There will be many football pitches up and down the country, particularly local authority and junior club pitches, that have suffered for not having been watered.
The sward will be sparse and some of the traditional wear areas that were renovated in May/June may not have recovered properly.
However, the recent spells of wet weather will have put back plenty of moisture into the soil profile to allow the grass to recover. Coupled with warm air temperatures we are likely to see some flushes of growth leading into September.
Regular mowing will help promote a thicker sward. Mowing heights at most clubs will vary between 25-35mm. Ideally, mowing frequency should be dictated by maintaining the height of cut. Professional clubs will still be mowing on a daily or every other day basis to maintain their sward. However, local authorities and smaller clubs will be mowing on a weekly or fortnightly frequency.
To help the turf recover more quickly and while the grass is still growing a dose of autumn feed would be beneficial. Most groundstaff will be applying autumn N P K fertilisers, perhaps something like a 12/0/9 or 3/12/12 (Application Rates: 14-28 bags(25kg) per Ha35g-70g/m2) 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.
With the season well under way most clubs will be well into their weekly maintenance regimes, divoting, mowing, verticutting, aerating, brushing, over marking and watering. It is important to keep an eye on the moisture content of the playing surface, particularly on sand based pitches. Moisture content (MC) is very important on these type of pitches, ideally keeping the MC at around 70% between games and achieving around 85% on match days.
Hand or machine aeration to aid surface drainage, at varying depths of between 100mm and 225mm penetration to prevent the development of a soil pan and provide adequate air space for roots to colonise. A range of aeration tines are available, hollow, slit or solid tines in different sizes.
Brushing/sweeping the grass to remove dew and remove surface debris, using a brush or a SISIS quadraplay will restore levels and produce striping or banding aesthetics.
Keep and eye on fungal disease attack, use approved fungicides to treat infected areas. Fairy rings and red thread can often be widespread during September. Maintain soil nutrient status, ensure the grass plant has the necessary nutrients for growth and development. Plants in stress are more prone to disease attacks. An attack of red thread can be reduced by maintaining a healthy sward.
Replacing divots after games and training is an important part of the maintenance programme to restore playing surfaces
Inspect goal posts and sockets to check they are safe and secure. Check nets to make sure there are no broken strands.
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.
Harrowing/ aking the pitch helps to restore levels and keep surfaces open.
September can often be a dry month so irrigation will be a priority, especially when surfaces begin to dry out. It is important to irrigate uniformly and ensuring 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. Many professional groundsman often have to water the pitch prior to games to specifically speed up the surface for players.
For most professional clubs line marking is done for each game, using string lines to ensure the lines remain straight. As for other clubs they may mark out on a weekly basis. There is a vast array of marking machines and paints now on the market (see the Pitchcare shop for details). Use approved marking compounds materials and ensure all line markings comply with FA rules and regulations. It is important to keep your marking machine clean and operational, always clean after use. Leaving in old fluid can lead to problems once it dries out.
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 on a regular basis. Grass should now be mowed a minimum of three cuts per week ,preferably removing grass clippings if possible. Quality of cut will be dependent on what type of mower is used, cylinder mowers can offer different cutting qualities which is governed by the amount of blades on the cylinder. A five bladed cylinder will give you a fine quality cut.
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.
Seed bare & worn areas when conditions allow. Seeding of sparse or bare areas can be carried out, 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.
Ensure you use new seed as old material may not give you the required germination rates.
It is now getting late into the season for applying selective herbicides; soil and air temperatures are not ideal for effective responses from these herbicide products. Hand weeding will be the most effective method of weed control during the winter months.