August Football Diary
By Laurence Gale MSc
What a wonderful summer we are having, ideal growing conditions for grass, if you have the water resources available! However, if you have been restricted by drought orders or have very limited watering facilities your turf will now be under considerable stress.
Grass playing surfaces are losing in excess of 5mm of water a day through evapotranspiration. Unless you can put at least the same amount back into the plant your turf will go into drought stress.
Drought stress diminishes plant turgor causing wilting that limits or prevents plants from normal growth. The degree of drought injury (and wilting) depends upon the growing medium (soil), plant, and atmospheric factors.
Some Groundsmen will be fortunate and be blessed with efficient watering systems that can provide adequate amounts of water to maintain their pitches, but there will also be Groundsmen with little or no watering facilities, having to rely solely on the weather to change and bring some much needed rain.
Even for the ones with good watering facilities it has been a struggle to keep on top of the drought this year.
In the main it will be the professional football clubs which have benefited from the hot weather, and contributed to the success of their end of season renovations. Our local club, Wolverhampton Wanderers, have produced a first class quality playing surface in less than 9 weeks.
Many Groundsmen are putting together their final pitch preparations, wanting everything to look its best for the first match. No stone will be left unturned.
Grooming and cutting will be at the forefront in pitch presentations with an emphasis on accurate banding patterns to show off the pitch. The combination of attractive banding and bright accurate pitch lines sets the scene and standards for the coming season.
The quality of cut can be affected by poor mower maintenance; inspect and check mower cutting height daily and ensure the blades are kept sharp.
Frequency of mowing will increase to maintain sward height as soil and air temperatures initiate grass growth. Remember to check the height of cut; at this time of year, the pitch can be cut at a height between 19mm and 35mm. The recent hot weather may be causing the pitch to burn up so, if irrigation is a problem, leave the grass as long as possible (30mm-35mm) to help retain any moisture in the soil. The pitch should now be mowed a minimum of three times per week, preferably removing grass clippings if possible.
First impressions are critical. The accuracy and choice of line marking machinery and materials are important to ensure a quality line mark is achieved. The combination of having:
A reliable accurate line marking machine
Appropriate approved marking fluid
Careful planning and preparation (setting out lines)
Time & care
The dry weather in July would have certainly tested the skills, planning and patience of many groundstaff, often having to work many extra hours to oversee watering requirements.
Evapotanspiration (ET) rates will have been very high with water lost from both the plant and soil. It is essential to maintain soil water deficit (SWD) during dry periods to keep the grass plant growing. See following link: Sports turf Irrigation for information about irrigation scheduling and watering techniques.
The recent hot weather may have also brought along with it the opportunity of disease attack, particularly in stadium environments. Keep an eye out for Leaf spot which, in recent months, has been quite prolific. Use appropriate approved fungicides to treat affected areas. Daconil (Active ingredient: Chlorothalonil) is widely used to control leaf spot disease in sports turf.
Most groundstaff will be applying a late summer N P K fertiliser, perhaps something like a 12/0/9 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.
Inspect goal posts and sockets to check they are safe and secure. Check nets to make sure they aren't dmaged or torn. Also check you have a spare set for any unforeseen circumstances.
Pre match inspections:
To include pitch surface, line markings and goal posts. 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 badly by unkempt edges.
Post match renovation:
To include replacing divots and repairing worn areas (goalmouths/linesman runs). Aeration will help relieve compaction and brushing will help keep the sward standing up right. Apply some topdressing materials to restore levels if required.