Most football Groundsmen will no doubt be praying for some decent weather in August to compensate for the miserable last two months. They desperately need it to give the pitches a fighting chance to survive the up and coming playing season.
Grass growth and, more importantly, root growth in July has been well below par. The recent poor weather and saturated soils has affected root growth to such an extent that many clubs are seeing a reduction of root density by as much as 25% or more for this time of the year.
Most clubs have been affected in one way or another; even professional clubs such as Sheffield Wednesday have had to deal with a complete flooding of their pitch resulting in the need to re-turf less than four weeks prior to their first game.
Disease has been rife, particularly Red thread. The combination of warmth and moisture, and grass under stress has led to a high incidence of the disease. However, it can soon be resolved once we get back to some regular maintenance regimes, particularly feeding and aerating.
All in all it will be a tough time for groundstaff looking after football pitches particularly in a stadia environment.
The order of the day is mowing. Regular mowing will encourage growth, thickening the sward to produce a uniform carpet of grass. 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 quality of cut will also be very important, check that the cylinder is cutting cleanly across the bottom blade before mowing takes place. If using a rotary mower, check that the blade is sharp. To avoid expensive re-grinds, walk the playing surface prior to mowing, removing any stones, metal pegs, bottles etc. that may have been thrown on to the pitch.
It's not too late to weed kill, plantains will be throwing up seed heads, so before they mature, spray the surface with a selective weed killer to remove broad leaved weeds. If you haven't a recognised spraying certificate, use a local contractor. Cost should be around £200-£300 per pitch.
With the weeds dying back, regular mowing will thicken the sward, discouraging new weeds from colonising the surface.
If possible, regular weekly aeration will encourage roots to go deeper and colonise air space left by the tine/slit holes. Obtaining a good root structure now will be of major benefit in the winter. Use a solid tine or slit machine; if it is possible to do weekly aeration, vary the depth of the spikes so as not to create a pan at a particular depth in the soil.
Again, subject to weather, a feed now will benefit the plants; try to use a liquid feed but if using a granular feed make sure that adequate water can be put onto the pitch. Alternatively, have the fertiliser ready to use just before the weather breaks and reasonable rain is forecast.
If there are areas of new seedlings that are struggling to mature, get a hose pipe or watering can and water these areas - even a little moisture will be of benefit.
Keep goalmouths roped off to stop unwanted early use - in an ideal world the pitch should be completely out of bounds.
The pitch may need setting out and the first mark put on. Remember to use the 3,4,5 triangle method to get the pitch square. If existing sockets are in the ground, work from these to mark out the pitch. Make sure that the pitch is cut to the desired length prior to marking out.
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.
Check nets to make sure they aren't damaged. Erect posts if they have been painted and stored through the summer months.