem that can often affect surface playability and increase the opportunity for weed invasion.
Brushing helps stand the grass up, remove surface dew and increase air flow around the grass plant. Which helps reduce the likelihood of disease attack. Regular brushing also keeps the sward clean and free of debris and helps with pitch presentation.
Verticutting / Scarifying
Verticutting and Scarification of the turf surface will help reduce and remove thatch from the sward.
Many Groundsman now have verticutting / grooming attachments that they can utilise during their mowing regimes, enabling them to remove thatch on a regular basis (Fortnightly / Monthy basis).
Keep up your aeration programme, using needle tines or slits. This will be beneficial at this time of year to keep the water moving through the profile and allow air to get to the roots.
On sand-based pitches spiking will help to keep the playing surface ?soft? and this will also enable you to tine more frequently, with minimum disturbance to the grass and playing surface.
Try and vary the depth and type of of tines used.
Top dressing is important for restoring playing surfaces, Ensure you have a supply of top dressing that is compatible to your soil type. Top dressing is used to repair divots and scars during the playing season.
Repairs / divoting / Overseeding
Lightly roll after repair work, preferably with a pedestrian mower.
April is a good time to over-seed. Use germination sheets if you have any to aid the process of germination but look under the sheets regularly to check for diseases. Remember that without good seed to soil contact the operation is useless.
Ensure you use new seed as old seed may not give you the required germination rates.
Pre match inspections
Inspect pitch surface and line markings
Check post safety
Keep goalmouths roped off to stop unwanted early use - in an ideal world the pitch should be completely out of bounds.
Tidy up the edges of the pitch, strim around advertising signs and crowd barriers. Presentation on the pitch will be let down by unkempt edges.
Use approved marking compounds/materials and ensure all line markings comply with FA rules and regulations.
Always check your lines, it often pays to string out your lines when marking. Using a string line helps keeps the lines straight and accurate.
Playing pitch surfaces can often become muddy, which may sometimes affect the performance of wheel to wheel transfer line marking machines. To overcome this problem, other marking systems are available. Pressure jet and dry line markers are able to produce lines on uneven and muddy surfaces.
Post match renovation
Repair worn areas (goalmouths / linesman runs)
Top dress to restore levels (localised)
Structures / Machinery (Repairs and maintenance)
Check equipment and machinery ensuring heights of cuts etc. are correct. If you have not had them in for a winter service yet, then hurry up and do so!
Inspect goal posts and sockets to check they are safe and secure. Check nets to make sure they aren?t damaged.
Good housekeeping will keep any damage to a minimum. Get on the pitch as soon as possible after a match and replace divots. Use a hand fork to replace and tap down the divot. As the weather warms up (hopefully), and if your budget allows, do some over-seeding particularly on the bare areas. Use 4 to 6 bags of specified Rye mix in any window between games, this will be very beneficial in promoting grass coverage for the last quarter of the season. Establishing a good sward again now will help to cut costs at the end of the season and give the new grasses longer to develop.
Renovations should be in the forefront of your mind. Bear in mind any problems that you may have encountered during the season (wet-spots or poor drainage). Try to solve these problems during or before renovations start.
You should, by now, have quotations for your renovation work and a provisional starting date with the contractor, or booked the machinery with your local ground care hire shop.