June Football Diary

By Laurence Gale MSc

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Without doubt the recent run of poor weather, rain and cool temperatures will not have helped end of season renovations, many groundsmen are praying for some warmer sunnier weather to promote germination on recent seed sowings/turfing operations.The window of opportunity to get renovations completed is quickly running out.

Many drainage contractors have had to reschedule their work, particularly on local authority pitches where the land has been too wet to get machinery on. As always the weather in the UK dictates when and what we can do.

June is a busy time for most football facilities with the end of season renovation works well underway, coupled with the ongoing summer maintenance regimes of grass cutting, grooming, brushing, aerating, feeding and watering. Particular attention should be made to your irrigation regimes ensuring that all newly sown turf and seeded areas are watered to ensure uniform germination and growth.

Any major resurfacing or drainage works are usually programmed to coincide with end of season renovations works. In general, most of these are completed by competent sports turf contractors, who are geared up for these operations.

The extent and nature of the works to be undertaken will be dependant on a number of factors:-

  • Type of pitch profile system you have, sand, soil, Desso or Fibre sand constructed pitch

  • Level of wear

  • Budgets available

  • Time for completion

Many league clubs are advocating the use of the Koro Fraise mower to remove the top 12mm of the pitch, cleaning out a lot of unwanted vegetation and thatch, leaving the surface clean and level ready for the new seed.

It is essential to ensure that the top dressings used are compatible with the existing soil/sand materials.ManC1.jpg

The following is an example of what can be achieved in one week:-

  1. Koro off 12mm of surface vegetation.

  2. Hollow core to a depth of 60mm (leave cores on pitch).

  3. Apply a 6-9-6 pre seeding fertiliser.

  4. Overseed to enable seed to get into core holes

  5. Top dress with 60 tonnes of compatible dressing 70/30 or similar.

  6. Verti drain to a depth of 150mm to de-compact soil profile.

  7. Brush /drag mat dressing and cores back into pitch.

  8. Overseed using disc seeder.

  9. Use frost sheets/germination sheets to aid germination.

Cost? In the region of £6-10,000 for a single pitch area. Less if you work closely with the contractor and use some of your own machinery for some of the tasks.

However, there are many clubs that cannot afford or do not have the means of carrying out this level of renovation and, in the main, have to resort to repairing worn goal mouths and bare areas only.

Many local authorities are similarly restricted due to the large number of pitches they maintain. In general they will de-compact the pitch with a Verti drain or earthquake or similar machines, overseed and maybe some localised repairs in the goal mouths and bare areas. Once the seed has germinated it is important to ensure it has the opportunity to establish and thicken. Regular mowing, keeping it fed and watered are essential for establishment.

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Care should be taken when carrying out the first cut on newly sown seed. Do not cut below 30mm; preferably use a rotary mower for the first two cuts and then follow up using cylinder mowers, gradually lowering the height of cut until you reach your summer cutting height of between 20-30mm.

Mowing frequencies will be dependant on labour and resources. Most league grounds will be mowing daily or at least three times a week. Ideally you need to mow at least weekly to maintain a decent sward.

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.

Watering

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.mancity-watering.jpg

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, ensuring the right amount of water is applied. Ensure that the water gets deep into the rootzone 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.

Fertilising

Apply 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 June and July. 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.

Aeration/Harrowing

A minimum of once per month, providing the pitch isn't too wet. Hand or machine aeration aids surface drainage. Try to vary depths of penetration to prevent the development of a soil pan.

Harrowing or raking will help keep the sward open and restore levels.

Brushing

As often as possible to remove dew and 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.