Expected weather for this month:

Unsettled start to the month with some drier spells at the end

For many clubs, the recent good run of warm weather, interspersed with some rain showers, has helped pitches recover well after their end of season renovations; newly sown seed should be well established by now after several weeks of mowing and feeding.

Continue with regular mowing of the sward to help promote tillering, mowing the grass at least once a week, preferably 2/3 times if you have the time and resources. Cutting with either rotary, or better still, a cylinder mower, cutting in a different direction each time.  

Air temperatures will continue to be high during August, so it is important during these periods of hot weather to keep the grass plant well watered.

Some of you will be on your final pitch preparations now, including setting out and initial marking of your pitches. Always best at this stage to double check your measurements before committing to a white line, as this will show up badly if it is out and needs correcting

Check that your goal sockets are set in line with the base line and are upright. Correct this now to ensure a professional look, particularly with the newly painted goals posts and nets ready to be put into place.

Keep casual play out of goalmouth areas. This can be easily achieved if you have a set of portable goals that can be moved around to different parts of your field or pitch. However, if you have socket goals, then your task may be a little more difficult.

Key Tasks for August

Continue the work of brushing to keep the air circulating around the base of the plant, particularly important for removing early morning dew and controlling disease.

Continue cutting regularly, 25-37mm, to ensure a good sward density. It may be helpful with newly sown grasses to lightly roll the surface before cutting to ensure that the weakly held grasses in the surface do not get pulled out. Also, ensure that any cutting equipment used is keenly set to cut without tearing.

Verticutting will help ensure that the sward is kept clean of lateral growth, and also help good circulation of air around the base of the plant.

Continue spiking when the conditions are right (this should only be carried out if the soil is suitably moist) to augment your deep spiking carried out to alleviate built up compaction. Keep your spiking regime flexible, alternating between surface spiking, deep spiking and slitting.

Line marking will be one of your main tasks during August, with an emphasis on initial marking of new pitches and training grids. Take your time over this. Rushed lines invariably wander and create a poor impression, lowering the overall standard and vision of an otherwise perfect surface. An accurate line makes such a difference.

Measure twice: Mark once, is a good tip to take on board, when marking out new pitches.

With the pitch prepared and in readiness for the start of the season, the final job is to set out and put in the pitch markings. It may be that there are already goal sockets in the ground from which you have to marry up with, but for now we’ll take it that you are starting from scratch.

It is important that you take care to get the measurements right when setting out. A few millimetres out at one end can lead to the pitch being a metre or more out of square at the far end of the pitch.  To do this it is important that string lines are kept taut and that the right angles created are correctly formed. 

So, to get the 90 degree right angle, we fall back on Pythagoras, the Greek mathematician who discovered that to get a right angled triangle, the square distance of the two short sides would be equal to the square distance of the longer side. In other words a² + b² = c².   These days the equation is more commonly known as the 3:4:5 triangle and is the method that nearly all Groundsmen use to set out a square or rectangle. The reason for this is that 3² + 4² = 5² or 9+16=25. The great thing is that this equation works in multiples of those numbers and for Groundsmen this is usually 30, 40 and 50 feet-this works fine on 1 x 100 metre tape. You could also use 15, 20 and 25 metres. Remember that the bigger the triangle at the start, the more accurate the pitch will be.

Make sure you have enough line marking material to hand and enough to get you through your season. Inspect your marker and ensure that it is in good working order for when you need it.

Fixtures may start to come in now, if you haven't already got them. It will be a good time to look through them, picking up on any major or important fixtures that will require something special. In which case, you can start thinking about any special treatments or work that will be required in the lead up, and pen an advance reminder in your diary.

Most groundstaff will be applying a summer N P K fertiliser, perhaps something like a 12:0:9 or 9:7:7 to maintain grass colour and vigour. A slow release fertiliser could be applied to see you through August. 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.

Do not apply fertiliser during drought periods, unless you have the means to water in.

An application of fertiliser can be applied late in the month to take the grass through the rest of July and into August. Avoid the use of fertilisers with a high salt content, as this will exacerbate the stress factors in the grass as it draws moisture from the plant. Use of liquid fertilisers are less likely to scorch grass, but may still need to be watered in.

Consider, as an alternative, applications of seaweed or amino bio stimulants which have proved beneficial in helping grass through stressful periods. Another consideration is the use of calcium, an important ingredient for giving the plant rigidity and regulating root and shoot growth. Please clink on the following link to read an interesting article on understanding NPK fertilisers by James Brierley

If you are unable to provide irrigation to the whole pitch, then at least you should try and ensure adequate watering of the goalmouth and centre circle areas. If you follow a programme of using wetting agents to ensure a uniform wetting, this will help. Such a programme will need to have been initiated from April onwards and will usually follow a monthly application. This is particularly useful on soils prone to dry patch.

Pitchcare have recently launched a new independent Soil Anaylsis that enable you to get specific results for the soils you manage. Soil analysis is a means to discover what levels of nutrients are available to plants. There is an optimum for each plant nutrient and, when coupled with other properties such as soil structure and particle sizes, determine how vigorous your plants are. Different nutrients undertake different tasks within the plant.

August is also a good month for applying summer fertiliser products. Ideally, it is good practice to undertake at least an annual soil test to analyse the nutrient status of your soil. This will help ensure you only apply what is required and not waste money and time applying products you do not need.

The choice of materials and how well it works can be dependant on many factors, including soil type and the weather, with moisture and warmer air temperatures being the catalyst for growth.

With the onset of warmer weather, there may be a need to keep an eye out for disease; temperature changes can bring on disease attacks, particularly when the turf is undernourished. Red thread can often be a threat to sports turf when the sward is in a stressed state. An application of a spring/summer fertiliser will help the plant to become more resistant to disease attack.

Red thread is an extremely common turfgrass disease that can develop at any time of the year during cool, wet weather, but frequently appears most severely during late spring and autumn.

It can develop on most turfgrasses but ryegrasses, meadowgrasses and fescues appear to be more commonly affected. This disease is often referred to as an indicator of low fertility and symptoms will often develop more severely if nitrogen or potassium is limited.

Applications of tonics can also be applied in accordance with your annual programme to help harden your turf against damage and the ingress of turf diseases.

Many of the fungicides that are currently available for use on managed amenity turf have shown efficacy against this turf disease and, where necessary, can be used as part of an integrated programme to manage red thread. In most cases, a dose of fertiliser will help reduce the incidence of this disease in amenity turf.

Continue the work of brushing to keep the air circulating around the base of the plant, particularly important for removing early morning dew and controlling disease on watered areas.

Leaf Spot disease can often raise its head during the summer months, leaf spot is often prevelent in stadium environments where high humidity and restricted air-flow makes stadium turf especially vulnerable to Leaf Spot attack, with the combination of irrigation, under-soil heating and the use of lighting rigs creating high risk conditions throughout the year. Once air tempratures reach around 20ºC the grass plant can be susceptible to this disease.

Removal of excess thatch and raising mowing height can reduce occurrence of Leaf Spot infection, preventative fungicide treatments are another method of control along with regular brushing to remove dew and keep a good air flow around the grass plant. Manage fertiliser inputs to encourage moderate, strong turf growth and employ regular aeration to relieve compaction and maintain drainage rates.

Selective weed control can be carried out later in the season once any newly sown seed has matured and established itself.

The best way to control a weed will be to firstly establish which species of weed you have. Once we have established the type of weed the correct herbicide can be used for control.

Different species of weed will exhibit different life-spans; annuals live for one year only, but produce hundreds of seeds. 

Most frequently, weeds are treated with chemicals such as herbicides or to be more precise ‘selective herbicides’.  These select the weeds from the grass plants and eventually see to their death leaving the grass healthy and in-tact. This operation should be carried out by a certificated professional who will perform the operation safely with the correct equipment for application, the correct personal attire and with the environment at large in mind.

There are two main categories of selective weed killer, systemic and contact. Systemic herbicides can be applied at any time during the year when the plant is growing actively. The ideal time for application of herbicides will be late April to early May or during autumn where generally, excellent results will be achieved. Systemic chemicals are absorbed into the leaves and stems and then spread through the plants vascular system to kill it off rapidly. If the herbicide is applied during spring or autumn the surrounding grasses will also be at their most active and fill in the gaps left quickly and efficiently.

Contact herbicides will kill only the green parts of the plant that they come into contact with. Contacts are most effective against annual type weeds as with the perennial type they do not affect the root system allowing them to regenerate once the green aerial leaves have died. Contact herbicides are best used as a defence during the colder, more dormant period of the year where growth is at its minimum.

Inspect and check your mowers regulary to insure you have set the correct Height of Cut (HOC) and the blades are sharp and cut cleanly.

Make sure that goal posts are cleaned and painted. There's nothing worse than rushing at the beginning of a season to get this job done, when you have a thousand and one other things to do before your first game. Check for replacement nets and spare parts; order them in, so they are on hand when needed.

Ensure you have checked your line markers and that they are fit for purpose, especially the spray jet markers, you may need to replace the nozzles and check the battery and water pump.

Pitchcare is the only provider of LANTRA accredited training courses in the maintenance of Winter Sports Pitches. It is a one day course designed to provide a basic knowledge of rugby and football pitch maintenance. The course enables the Groundsman to grasp the basic needs of a winter sports surface throughout a 12 month period.

Delegates attending the Winter Sports Pitch Maintenance course and using the accompanying manual will be able to develop their own skills, working knowledge and expertise, by understanding the method of instruction and the maintenance principles it sets out.

Forthcoming courses:

Tuesday 25 August  Finnimore Pavilion, Alton, Hampshire

More information

Included in the Course Manual, there are working diaries showing the range of tasks needed to be accomplished each month. The Course Manual is available for purchase separately.

In addition, we are able to arrange courses to be delivered on site to groups of 6 – 10 people. Email Chris Johnson for information.

Carry out regular litter picking of the facility, keeps areas around the pitches tidy and maintained.

Check floodlights, enusre they have had an annual electrical inspection and certified for use.

Check gates and fences, ensure your equipment is stored safely and secured.

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