May Football Diary


By Laurence Gale

May is a busy time for most football facilities with the end of season renovation works either started or programmed to start. There may be a few exceptions when some clubs have to complete end of season fixtures and cup games late into May. The level of renovation and how it is achieved will vary greatly and will be dependant on a number of factors:

  • Type of facility, its construction and soil. composition.

  • Drainage capacity

  • Extent of wear and damage to the pitches

  • Budgets available

  • Equipment available

  • Skills and resources of the ground staff

  • Time available to complete the works and allowing for establishment

  • The use of specialised Contractor services.

Your end of season renovations will be determined by what wear you have suffered and the present condition of the pitch.

Most of the Premier League Groundsmen will be completely renovating their playing surfaces utilising the Koro fraise mower to clean off or reduce the amount of existing vegetation from their pitch, and oversowing.

Generally, every two years or so, clubs with fibre sand pitch systems will completely strip off the surface vegetation, top up and re-level the top 100mm of fibre sand. To do this they use a combination of Koro machines, power harrows, stone burying machines and seed drills.

Most, if not all of these operations are carried out by specialist sports turf contractors, who are geared up to complete this work within days. enabling valuable time for establishment.

However, the key factors that influence what renovations are carried out, especially in lower level football facilities such as local authority, schools and club pitches, are cost, time and resources. may-football-diary-2005.jpg

Advisors and consultants are available, at a price, to assess your requirements and provide a report detailing the works and costs required. However, also look in-house, you may already have the necessary expertise.

If possible, obtain a soil analysis of your pitch, measuring for particle size analysis, organic matter content, soil pH and nutrient status. This information will help you decide what materials to use in respect of grass, fertilisers and top dressings.

In the main you should be looking to carry out the following end of season operations:

  • Aeration to de-compact the pitch

  • Repair worn areas

  • Top dressing

  • Overseeding

  • Fertilising

  • Watering if required


After a season of play the soil profile will have become compacted. It is important to relieve this compaction and allow air back into the soil profile. Grass plants require air for growth. The use of solid tine or knife bladed spikers/vertdrain machines are essential tools to aid aeration of the soil profile.

Ideally, it would be best to hire a vertidrain machine with 25mm diameter tines that can provide deep aeration down to 300mm depth. This will ensure you have relieved all the compaction and will also provide holes for the top dressing materials to fill.

Repair worn areas


Top dressing

Top dressing is carried out to help restore levels, improve soil structure, improve surface drainage and aid seed germination. Ideally the whole pitch (6000m2) should be top dressed with about 60-100 tonnes of materials.

Generally, the choice of materials is either approved medium sand (particle size ranging from 0.125mm-1mm) or 70:30 rootzone (sand soil mix). The dressing should be brushed into the playing surface so it works it way into any low spots and the vertidrain holes.


It is essential to ensure that all wear and worn areas have been overseeded at a rate of 35-40g/m2. The whole pitch should then be overseeded. Seed should be disc drilled into the profile to ensure seed/soil contact is made for better germination.


To help the sward recover quickly and encourage the new grasses to establish a dose of fertiliser is required, usually in the form of a late spring or early summer fertiliser appied at a rate of 35-50g/m2. Most groundstaff will be applying a spring/summer fertiliser, perhaps something like a 9/7/7 will effectively get the grass moving during May. Then, towards the end of the month, look to putting on a slow release fertiliser to see you through June and July.


Once the seed has germinated there may be a need to irrigate if dry weather persists. Newly sown seed, having shallow roots, will need adequate water to survive and establish.


The commercial cost (from an approved sports turf contractor) for the above operations for one football pitch ranges between £3000-£4000 depending on choice of materials used. The rate would come down if more than one pitch is to be completed.


It is often this cost that deters people from top dressing their pitches, which is why we see so many poor pitches in the UK. Top dressing is an important part of the maintenance loop and is essential for restoring pitch levels and improving surface drainage.

Once the renovations have been completed and the new grass has germinated ongoing maintenance must be followed up. To help promote a dense sward regular mowing is essential.

Any major resurfacing or drainage works are usually programmed to coincide with end of season renovations works.

Most of the tasks detailed can be undertaken within a limited budget. Local conditions and circumstances will need to be taken into account. If any members are undertaking any specific work not detailed, please let us know by adding a comment in the section below the diary.

May tasks for Football
Task Frequency Reason
Aeration When conditions allow Hand or machine aeration to aid surface drainage, at varying depths of penetration to prevent the development of a soil pan.
Brushing / sweeping Daily / weekly To remove dew and remove surface debris. Using a brush or a SISIS quadraplay will restore levels and produce striping or banding aesthetics.
Disease Daily / weekly Keep and eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.
Divoting Immediately after game To repair scars and surface damage.
Drainage Weekly Inspect drainage outfalls, channels and ditches. Ensure that they are working.
End of season Renovation As required Goal posts are taken down, repaired, repainted, labelled and stored ready for next season. All bare areas are cultivated, levelled, top dressed and over seeded. Other works may include aeration works which need to coincide with applications of top dressing materials, fertilisers and seed.
Fertiliser programme If grass shows signs of stress (weak growth, discoloured) Fertiliser treatment and turf tonic can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested; try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results.
Most grounds staff will be applying a spring/summer fertiliser, perhaps something like a 9/7/7 will effectively get the grass moving during May. Towards the end of the month, look to putting on a slow release fertiliser to see you through June and July.
Goal posts Weekly If still in use, inspect goal posts and sockets to check they are safe and secure.
Harrowing / raking When conditions allow Helps to restore levels and keep surfaces open.
Irrigation equipment Weekly Inspect irrigation installations for leaks. There may be a need to irrigate during any renovation programmes, as air temperatures and daylight hours are getting longer, increasing the likelihood of the ground drying out.
It is important to irrigate uniformly and ensure the right amount is applied. Ensure that the water gets down deep into the rootzone to encourage deep rooting. Allowing areas to dry out can lead to problems of dry patch, a condition that prevents water infiltration into the soil, thus forming areas of non-uniform turf quality.
Litter / debris Daily / Weekly Inspect and remove debris from playing surface, litter, twigs and leaves.
Machinery (Repairs and maintenance) Daily / Weekly Inspect and clean machinery after use; service and repair damaged machinery.
Marking out As required Use approved marking compounds/materials and ensure all line markings comply with FA rules and regulations.
Mowing As required To maintain sward height 20-50mm. Frequency of mowing will increase to maintain sward height as soil and air temperatures begin to rise initiating grass growth.
Post match renovation After matches
  • Replace divots
  • Repair worn areas (goalmouths/linesman runs)
  • Top dress to restore levels (localised)
Pre match inspections As required
  • Inspecting pitch surface and line markings
  • Checking post safety
Seed bare & worn areas When conditions allow Seeding of sparse or bare areas can be carried out, the rise in temperatures will help germination. Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove 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 material may not give you the required germination rates.
Soil tests Ideally once or twice a year, or as required. Soil sampling is an important part of groundmanship. The results will enable the manager to have a better understanding of the current status of his soil and turf. There are many tests that can be undertaken, but usually the main tests to consider are:
  • Particle Size Distribution (PSD), this will give you accurate information on the soil type and it's particle make up, enabling you to match up with appropriate top dressing materials and ensuring you are able to maintain a consistent hydraulic conductivity (drainage rate) of your soil profile.
  • Soil pH, it is important to keep the soil at a pH of 5.5-6.5, a suitable level for most grass plants.
  • Organic matter content, it is important to keep a balanced level of organic matter content in the soil profile.
  • Nutrient Levels, keeping a balance of N P K nutrients within the soil profile is essential for healthy plant growth.
Once you have this information you will be in a better position to plan your season's feeding and maintenance programmes.
Top dressing Sand / rootzone materials As required Localised spreading of top dressings to repair divots and scars of turf surface.