July Football Diary

By Laurence Gale MSc

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Renovation programmes may still be in progress; newly sown and turfed grass areas require attention, with watering, feeding and mowing to ensure establishment. Grass cutting is in full swing, with the staff having to mow and prepare areas for training, as most professional club teams are back after the closed season.

The recent dry, hot weather will have certainly put swards under stress. Particular attention should be made to irrigation regimes ensuring that all newly laid turf and seeded areas are watered evenly to guarantee uniform germination and growth. Do not allow newly sown turf to dry out and die; the grass plant will be vulnerable to drying out until it has established a good root system. The amount of water required will be dependant on soil type and what weather you are having.

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Once the grass has established itself and growing well, it would benefit from a summer application of fertiliser. 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.

Watch out for disease, weather conditions in July can very quickly induce a break out, especially in stadia environments. Diseases to look out for are leaf spot, brown patch and red thread.

Keeping the leaf tissue dry helps prevent disease. Daily brushing of the sward, particularly in the mornings, helps disperse any leaf wetness from early morning dews.

Mowing and grooming will be essential to produce a dense sward. Mowing frequencies should be daily or at least three times a week, using well maintained mowing machinery. Ensure that the cutting cylinders and rotary blades are sharp and set at the correct cutting heights. Maintain at between 20-45mm.

Ensure you have ordered line marking materials for the forthcoming season. Be prepared, check that your marking machines are in working order and that you have enough materials to mark out your pitches. You always tend to use more materials when carrying out initial marking.

You may still have some bare and worn areas to seed. 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.

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: To remove dew and remove surface debris. Using a brush or a SISIS quadraplay will restore levels and produce striping or banding aesthetics.
Disease: Keep and eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.
Drainage: Inspect drainage outfalls, channels and ditches. Ensure that they are working.
Fertiliser programmes: 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 summer N P K fertiliser, perhaps something like a 12/0/9 to maintain grass colour and vigour. A slow release fertiliser could be applied to see you through July/ 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.

Goal posts: Inspect goal posts and sockets to check they are safe and secure.
Grooming/verticutting 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 undertaken in conjunction with your mowing regimes.
Harrowing/ raking: Helps to restore levels and keep surfaces open.
Irrigation:
Irrigation will be a priority, especially when maintaining newly sown seed or turf. It is important that these areas do not dry out and die.
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 to ensure the 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.

Litter / debris:
Inspect and remove debris from playing surface.
Marking out: Use approved marking compounds/materials and ensure all line markings comply with FA rules and regulations.
Machinery (Repairs and maintenance) Inspect and clean machinery after use; service and repair damaged machinery.

Mowing
To maintain sward height 20-45mm. Frequency of mowing will increase to maintain sward height as soil and air temperatures rise initiating grass growth.

Quality of cut will be dependent on what type of mower is used. Cylinder mowers can provide different cutting qualities, governed by the amount of blades on the cylinder. A five bladed cylinder will give you a fine quality cut.

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.