October Football Diary
By Laurence Gale MSc
Most groundstaff are now settling into their weekly routines.
September was a particularly dry month resulting in hard playing surfaces for many clubs and school grounds. This situation has changed with the recent heavy down pours of rain over much of the country. This change in climatic conditions, coupled with the very warm temperatures has also resulted in sudden outbreaks of disease.
Fairy rings, red thread and leaf spot have been rife on many sports fields. Fungicide treatments are essential to keep the disease under control, however, the best prevention is to carry out regular cultural operations that reduce stress and keep the plant and soil healthy. In the main, this includes regular brushing to remove early morning dew and keeping the plant standing upright to allow air movement. Aeration of the soil profile is important to maintain soil porosity.
Keep the sward maintained at the desired playing height for football between 25-35mm.
Fertiliser treatment and turf tonics 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 groundstaff will be applying autumn N P K fertilisers, perhaps something like a 3/12/12 or 5/15/15/ (application Rates: 14-28 bags per Ha 35g-70g/m2 25Kg Bag) to maintain grass colour and vigour. The choice of materials and how well they work will depend on factors such as soil type and weather, with moisture and air temperature being the catalyst for growth.
Routine tasks ongoing:-
Divoting - repairs and replacing divots after matches is an important part of the maintenance programme to restore playing surfaces. The use of a hand fork and treading in is the best way to return/replace divots. On larger areas the use of harrows will help restore pitch levels.
Inspect - goal posts and sockets to check they are safe and secure. Check nets to make sure they aren't damaged.
Grooming and verticutting - are operations that remove unwanted side grass growth and reduce the amount of debris in the sward. These operations are carried out on a regular basis, often weekly or fortnightly. These operations are completed in conjunction with your mowing regimes and, as the sward is thickening at the moment, light scarification will help get more air and light into the base.
Irrigation - it is important to irrigate uniformly, ensuringthe right amount of water is applied. Ensure that the water gets deep into the root-zone to encourage deep rooting. Allowing areas to dry out can lead to dry patch, a condition that prevents water infiltration into the soil, thus forming areas of non-uniform turf quality. Many professional football Groundsmen often have to water the pitch prior to games to specifically speed up the playing surface for players.
Marking Out - use approved marking compounds/materials and ensure all line markings comply with FA rules and regulations.
Aeration - regular aeration of football pitches is essential for promoting healthy grass growth and aiding surface water drainage. Ideally you should be looking at aerating your pitches at least once a month, using solid or knife tines that can penetrate the surface below 100mm.
Mowing - remember to check the height of cut; at this time of year, the pitch can be cut at a height between 25mm and 35mm. Continue to mow the on a regular basis. Grass should now be mowed a minimum of three times per week, preferably removing grass clippings. 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.
Post and pre-match preparation -
Repair worn areas (goalmouths/linesman runs)
Top dress to restore levels (localised)
Inspect pitch surface and line markings
Check goalpost safety
Keep goalmouths roped off to stop unwanted 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 of the pitch will be let down badly by unkempt edges.
Seeding of sparse or bare areas can be carried out. Use germination sheets to aid the process of but remove them 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.
Weeds - it's now getting late into the season for applying selective herbicides; soil and air temperatures are not ideal for effective responses from these products. Hand weeding will be the most effective method of weed control during the winter months.