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, particularly with the development of the big roll turf systems and Koro fraise mowers.
The extent and nature of the works to be undertaken will be dependent on a number of factors:-
- Type of pitch profile system you have, sand, soil, Desso or Fibre sand constructed pitch
Many league clubs are advocating the use of the Koro Fraise mower to remove the top 6mm to 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.
The following is an example of what can be achieved in one week:-
- Koro off surface vegetation.
- Hollow core to a depth of 60mm (leave cores on pitch).
- Apply a 6-9-6 pre seeding fertiliser
- Overseed to enable seed to get into core holes
- Top dress with 60 tonnes of compatible dressing 70/30 or similar
- Verti drain to a depth of 150mm to de-compact soil profile
- Brush / drag mat dressing and cores back into pitch
- Overseed using disc seeder
- 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 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.
In reality, many Local Authorities are reliant on the weather and the timing of their operations for success. I have seen many cases whereby the renovations have failed either due to a dry spell of weather or the fact that the council do not have the resources/budgets to water.
One of the reasons for the decline in the quality of parks pitches is the fact that essential maintenance operations have been curtailed or stopped due to budget cuts. Many councils now only cut and mark out their pitches, very rarely do we see regular aeration, feeding, weeding or top dressing programmes undertaken or adhered too. The results are badly worn and compacted pitches.
If pitches are maintained correctly the overall condition of the pitches would be better at the end of the season. Maybe councils should also look at reseeding their pitches at more favourable times of the year. Perhaps a little and often policy may bring more reward with more sustainable results.
Investing £5-£8,000 on effective maintenance regimes throughout the year, including an annual topdressing of 100 tonnes of materials, and the actual damage and wear on these pitches would be significantly reduced.
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 dependent 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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Keep and eye on fungal disease attack, and use approved fungicides to treat infected areas.